While we were spending countless hours posting, liking, and commenting on social media, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was busy running his multi-billion dollar company and also becoming fluent in Mandarin it turns out.
Earlier this week, Zuckerberg showed off his new skills—even cracking jokes in the language—when giving a talk to a bunch of awe-struck students at a university in Beijing. No he didn't stop at "hello" or "thanks for having me here"—he did the entire Q&A in the audience's native tongue. According to Wired, he started learning Mandarin back in 2010. (Afterward, he went and posted the video of his acievement to his personal Facebook profile, of course.)
The daring move makes a little more sense when you know that his wife, Priscilla Chan, MD, grew up translating for her grandparents, who immigrated from China along with her parents.
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But learning Chinese wasn't just a nice gesture to impress his in-laws or a good business move. It's unclear if Zuckerberg factored in the health benefits when he decided to give his ambitious goal a go or not, but learning a new language can slow brain aging, even if a person takes up that language in adulthood, according to a recent study published in the Annals of Neurology.
Want to take a page from one of the most successful people in history? Here, three nifty tools to start learning.
This free site and app offers lessons in French, German, Dutch and more. It lets you take lessons from your computer, tablet, or smartphone and message with fellow language-learners on discussion boards. Plus, as you get more advanced, you can start translating articles you’re interested in reading online. (Free, iTunes or Google Play)
Another free site and mobile app, you can take courses designed by members of their online community in pretty much anything, but Memrise especially excels in language offerings: from basic Arab to advanced Spanish. You’ll learn vocabulary, history, science, and trivia—in a way that almost feels like a video game. (Free, iTunes or Google Play)
Though it's rather pricey, you can always go with Rosetta Stone. It worked for me when I wanted to brush up on my Spanish before a recent trip to Colombia. The program is designed so that you "absorb" vocabulary words by hearing them, then has you put them together to form sentences, with the goal that it will all come organically. It really doesn't feel like studying, promise! ($229 and up, rosettastone.com)