A bright spark

RECOGNISED as the Youngest Published Poet in the 2009 Malaysia Book of Records at age 11, Gloson Teh demonstrates a certain level of artistic intelligence that not many others have.

His works normalise poetry, which most people tend to associate with elitism, by adding rhythmic words to bring these imaginative verses to life with some “redundant redundancy, and unexpected unexpectedness” as he likes to call it. Gloson’s funny and entertaining poems bring joy to children and also serve as a way for them to pick up vocabulary easily.

What may surprise people is that the 19-year-old boy genius first gained attention for his language skills at the tender age of one.

“That was when my mum taught me Mandarin through flip cards,” he said. “It was perhaps at the age of four or five that I came to realise I was in the news, but I didn’t know what it was about, I just saw myself there.”

Aside from writing poems, Gloson is also a full-time app developer, having created Speed Mandarin. He is also a freelance web designer, and plans to develop a poetry website, which will be open to members.

“It’s about funny poetry for children,” he said. “I’ll also incorporate audio poetry in it, I did that when I was 11 so I quite miss doing it.”

How did the idea for the Speed Mandarin app come about?

It was actually my mum’s idea, I just built on top of it – the translations, the technical aspects, new designs and pictograms, which are a big part of Speed Mandarin’s system.

How our system works is that we help you memorise things, by putting together the audio and visual features.

We draw a character to look exactly like the meaning, and of course, we have other methods which are more complex.

You started blogging when you were 10 years old. How were you first introduced to it?

Well, my dad was into the internet and he had a friend who was doing websites, so somehow I got into it and they created a blog for me. I went in, and experimented with it.

Eventually, I made a lot of friends online but I slowed down when I was 13 because of studies, and right now I’ve stopped entirely. If a situation calls for it, I might continue to blog.

You are a member of Generation-Z, who have been labelled “screen addicts” with short attention spans. Do you agree with that label?

Yes and no, I think. Generation-Z has a short attention span in certain things but a long attention span when it comes to screens, right? They can play their games for hours, and that is when they have a long attention span.

Technology really is a double-edged sword, so it depends on what your goals in life are and whether your use of technology matches those goals.
That said, if your goal is to become a professional gamer, then it’s what you need to do to achieve the goal.

Social media plays a major role in your life. Given the constant shifts in the social media landscape, how do you reach and appeal to your audience?

Basically what I do is to just focus on producing quality content that people are likely to share on Facebook, and sneak in the marketing there somehow, creatively. Because no matter how the algorithm changes, it has only one goal, which is to offer quality content to the audience.

Recently Facebook has cut down the visibility of posts that say “share with friends or tag your friends in it”, it is because they don’t want you to ask the audience to share, they want them to share on their own. Honestly, we just have to keep up with the news and adapt, if you produce great content that people share, then you’re doing it right.

It’s the same with Google, you can trick Google into listing your page and eventually they’ll overcome the tricks.

I caused a Bouncy Castle website to be on the first page of Google for several results, but that only happened after eight months.

So what I did was, I put the location name in every single post, and when someone searched a keyword and location, Google will see it and consider it.

Do you have any projects in the pipeline?

Yes, there was a news report where a senior police officer was urging fellow Malaysian officers to learn Mandarin, so we contacted the police department and offered a number of police officers free access to the Speed Mandarin course.

Can you do an improvisational poem on the spot?

Lato’s never late for latte, for he’s always early.

Doesn’t matter what the roadblock – bent or straight or curly.

To get to his latte,

he’ll breeze past treasures that are pearly.

To drink it early, he’ll just whiz past ladies that are girly.

He’ll stride through walls, he’ll slide past any guard, no matter how burly.

He wouldn’t get the suits on sale, although they’re very sirly.

He’ll say bye-bye to squirrels, even though they’re cute and squirrely!

All this just to drink his latte art when it’s still swirly!