Jack Ma has a lot of mistakes in English, but his speaking skills are higher than most students. Why is that?

Jack Ma is a legendary person. He is the founder of Alibaba, one of the world’s largest online commodity trading platforms from China, a billionaire and one of the richest people in the world.

And many who first hear Jack Ma’s English speech are surprised that his accent is rather weak. Even a student who has average listening skills can understand it without much difficulty. But at the same time, the businessman makes many mistakes in his speech.

Let’s look at the features of English Jack Ma and try to figure out how it turns out.

Jack Ma was interested in English since childhood

In an interview for Inc Jack Ma said that he became interested in English as a child. In the 80s, the Chinese iron curtain was slightly weakened, so tourists from all over the world poured into the country.

Every morning, a 12-year-old boy rode his bike to the hotel for 40 minutes every day to conduct free guided tours for tourists. And so for 8 years.

For 8 years he practiced spoken English. With native speakers including.

According to the entrepreneur himself, this has become one of the starting points that created him as a person. And the most important thing that he learned from conversations with foreigners – foreigners spoke differently from what his books and Chinese teachers taught.

English captured him so much that he entered the university at the faculty of English. And after graduation, he worked as an English teacher.

That is, Jack Ma was originally going to connect his life with the English language, because of which he studied it, wherever possible. Actually, this was the main reason why his emphasis is better than most Chinese.

Spoiler: but that doesn’t stop him from speaking almost illiterate.

Mandarin accent in English

In China, there is simply a huge linguistic diversity – 56 ethnic groups speak almost 300 languages ​​and dialects. Mandarin or Putonghua is the official state language of China.

Mandarin is the native language of Jack Ma.

The phonetics and grammar of Mandarin is fundamentally different from English. Languages ​​belong to different language families: English to Indo-European, and Mandarin to Sino-Tibetan. Therefore, even minimal parallels are impossible to draw.

Actually, that is why the Chinese usually have a very recognizable characteristic accent during a conversation in English.

An interesting visual video of how the Chinese pronounce words in English and how they are taught to get rid of the Chinese accent.

We will not dwell too much on the emphasis, we will only voice its main features:

  • Vowel system. English has more vowels than Mandarin. Therefore, the Chinese often pronounce both long and short vowels the same way. For example, the words “bean” and “bin”, “pull”, “pool” sound the same.
  • Replacing vowels. When learning a language, the Chinese often replace the correct English vowels with similar Chinese ones. For example, monday turns into m (ong) day.
  • Doubling consonants. It is difficult for the Chinese to pronounce words with double consonants, so they often trick: they either miss some consonants or share them with a short vowel sound. For example, “jump” in most Chinese sounds like “jum”, and “action” as “ashen”.
  • Rhythm and stress. The Chinese very often stress almost all syllables. It turns out a very recognizable staccato with a complete lack of smoothness of speech.

Jack Ma English: Understanding Accent Features

We will analyze the emphasis on the example of an excerpt from an entrepreneur’s speech at the economic forum in Davos.

The first thing that catches your eye is the smoothness of the tongue. Jack Ma has no emphasis on every syllable. He speaks fluently, emphasizing only words that are important in meaning – just like native speakers do.

You need to work on this separately, because even many years of living in the United States or any other English-speaking country will not allow the Chinese to get rid of excessive accents.

Take, for example, Jackie Chan, beloved by all.

In 2002, his English was very Chinese. Because in a fluent speech, he emphasized almost all the words in the same way. And this despite the fact that Jackie was fluent in English and starred in many Hollywood films, he got rid of this “staccato” not so long ago.

Back to Jack Ma. The smoothness of his speech allows him to perceive what he says without much tension.

Now let’s pay attention to the most difficult thing for the Chinese – a few consonants in a row.

Let’s analyze a few phrases:

– I don’t think – I don’t think so. – [aɪ doʊnt θɪŋk]

Here, the pronunciation of Jack Ma can be called exemplary. He misses a sound [t] at the end of the word don’t, but in American pronunciation this is permissible. And the transition between the sounds [n] and [θ] It sounds quite natural.

– Forrest Gump – Forrest Gump – [ˈfɔrəst gʌmp]

And here are the sounds [t] and [g] clearly visible extraneous accent. Something like a very short and unstressed sound [ʊ]. It’s hard to find an equivalent in English. This sound is obtained by aspiration – as if you really want to cough, but you need to do it as quietly and quietly as possible. It turns out this “khe”, but very short.

The thing is that in Chinese this sound is very common, so many Chinese unknowingly accentuate it when articulating complex combinations of consonants.

– Always complaint. – Always complain. – [ˈɔlˌweɪz kəmˈpleɪnt]

A complex phrase in which several consonants are found at once. But Jack Ma pronounces her correctly. That is, with the usual phrases from the general vocabulary he does not have problems.

– Twenty four people. “Twenty-four people.” – [ˈtwɛnti fɔr ˈpipəl].

This is where Jack Ma wakes up with a classic Chinese accent. With sounds [tw] it’s Complicated. And because of the incorrect pronunciation, a vowel sounds [ɛ]. The word people is generally transformed into incomprehensible [pipʊ]. True, such a Chinese pronunciation does not break through so often.

A businessman often neglects the grammar of sentences. Which, in principle, is rather strange, because he still has a bachelor’s degree in English.

But there is a rather simple explanation for this. Jack Ma often uses spoken English, but he has to write extremely rarely. That is, he uses English on an intuitive level, therefore, small nuances are forgotten over time, errors occur in expressions and words that are not included in his active everyday vocabulary.

If simplified, then Jack Ma has not been studying English for a long time. But while this does not prevent the audience from understanding the entrepreneur, he is unlikely to do anything about it.

Nevertheless, let us consider what jambs are found in his speech.

– If the guy only check himself. “But if the guy only checks himself.”

This is a rather commonplace mistake – the verb lacks the ending “-s”. In general, such a mistake occurs quite often in Jack Ma.

– I fail for funny things. “I have failed even in funny situations.”

Regarding the elapsed time, the businessman often misses the endings “-ed”. Everything is normal in a slow conversation, but with a quick speech, the ending simply disappears.

– We keep on fight, we keep on change ourselves. – We continue to fight, we continue to change ourselves.

The same thing happens with gerund. The endings “-ing” are simply lost. Even when the video is slowed down, there are none, even reduced ones. After “keep on” the infinitive sounds, which is wrong – “keep on fighting” and “keep on changing” are correct.

Moreover, Jack Ma neglects not only grammar, but also the principles of constructing phrases. Often whole prepositions fall out.

For example, “If they always complaint the others”. After “complaint”, the preposition “about” or “of” is missing. And in this form, the sentence sounds cut off. Yes, native speakers will understand everything, but still, Jack Ma speaks, although with a pronunciation quite decent for the Chinese, but quite crooked in terms of grammar.

Given all this, it is rather strange to accept the fact that a businessman has a higher linguistic education. However, this does not detract from his merits as an entrepreneur.

His example shows that one can speak with errors, but the main thing is to speak. Then they will understand you. And if it is ideal to know the theory, but be afraid to connect two words, it will be much more difficult to communicate.

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