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When It Comes to Mandarin, Bill Gates Is No Mark Zuckerberg

Bill Gates at Columbia University in New York last month. Mr. Gates had praised Mark Zuckerberg’s fluency in Chinese as “incredible.” PHOTO: REUTERS

Bill Gates at Columbia University in New York last month. Mr. Gates had praised Mark Zuckerberg’s fluency in Chinese as “incredible.” PHOTO: REUTERS

Eva Dou and Yang Jie report: Two years ago, Bill Gates admitted one of his life regrets was never becoming conversant in any foreign language.

Mr. Gates, 61 years old, has made some progress. Over the weekend, he gave a 12-word welcome in Mandarin in an opening video for his new blog on Chinese social network WeChat.

“Hello,” he said in Chinese. “Welcome to my official WeChat account.”

Mr. Gates is the latest U.S. tech executive to risk ridicule by speaking publicly in Chinese, joining Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Uber’s Travis Kalanick. But his brief, accented remarks made clear that while he might rival Mr. Zuckerberg in entrepreneurship and philanthropy, the Microsoft Corp. founder is a less formidable challenger in Chinese oration.

“His Chinese pronunciation is not quite as good as Zuckerberg’s,” announced China’s official Global Times newspaper on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.

Chinese viewers online gave mixed reviews, with some encouraging his effort (“Great!”) and others panning it (“There appears to be a big difference between his Chinese and English”).

Mr. Gates had praised Mr. Zuckerberg’s fluency in Chinese as “incredible” in a 2015 Reddit question-and-answer session.

“I feel pretty stupid that I don’t know any foreign languages,” wrote Mr. Gates in the Reddit Q&A. “I took Latin and Greek in high school and got As and I guess it helps my vocabulary but I wish I knew French or Arabic or Chinese. I keep hoping to get time to study one of these—probably French because it is the easiest.”

Mr. Gates’s attempt at Chinese was occasioned by the launch of his new WeChat account “gatesnotes.” In China, public figures often use WeChat official accounts to share their opinions and musings with fans. For foreign business leaders, WeChat has become a go-to option as both Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China. Mr. Gates’ new WeChat account appears to be a Chinese version of his English blog by that name.

Mr. Gates was an early adopter of Chinese social media, launching… (read more)

Source: WSJ

–By Eva Dou and Yang Jie

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