Learning languages is a coveted skill as it opens up a wide range of opportunities. However, in Malaysia, it’s a very common occurrence!
Most Malaysians are bilingual, if not trilingual. It isn’t uncommon for non-Chinese to speak Mandarin— and speak it well. Here are a few artists and athletes who can:
1. Shila Amzah (31)
This Malaysian singer-songwriter used to attend Chinese primary school. Shila (real name: NurShahila binti Amir Amzah) managed until standard 3, where she buckled under the pressure. She then transferred to a national school and debuted when she was 10 years old. Under her father (ND Lala)’s guidance, Shila made her way to China’s reality singing talent show “Asian Wave” where she managed a win.
In 2014, she joined “I Am A Singer” and her follower count jumped to over 2 million. Her popularity increased in China and she continued gaining fans as she released more Mandarin songs. To ensure she could communicate with her Chinese fans, Shila took Mandarin classes in Beijing and improved her Mandarin.
2. Firdhaus Farmizi (22)
Malaysian singer-songwriter Firdhaus Farmizi started his career when his song “Alaska Bay” became popular on the internet. After he caught singer Yise Loo (罗忆诗)’s eye, Firdhaus signed on with the singer and released numerous Chinese songs.
The Johor-born star may have been born into a traditional Malay family. However, he spent most of his formative years in Chinese school as his parents insisted on it. As he grew up with a Chinese education, it’s no surprise Firdhaus is able to speak, read and write fluent Chinese.
3. Masyitah Masya (21)
Masyitah was born in Kedah but has been aiming to make waves in China. She became popular after making a cover of the song “Love When I Die (死了都要爱)”. She not only sings sweetly, but fluently in Mandarin. It was reported that she took classes to improve her Mandarin and her pronunciation. She hopes to audition in China soon.
Masyitah won the “Most Potential Young Artist” in the 2019 Asian Music Awards. Earlier this year, she released her first Chinese single “Jiu Meng Xin Su (旧梦新夙)” which currently has over 115,000 views on YouTube. She was previously scheduled to participate in the Chinese talent show “Sons of Tomorrow 3(明日之子 3)”. However, she was forced to withdraw due to an image-sensitive issue with her headscarf.
4. Nur Dhabitah Sabri (22)
Nur Dhabitah was born in Kuala Lumpur and recently represented Malaysia in the diving event at the Tokyo Olympic. She placed fourth for the women’s individual 3-meter springboard. Previously, she won three medals each from the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games and the Southeast Asian Games.
Aside from her impressive achievements, Dhabitah is also capable of speaking Mandarin. During a post-Olympic interview with Astro Arena, she admitted her Mandarin wasn’t very good, but it was enough to communicate with Chinese players. “They (can) talk to me and understand my speech, so (it’s) ok,” she said.
Wah @AdamZamri8 makin menjadi jadi, @BieBitah pun pandai ckp mandarin…Harmoninya Malaysia ku…Power2 org kita ni.#takkantak#GanbatteMalaysia #SokongMalaysia #Olympics2020#olympics@ASTROARENA pic.twitter.com/Ai73raDfQt
— Ezreen Isa (@boboncai) August 2, 2021
5. Pandelela Rinong (28)
The Sarawak “Diving Princess” represented Malaysia in the women’s individual 10-meter jump in Tokyo’s Olympics. She came in 12th, but it doesn’t negate the fact that she was the first Malaysian athlete to win a medal during the Olympic diving event.
Pandelela Rinong was born in a Bidayu village in Sarawak, but trained with many Chinese coaches. As a result, she not only improved her athletic skills, but also her fluency in Mandarin. Pandelela Rinong was noted for responding in Mandarin when she received interviews form Chinese media and when she competes in China.
These artists and athletes not only represent Malaysia in their arts and sports respectively, but also when they speak Mandarin. After all, Malaysia is a diverse country. When we share our culture and language with each other, we show unity and pride in one another.