A 69-year-old Malaysian man from Muar, Johor, has revealed his fluency in three languages and three dialects in an interview with Malaysian media China Press.
The taxi driver, Jafar, attributed his fluency in Mandarin and multiple dialects to the six years of education he received at a Chinese-language primary school.
A video uploaded by China Press showed Jafar reciting a song he had learned from the school, along with giving multiple responses in Mandarin, Teochew, Hokkien and Cantonese.
One of only two Malay students in his primary school class
Jafar said that when he entered the school in 1961, he was one of only two Malay students in his class.
Initially, he been enrolled in a public school, but begged his father after two days to transfer him to a Chinese school where he could be with his friends.
Jafar added that at time, he only knew Malay and Hokkien, which was how he communicated with his friends.
He said that while he attracted some stares and criticisms for being one of the few Malay students in a Chinese school, he did not care.
Jafar highlighted that he was largely happy about being with good friends and was also well-cared for by the school's principal and teachers.
In addition, as he liked singing and dancing, he would often be selected by the teachers to represent the school at Children's Day and National Day performances.
"Now that I have mastered Mandarin, I feel very honoured," he said.
Being multilingual helped him in his career progression
Jafar added that when he began working, being multilingual became an advantage that helped him in his career advancement, on top of his diligence.
This included being promoted to the supervisor of a factory at his first job.
At one point, he was asked by another employer to help translate business negotiations with a Taiwanese investor.
Jafar said that as he did not feel confident, he decided to consult the opinion of one of his primary school teachers who gave him a vouch of confidence by declaring that he was qualified enough to be a primary school Chinese teacher.
As such, he decided to accept the responsibility, with the Taiwanese embassy even praising his skills afterwards, he claimed.
In his current capacity as a taxi driver, Jafar said that he has since become the designated driver for a few mainland Chinese investors and executives of furniture factories in Muar.
Jafar: One must be bold in learning a language
Jafar was further quoted by China Press as saying that boldness is needed in learning a new language.
In his case, this includes communicating with Chinese people in Mandarin whenever he encounters them, he said.
The taxi driver pointed out that he also enrolled his only son in a Chinese-language primary school in order help him gain an advantage by learning an additional language.
Top screenshots via China Press/YouTube