BRI program helps polyglot Cambodian boy work towards dream
By Chen Xiaoshu

Last November, 15-year-old Thuch Salik from Cambodia became an internet celebrity overnight. People were amazed by the boy's ability to speak over a dozen languages to sell souvenirs. The clip was shot by a tourist from Malaysia who happened to be passing by — but that simple act brought great changes to the boy's life.

At a foreign language school in Zhuji, eastern China's Zhejiang Province, Salik learns many subjects every day, including Chinese, English, math, art and even cooking. But the biggest change in his life is that, now, he doesn't have to sell stuff on the street.

Salik can speak Cambodian, Chinese, English, and simple greetings in 11 other languages, such as Japanese, Spanish, German and Russian. After his clip went viral, he was noticed by an education program in China that sponsors students with financial difficulties from the Belt and Road member countries.

In January, Salik and his parents were invited to visit the school. Salik said he loved the campus and atmosphere there very much and wanted to join it for his studies. But that's not the only reason.

"I saw my mother and father having a difficult time living. I decided to come here. My parents had doubts, but I told them, 'When I grow older, you guys won't have to come with me. I will find a job in the future in China by myself. I can continue going to school, and after graduation I can have a nice job'," said Salik.

A teacher introduces classmates to Salik at his school. /CGTN Photo

A teacher introduces classmates to Salik at his school. /CGTN Photo

Two months ago, Salik formally entered the school, and during his free time, he calls his parent to check in on them.

"I saw him on TikTok. I thought this little boy is awesome. He can speak so many languages and he is so young for a vendor. But I didn’t expect him to be older than me," said Lin Jiayi, Salik's classmate.  

In recent days, Salik has been busy attending choir rehearsal. He and his classmates will sing at the commencement ceremony for students graduating from high school. It took the gifted boy less than 20 minutes to memorize the whole Chinese song by heart.

His classmates also come from different Belt and Road countries. They said Salik's generous and friendly character impressed them a lot.

"I will bring goods from China to Cambodia and sell Cambodian stuff in China. If I am rich, I will buy a house and a car for my mother. I will help my younger brother and others. In Cambodia, they have a hard time living. They don't have money, so I will help them. I love helping people," said Salik.