When travelling overseas, knowing common phrases in the native tongue is one of the best ways to scratch the surface of a country. Singapore Airlines cabin crew Fariz bin Mohamed Sallim and Nurzaharah binte Johari, who serve as German-speaking crew, both have an interest in foreign languages. On top of being fluent in German and French, they are well-versed in Italian and Spanish respectively.
Fariz was already fluent in French when he started flying 12 years ago, as he had studied the language at university. He also spent six months in Venice at his previous job and signed up for classes to learn Italian during his time there. Upon joining Singapore Airlines, he decided to pick up German and was selected to further his studies in Munich, Germany.
“I’ve always been interested in languages since I was young, and I watched a lot of foreign films,” shares Fariz. In particular, The Interpreter – a film starring Nicole Kidman – piqued his interest to learn new languages. Realising how essential being able to communicate well with passengers is, he has since added to his linguistic bank by picking up Spanish, Russian, Korean and Japanese. To him, being able to help passengers in whatever way he can is one of the many fulfilling aspects of his profession.
Zara, as Nurzaharah is known, also shares the same sentiment. “I’m not only able to help passengers who are unable to speak English, but also assist my colleagues at times when they need help translating the menu for passengers,” says Zara, who has been with the airline for 17 years. She too won a scholarship, to Bonn, Germany, to further her studies.
To Zara, being able to speak multiple languages has added value to her career, as it helps to put non-English-speaking passengers at ease. She is a firm believer that this has been instrumental in providing excellent service on board. Off the plane, her language capabilities enable her to appreciate local cultures better whenever she’s in a new city.
Both credit their fluency in languages to constant practice and learning from mistakes. A piece of advice for those interested in picking up a new language: “Speak as much as you can and immerse yourself in the culture,” says Zara, who talks to locals whenever she travels abroad to aid the learning process. Likewise, Fariz is a firm believer in learning through conversation.
For Fariz and Zara, the greatest takeaways stem from being able to connect with people from all over the world and take Singapore Airlines’ standards of service to greater heights. Watch them demonstrate their language skills here:
Experience a career beyond the ordinary! Visit singaporeair.com/cabincrewcareers to find out how you can join us as a cabin crew member.
This article was originally published in the May 2018 issue of SilverKris magazine