Life Changing Opportunity: Cambodian boy with multilingual talent now studies in China
14-year old Thuch Salik's rise to internet fame came about in a unique way. Selling souvenirs on a busy street in Cambodia to help his family, he interacted with tourists from dozens of countries. In the process, he became conversational in as many as 15 different languages. And now, the young linguist is onto bigger and better things, studying abroad in China. CGTN's Wu Lei tells us more.
Reporter: Salik, how many languages can you speak?
Salik: I can speak 15 languages.
Salik: Yes, for example, Chinese, Japanese, French.
Reporter: How did you learn these languages?
Salik: I learned from tourists.
Thuch Salik's days as a souvenir vendor helped him down a road he's glad to be on.
THUCH SALIK, HSK CLASS STUDENT HAILIANG FOREIGN LANGUAGE SCHOOL "I sell every day, one day, two, three, four, like one month, two months, and I can speak a little bit well."
Salik did this for 7 years. But the multilingual talents he picked up along the way got him global attention after his videos went viral on the internet. With a Chinese sponsor's help, in May, the 14-year old enrolled at Hailiang Foreign Language School in eastern China.
THUCH SALIK, HSK CLASS STUDENT HAILIANG FOREIGN LANGUAGE SCHOOL "I think the school is very good and very beautiful. And the teachers and my friends here all like me."
It's a brand new start for Salik. Many teachers say he is a fast learner and he is becoming more confident at school. This is the life he dreamed of for years, but his parents weren't on board.
CHEN JUNWEI, PRESIDENT HAILIANG EDUCATION MANAGEMENT GROUP "Salik's parents didn't want him to study abroad back then, they thought Salik was too young and what's more, if Salik left, they would lose an important source of family revenue."
It took several months for Salik and Hailiang's teachers to persuade Salik's parents to let him study abroad. With this very first example, Hailiang has launched a new international program, hoping to recruit more teenagers from around the world who are poor, but have great potential and talent.
CHEN JUNWEI, PRESIDENT HAILIANG EDUCATION MANAGEMENT GROUP "We plan to sponsor them to finish their bachelor's and even doctorate degrees. Then they will go back to their own countries."
And Salik has high expectations for his education opportunities and life in China.
THUCH SALIK, HSK CLASS STUDENT HAILIANG FOREIGN LANGUAGE SCHOOL "And I want to go to the university in Beijing, I want to learn something about business."
Salik says there are actually many young people like him selling souvenirs for their families in Cambodia.
Many of their parents don't think education can bring anything different.
But Salik hopes his experience will help and inspire more youth in Cambodia and around the world. WL, CGTN, Zhuji city in ZJ province.