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 kÃƒÂ¨hÃƒÂ¹ (customer) and a yÃƒÂ²nghÃƒÂ¹ (user). I live in Munihei (MÃƒÂ¼nchen), but I am not deguoren (German), I am fenlanren (from Finland). And, nÃƒÂ¼shÃƒÂ¬men, xianshÃƒÂ©ngmen, 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.
XÃƒÂ¬exÃƒÂ¬e, thank you, xÃƒÂ¬exÃƒÂ¬e.
- Kaj ArnÃƒÂ¶ speaks Chinese to the Sun/MySQL crowd: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3036893738929286405&hl=en
- Wikipedia: Pinyin (Chinese spelling): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinyin