#2 The United Nations of Touring
The team of guides at Jane’s SG Tours doesn’t just talk about Singapore’s cultural diversity, they embody it. A melting pot of nationalities and circuitous family journeys, Jane’s guides represent Singapore’s fascinating ethnic fabric in all its various and glorious permutations.
“Its blend of people and culture is what makes Singapore so special,” Jane says.
Shanti Bhattacharya was born and raised in Singapore, but went on to live all over the world, including Moscow and Paris. She’s fluent in English, French, and Russian, and guides in all three — and she also speaks Bengali and Malay. We wonder what language she dreams in!
Min Xie from Shanghai, one of Jane’s Mandarin-speaking guides who mostly guides visitors from China, is also fluent in English and German, having lived in Berlin for eight years and is working towards her German-language guiding certification.
Pavla Schneuwly grew up in the Czech Republic and came to Singapore at 22 to study Mandarin. The rest is history! Pavla speaks English, French, Mandarin, and Czech, and leads tours on many subjects including one of her favorites, architecture.
Long-time Singapore resident and Australian native Bruce Bird speaks and guides in Australian and English ;), while Singaporean Jimmy Sim has been around the block many times, guiding for more than 40 years in English and Malay.
Nature guides Wan Ling and Ed Lim can talk flora and fauna in multiple tongues — Wan Ling in English, Mandarin and Cantonese, and even in a bit of Japanese, and Ed, in English and German, having lived in Berlin. He also knows some Malay and Thai.
Catalina Tong effortlessly moves between English, French, and Cantonese, and her Mandarin is pretty good too. Catalina has spent half her life in Singapore and half abroad.
Food lover Alice Goh guides many of Jane’s Foodie Adventures with a stew of language skills at her disposal — Mandarin and several local dialects, including Teochew, Hokkien, and Cantonese. Super multi-lingual Gek Lee was born in the Jalan Besar neighbourhood and grew up in nearby Little India. She’s fluent in English, Mandarin, Teochew, Hokkien, and Cantonese, and even speaks a few words of Tamil learned from childhood friends.
Betty Wee lived in Israel for four years and is a retiree with boundless energy and enthusiasm. Jane’s youngest guide, Darren Goh, is equally as passionate about Singapore culture and history as Betty. He’s finishing up his geography degree at NUS and speaks English, Chinese, and a smidgen of Malay; learning Spanish is on his to-do list.
Yeonsil Bang and Chong Eun Baik are both from Korea and guide tours in Korean — they also speak English and Singlish!
Jane was born in the UK, and has lived most of her life elsewhere, including stints in the US and nearly 20 in Singapore. It’s not surprising she can converse in several languages including Spanish and French, and a smattering of Portuguese, Italian and Malay — and even a few words of Welsh (she is half Scottish, half Welsh).
“Confusion sometimes arises when Betty and Pavla are out together guiding,” Jane says with a chuckle. “Betty looks like she could speak Mandarin, but is in fact Peranakan and only knows a bit of Chinese, while Pavla from the Czech Republic is fluent. Caucasians speaking Asian languages, and Asians speaking European languages — I love it! It blows people’s minds and challenges preconceived notions,” Jane adds, more than a bit proud of her team’s linguistic prowess. “It’s a wonderful testament to what Singapore is all about.”
All of Jane’s guides are Singapore Tourist Board (STB) licensed and those guiding in multiple languages have had to take the STB guide test in each tongue — an impressive linguistic feat!
Well done! Or maybe we should say … bravo, 布拉沃, bien joué, よくやった, gut gemacht, bien hecho, výborně, bagus, 잘 했어, bem feito, отлично сработано, and molto bene!