Monday, 28 April 2008

Nüshìmen, xianshéngmen: A speech in Chinese on video

"Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and welcome to this presentation regarding the acquisition of the company MySQL AB by Sun Microsystems."

Since my speech on Sun / MySQL integration for about 400 people in Beijing last week, I have been asked a few times about what it's like to give a speech in Chinese. Well, I wouldn't really know, as all I did was read aloud a text for 8 minutes. I remembered what passage was about what topic, and I had noted which words to stress, when to raise my hand etc. But of the actual words, I understood perhaps 5-10 % (based on them being repeated often enough). So I know I am a fuzongcai (Vice President) with Sun Microsystems, I know the difference between a kèhù (customer) and a yònghù (user). I live in Munihei (München), but I am not deguoren (German), I am fenlanren (from Finland). And, nüshìmen, xianshéngmen, that's Ladies and gentlemen.

So far, hen hao.

I read aloud from this paper (no, not the Chinese characters, just the pinyin).

But the ambition level could really be a bit higher. Not stressing every syllable. Speaking a bit faster. Repeating the tones once (ok, five times) more. And I could memorise more words, not 5-10 % but perhaps 25%. That would be more enjoyable for both the audience, and for myself.

That said, giving a speech in Mandarin was a very positive experience, even at my level of delivery. My ambition was for at least 70% of my message being understandable from a pronunciation standpoint, and I heard estimates of the outcome being 80% to 90%. And I got interrupted by applause at least five times, and laughter at least once (even at the intended spot). So I'm happy. And I recommend using Chinese for more than the mere greetings, for any non-Chinese wishing to be well received in China.

Xìexìe, thank you, xìexìe.



  1. [...] var förstås lätt. Tokyo gick an. Och efter att kineserna sade sig begripa mig i Peking (se ska väl Prag, Istanbul och S:t Petersburg också gå [...]

  2. [...] 我想学习中文。然而,它是很困难的。我认为这将是比较容易,如果我的博客。去年我讲普通话的8分钟:看看这个视频! [...]