The film, posted on Facebook on August 26th, shows how Alm is casually and comfortably conversing with a driver who, judging by his questions and comments, seems to be totally blown away by the Swede’s Arabic skills.
And he’s not the only one who’s been impressed: In just over a week, the clip has garnered more than 122,000 views, and been shared by several international media outlets.
The Local managed to get hold of Alm himself to ask him how he felt about the attention.
“I’m just a normal Swede who happens to know Arabic,” Alm told us.
“If somebody comes up and speaks Arabic with me, I’ll answer them, because I like it,” he said, noting that in his job as a security guard, school janitor and IT administrator he gets to use it on an almost daily basis.
“It’s turned out to be very, very useful.”
Alm, who lives in Västerås, some 100 kilometres west of Stockholm, said he has never taken any proper classes in the language, but that he has instead picked it up on his own by watching Arabic TV channels, talking to his Arabic-speaking friends and by bartering at markets while in Syria with his ex-wife.
“I went to this one class once, but when I got there, the teacher turned out to be a Bulgarian woman, so I left.”
“Instead I’ve listened and tried to speak when I’ve had the opportunity and have picked it up that way. And I have many Arabic-speaking friends and so I speak to them.”
“I did go to a friend’s mother house for a while, who taught me two hours a day, for ten days.”
Alm, who also speaks Spanish and English on top of his native Swedish, said that he does seem to have some kind of a knack when it comes to languages and is now looking into possibly also taking up Turkish.
“Why not?” he said.
Alm said he has been happily surprised by the attention the clip has been getting, even if he at first wasn’t aware that it had been uploaded on social media.
“Just today at school, this teacher from Iraq walked up to me and told me that people down there were talking about it and asking about me. Can you believe it, a small village in Iraq?!”
“And this weekend I was walking through the town and these Syrians waved at me, yelling out ‘we love you’ and telling me that they were watching the video right there and then. It all makes me very happy.”
Watch the video and the full transcript in English below:
Driver: Are you Swedish?
Kalle: Yeah, I'm Swedish.
Driver: For real? Of Swedish origin?
Driver: So you’re Swedish and you know Arabic?
Driver: How come you've learned Arabic?
Kalle: My (ex) wife is from Syria.
Driver: Oh so you’re wife is from Syria? How long have you been married?
Kalle: A long time, I don’t know. I like Arabic and I like to watch TV and series and I've learned from that.
Driver: What series are you watching?
Kalle: "Ghawwar Toshe".
Driver: I dont know that series, I'm from Iraq.
Kalle: Oh ok, yes this series is Syrian.
Driver: So what's your name?
Kalle: My name is Abu Kevin (Kevin’s father).
Driver: Abu Kevin, haha!
Kalle: And this is my son’s name and my daughter’s name: Kevin and Sandy (shows tattoo on arm).
Driver: Nice, really nice. But what’s your name?
Kalle: I’m Kalle.
Driver: So your name is Kalle. Do I have to pay to get in here?
Kalle: Yeah, pay 40 kronor to that person (points).
Driver: But I don’t have any cash.
Kalle: Do you have Swish? (Swedish money transfer app)
Kalle: Do you drink beer?? Are you drinking beer?
Driver: No that’s not beer, it’s barbican, it’s Saudi.
Kalle: I don't know it. There’s no alcohol in it?
Driver: No there’s no alcohol in it, it’s a Muslim product.