Zuck is learning Mandarin–are you?

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I read this morning that Mark Zuckerberg spends an hour a day studying Mandarin. I’m very impressed.

What a great investment of his time!

I’ve been considering doing this for several years now. Imagine how fluency in this language and familiarity with the Chinese culture might impact Facebook’s value and reach in the coming years. It has the potential to help Facebook open some doors to government or business relationships that may be extremely important down the road. I think this is a brilliant move by Mark.

I got a university degree in Russian a million years ago, and studied Spanish for 3 years also, but my skills in both languages have really declined. Inspired by Google Translate for iPhone, which I use daily, and with access to such interesting and timely content as President Dmitry Medvedev’s video blog, I am trying to study Russian daily. My current plan is to get my Russian and Spanish groove back, and then find a way to learn Mandarin. I’m almost 20 years older than Zuck, so I’ll have a lot less time to get a return on investment from learning Mandarin, but I still really, really want to do this.

I just hope my entrepreneurial life settles down to the point where I’ll be able to make this investment of time. That basically means  after FamilyLink gets solidly profitable.

Being from Utah where many entrepreneurs served a church mission to a foreign country when they were young, learning another language and culture really well, I have seen how beneficial this has been in many careers. What is your experience as an entrepreneur? What languages do you know and how has that helped you succeed in your business?

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4 Responses

  1. You need to try rossetta stone if you haven’t already. 30 mins per day. That is how I learned Portuguese when I was in Brazil. The program is brilliant and worth the $500 price tag.

  2. At the foundation we met with Live Mocha earlier this week (http://www.livemocha.com). They use excellent content (on a par with Rosetta Stone) but their big contribution is pairing up language learners. You–learning Russian with a Russian learning English the live conversations accelerate learning and increase commitment.

  3. Andy

    I think Rosetta Stone or any such package is a great way to build a base of knowledge in a language. But after building that base, you need to start having real conversations with native speakers – ideally in a country where the language is spoken. At least that’s my experience. I’ve spent roughly equal amounts of classroom time learning Russian, Spanish, French, and German. But I only speak Russian fluently, because I lived in Russia – and, critically, also worked there (at an internet consultancy). There’s nothing like dealing with an angry client on the phone at 9 a.m., when you’re hung over, for improving your listening and speaking skills!

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