JOHOR BARU: Raymond Hiew makes heads turn when he speaks to the Indian community and some foreign workers from South Asia in their mother tongue.
The 60-year-old retiree is able to converse in Tamil, Hindi and Nepali languages – thanks to the 10 years of voluntary works he did in India.
These three languages are widely spoken in certain parts of India, he said.
“During my stay in that country, I travelled around including to places like Calcutta and Sikkim.
“When you are on a foreign land, it is important to speak the local languages in order to survive,” he said.
Admitting that the learning process was challenging, Hiew said he learned languages with help from the locals and books.
“Learning a new language is never easy, but when you are surrounded by people who use it, you tend to pick up faster.
“Friends helped correct my pronunciation and I forced myself to speak as much as possible,” he said.
After returning to Malaysia in 2013, Hiew said his ability to speak the languages was slowly ebbing away due to lack of practice.
“I can still speak these languages now but not as good as before.
“But I believe I will pick them up again very quickly if I go to India for a week or two,” he said.
Hiew, who is volunteering at the Pulai parliamentary service centre here, said the Indian community was excited to hear him speak Tamil.
“I shocked many of them when I conversed in their mother tongue.
“Similarly, my Punjabi friends and those from Pakistan are also impressed that I am able to speak their language, which is Hindi,” he added.
Hiew said he would also talk to the Nepalese foreign workers in their language.
“They are overwhelmed because such gesture makes them feel like home.
“I believe this is the beauty of being multi-lingual. You make friends easier because the people are more willing to open up to those who speak their language.”
Hiew: Friends helped correct my pronunciation and I forced myself to speak as much as possible.