Being bilingual is nothing to gawk about nowadays, but when a man appearing to be of Indian descent was heard hawking his wares in a mix of Chinese dialects more fluently than most locals, everyone stopped and stared.
A video of the 30-year-old salesman was shared on Facebook on Sunday (Feb 21), showing him effortlessly switching between Mandarin and Hokkien as he demonstrated how to use his mop.
“Our mothers used to sweep before mopping. Buy my mop, bring it home, open it up, it looks like a flower. Put it on the floor, sweep and mop, do them both at once,” he repeated throughout his sales pitch.
He went on to say, tongue-in-cheek: “This old style of mops has been around for 50 years. Fifty years ago, Indians couldn’t speak Mandarin but now we can. Society has changed! Your mop should too!”
While many netizens have praised him for his linguistic prowess, the salesman revealed in an interview with Lianhe Wanbao that he has more to his arsenal.
Apart from Mandarin and Hokkien, he is also fluent in Cantonese, Hakka, Hock Chew, Teochew, Thai, Vietnamese, Tamil, English and Malay — a total of 11 languages and dialects.
The man, who’s actually of Chinese-Indian descent, said he grew up under the care of his grandparents in Singapore and spoke to them in Hokkien and Teochew. When he was 13, he moved with his sister to China where he picked up Mandarin and Cantonese.
Though he was taught Chinese as part of his education in Singapore, he confessed that he had no interest in learning it until he went abroad.
He picked up other Chinese dialects over the next seven years in China, before he moved to stay in Thailand and Vietnam for two years each, learning the local languages as he did so.
“It’s best to learn a language when you’re in a country. After the pandemic, I plan on going to Taiwan and Japan to pick up more languages,” he shared with the Chinese evening daily.
For now, he’s contented selling mops at his pop-up booths. Instead of aiming to be viral, the salesman said he enjoys entertaining the aunties and uncles in the neighborhoods.
In fact, some of them have even approached him asking if he could be their god-son, much to his amusement.
“I love this job! I can crack jokes and earn money at the same time doing this!”
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