The 33-year-old Peshawar native was studying medicine when he chose to move to the UAE to work.
There’s something special in everyone. That cheerful guy you see every day could have smashed a world record. Or that woman in your neighbourhood could be the next big Broadway star. The thing is, you’ll never really know – until someone tells their story. In this episode of our weekly series UAE’s Hidden Gems, we put the spotlight on Pakistani cabbie Hussain Sayed who wowed us with a hidden talent.
There is never a dull moment in Hussain Sayed’s taxi. Never short of conversation topics, Sayed is a master at keeping his passengers entertained.
But he’s not your ordinary chatty cabbie – because he can speak to you in your mother tongue. Sayed, a Pakistani, can fluently converse in 10 different languages, including his native Pashtun and Urdu.
“I can hold a conversation in Arabic, Tagalog, Malayalam, Chinese (Mandarin), Russian, Farsi, English, Hindi, Urdu, and Pashto,” he said. In fact, he has been told he speaks better Filipino than a lot of Filipinos in the UAE.
Without spending a penny, he learnt all these languages with the help of Google Translate, and several free language learning apps that he downloaded from the Google Play store.
A Dubai resident for 14 years, Sayed made all that effort after realising that breaking a ‘language barrier’ can result in healthier relations and opportunities.
“People’s faces automatically light up when you speak to them in their language. There is better respect and understanding between us…I got inspired by that,” he said.
The 33-year-old Peshawar native was studying medicine when he chose to move to the UAE to work so he could pay for his wife’s treatment.
“I was studying to become a doctor. It had been my dream since childhood to become one. In the third month of my college studies, I had to move to Dubai to pay for my wife’s treatment,” said Sayed. His wife was diagnosed with a heart condition, and there was no way he could pay for her medical expenses while staying in Peshawar.
Sayed married his wife Bibi Shabia when he was 19, and she was 18. The couple now has four kids – Zania Batool, 14; Mohammad Isa, 12; Aisa Batool, 4; and Ali Moosa, 2. “My oldest daughter was only four days old when I got here. I was 20 years old at that time,” he said.
“My brother was working in Dubai as a watchman at that time. I came here, 14 years ago to be exact, and took over from him,” said Sayed.
Nine-years ago, he found a job as a driver with Dubai Taxi.
How did he pick up so many languages?
Inspired by the interactions he shared with people of different nationalities while he worked as a watchman, Sayed decided to master their languages.
“In Pakistan, I knew only Pashto and Urdu. I was the best student in my English class at school,” he said.
“Now, since I am here, I can speak 10 languages. The toughest to learn has been Russian and Chinese. I cannot read or write Chinese, but I can speak it. The Russian script is not too difficult. I write the sentences in Urdu in notebooks and memorise them. I learnt Tagalog and Malayalam by speaking to my passengers.”
When he travels to Peshawar for vacation, Sayed watches videos on YouTube, writes sentences in his notebook, and later uses them in conversations with his customers.
Now, the friendly cabbie has two main aspirations: To learn more languages and make sure his children receive the education they deserve.
“I hope to learn Spanish, French, and Italian in the years to come. Until my dying breath, I will see to that my kids will be able to study well,” said Sayed.
How did he learn all 10 languages?
Determined to engage his customers by speaking to them in their mother tongue, Hussain Sayed turned to Google Translate, free language apps, and YouTube to master different languages. He also learns on the go, through his conversations with passengers.
Here are three things that make him special
1-He never stops learning. (Next on his list are Spanish, French and Italian)
2-He’s a devoted father to four kids
3-He used to be a medicine student
Click here to read more news from @khaleejtimes