Lee recalled how he only spoke broken English when he made "Sense and Sensibility" in 1995, his first mainstream Hollywood film.
"You can overcome cultural barriers, but you have to be diligent," he said.
Lee was reminded backstage that Sunday was the last night of the Chinese new year, a 15-day celebration.
"This is a great night for me and everybody who liked the movie, particularly in Asia," he said. "I wish them a happy new year of the snake, everybody gets lucky."
Lee became the 19th director to win multiple directing Oscars. He was nominated in 2000 for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."
Besides Spielberg, Lee beat out nominees Michael Haneke ("Amour"), David O. Russell ("Silver Linings Playbook") and Benh Zeitlin ("Beasts of the Southern Wild").