SINGAPORE: In a four-and-a-half minute video, an Indian salesman switches fluently between Mandarin, Hokkien and a smattering of English, as he demonstrates the use of a mop to fascinated onlookers.
At one point, the man tells his audience in Hokkien: "Fifty years ago, Indian people could not speak Mandarin. Now Indian people can speak Mandarin ... It is time to change your mop too."
The video - uploaded on Sunday (Feb 21) - has gone viral, with various posts of the clip clocking tens of thousands of views by Tuesday afternoon. Many asked in the comments section where they could buy the mop, while others remarked on the fluency of the salesman’s Mandarin.
11 LANGUAGES AND DIALECTS
When CNA spoke to the salesman on Tuesday, the 30-year-old Singaporean seemed unfazed by his newfound fame.
Requesting to be known only as Mr Ng, the man said he is half-Chinese and picked up Mandarin, Hokkien and Teochew from his grandparents while growing up.
The man said that he can speak a total of 11 languages and dialects, including Cantonese, Hokchew, Hakka, Minnan, Malay, Tamil, Vietnamese and Thai. On top of that, he speaks a little bit of English.
The man, who works as a demonstrator with household appliances retailer DHomez SG, said that he does not feel the video has made him famous.
“It’s nothing lah - they’re just curious, someone speaking in so many languages,” he said in an interview conducted entirely in Mandarin.
He had just finished a demonstration in Ang Mo Kio, he said, where many people recognised him. They would whip out their phones and ask for the particular mop in the video, even though he was selling a different mop that morning, he added.
Mr Ng said that his family and friends were “happy” for him when they saw his video go viral.
“‘Wah, you’re finally famous.' 'Wow, you’re popular now’," he said of the messages he received.
LIVING IN CHINA, VIETNAM AND THAILAND
Mr Ng said he moved to China from Singapore to live with his sister and brother-in-law when he was 13 years old.
This was where he picked up the Chinese dialects, said Mr Ng, adding that he had worked as a service staff while in China.
Before he came back to Singapore four years ago, he also spent two years each in Vietnam and Thailand, and learned their local languages.
Picking up new languages was a way for him to communicate with people, said Mr Ng.
“I’m very curious about languages ... I have friends all over the world and I hear some of them speaking Hokkien ... I think it’s quite interesting so I just learn. When I hear someone else speak Teochew, I learn.”
“And because I work in sales, I thought that the more languages I know, the better,” he added.
In Singapore, he uses a mix of English, Malay, Mandarin, Hokkien and Teochew to sell his wares.
Mr Ng's story is reminiscent of Cambodian boy, Thuch Salik, who went viral in 2018 for being able to speak 16 languages.
Said Mr Ng: “Initially when I saw him, I laughed. Because it’s like looking at myself.”
While he plans to remain in Singapore for the duration of the pandemic, Mr Ng is looking to move to Taiwan for a few years and then Japan after. Ultimately, he wants to return to China where he plans to do sales via live streams.
He said: “There are so many people in China. I speak fluently and accurately, so if I can get S$2 from half the population, it’d be enough. I’d have made it rich.”
But for now, he is looking to make use of his viral fame by selling products on Facebook live.
As for his future aspirations, he will take things “one step at a time”. Although he is not sure which language he plans to learn next, he says that it is likely to be Japanese.
“Whatever language I want to learn, I will go to that country,” he said.