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Perks of Being Multilingual : Finding Harmony in Diversity

Hi! My name is Nur Aelish. I am 25 years old and I work at Fajarbaru Builder Group as a site admin clerk under the KTMB East Coast Railway Rehabilitation Project. My daily tasks include updating documentation, maintaining order in the site office and coordinating with our headquarters. Occasionally, I also assist with English and Mandarin translations between the company and the suppliers from China to overcome the language barrier. Here’s a fun fact about me: I am multilingual. I speak Bahasa Malaysia, English, and Mandarin.


Growing up in a multicultural family, being multilingual felt like a necessity, especially when it comes to conversing with my relatives and being a part of family interactions. When I was younger, I was often confused trying to piece together what others were saying, forming phrases and sentences in my head while slowly making sense of what they meant. The fear of alienation that developed as a result of that confusion finally made me decide to pick up another language – my multilingual journey thus began with Mandarin. Determined not to allow the language barrier to hinder me from understanding and communicating with others, I acquired the language through my formal education from kindergarten until lower secondary school. Looking back, shifting my perspective then and turning my weakness into a strength was a good decision, one which still serves me well today.


There are perks to being multilingual, especially working in a diversified environment like Fajarbaru. As a clerk, the knowledge of other languages eases my process of documentation and coordination, especially tasks that involve translation. On-site, knowing Bahasa Malaysia and Mandarin has assisted me a lot, as English is often not the primary language used. Usually, my approach involves reading the room and identifying the language preference of the people around me. This allows me to break the ice, and gives room for the other person to be comfortable enough to converse with me. I believe this small gesture goes a long way in building better relationships with my clients, co-workers and friends.


Being fluent in multiple languages has brought about a sense of confidence and pride – not only in myself, but for my family and country as well. I am very grateful to my parents — for their unwavering support and trust in my passion and abilities. Speaking multiple languages in Malaysia has also taught me to be more appreciative of our diverse country, rich with various cultures and languages. It has encouraged me in many ways to be a better member of the community and to be a bridge between language barriers whenever and wherever I can.


My path to being a multilingual Malaysian was a long and bumpy road. I believe learning a new language is just like riding a bike. It takes time, patience, and lots of practice. When you achieve it, it is extremely satisfying, rewarding and it stays with you as long as you keep using it to connect with others. Here’s my advice to anyone who aspires taking up a new language: 


“Invest with your soul first. Fall in love with the art and culture of the language prior to your first lesson, as passion is what will carry you through.”



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