Calgary realtor’s skill with languages a bonus in an increasingly diverse city

Zully Merali’s proficiency in several different languages has served him well as a realtor in the increasingly diverse cosmopolitan city that Calgary has become over the years.

Merali, a realtor with RE/MAX Real Estate (Central), says his knowledge of diverse languages has come in handy in his real estate career which spans about a decade – all at the Central office.

On his bio on the RE/MAX website, languages spoken for Merali are listed as English, French, Hindi, Gujarati and Swahili. But his knowledge and ability to converse with people include several others that he has familiarity with.

Merali is an Ishmaili and was born in Burundi in Africa. He grew up in Zaire and then lived in Tanzania. The family moved to Canada in 1972 but in 1992 he returned back to Africa for 10 years to open a plastics factory.

In 2002, he returned to Canada.

“Before I went back to Africa, I loved buying and selling and getting into houses and I thought I could help people with my background in multi languages,” says Merali.

“And not pushing people but helping them acquire property and make it about them rather than just a commission. That’s been my secret. . . . It doesn’t matter how many houses you have to show them, you have to make sure they’re happy. The relationship is worth more than the money because the money will come if you satisfy a client. You get 10 times more clients. That’s my strategy and it seems to be working okay.”

Merali says he speaks a minimum of five different languages and “a lot of different slangs.”

“I’m fluent in French. That’s my first language. I grew up and studied in Belgium. I forgot Flemish because nobody speaks it for so long and now I can’t speak it . . . There’s also very many different dialects from India that I learned in Calgary so I can help the community.

“I can pretty well take care of most of the East Indian community languages. It’s been good for me to know all these languages. Absolutely. Because you get hooked up with a diverse community and if you speak the language sometimes it’s hard for them to communicate. The older parents it’s hard for them to communicate. At least we have that background and we understand what they’re talking about. What’s their needs. It helps definitely. And they like it when you attempt to talk with them in their language.

“Like the Punjabi language is a tough one. But I can get by. In the beginning my main business was the Punjabi so I had to learn pretty fast. The Sikh community is very strong in Alberta and you have to learn their stuff if you want to work with them.”

Merali is very involved in his Ishmaili community with the Aga Khan Foundation as well as the broader community in Calgary.

“I do a lot of volunteering work wherever needed. Locally in the community I’m pretty active. The old folks’ home that we have in Skyview I looked after for five years – people moving in, moving out,” he says.

“I still do the leases for people moving in, moving out. The moving reports. For free of course. It’s all community service. Me and my wife are both helping out . . . It’s an old folks’ home for the community. We have about 40 apartments. It’s subsidized to help out the struggling and lonely people and help them not get depressed. The home is open to everybody but mostly Ishmaili’s in there.”

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