Ready to have your hearts warmed, and some faith restored in the future of humanity? Well, here is a feel-good Friday story:
Meet Khairul, a local security guard at the oft-visited, tourist attraction (and place of worship!) Putra Mosque in Putrajaya. Hailing originally from Kelantan, he moved to Kuala Lumpur 15 months ago, and has since been throwing himself into learning as many new languages as possible in an attempt to better communicate with visitors.
Chinese daily Sinchew wrote a wonderful and extensive profile on the guard, who reports that his 12-hour-plus shifts have become on the ground classrooms for him in learning to be conversational in Mandarin, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Farsi and English.
Taking initial simple phrases of instruction, he’s now expanded into new vocabulary words, changing his verb tenses and more accurate pronunciation with the help of tourists who are impressed with his can-do, proactive attitude. He keeps a log of his notes in a book that he carries with him while on duty.
Khairul explained that he’ll take new words and phrases, and then use them over the week with mosque visitors. Eventually, he commits them to memory and is able to use them in constructing other, new sentences, and BAM! next thing you know, you’re telling the Korean tourist how the price of chicken rice isn’t what it used to be (only us?).
Tourists have appreciated the effort, and Khairul explains that when he speaks to them in their native tongue on wearing appropriate mosque attire, they respond positively, comply and probably also make his job a lot more pleasant.
Somewhere in this sweet story is a less than subtle lesson in how a little bit of effort from both sides equals not just a life rich in language knowledge (wouldn’t we all love to be polyglots?), but also a greater understanding of each other, and a willingness to listen.
While you sit there, wondering what happened to all that Mandarin you learned in school for years and where it went, we’ll also let you know that Khairul’s first language was a local dialect spoken in Kelantan, and before he got his Thai/Vietnamese/Korean/Japanese/Farsi/Mandarin/English hats on, he had to get his Bahasa up to snuff. So, you can add Bahasa to his list of recently acquired languages.
Thank you, Khairul, for reminding us that some of us are out there living the example.
Also, should we be sending this kid to study linguistics? He seems keen.
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