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A snip of the tongue and English is yours!
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Trinny



Joined: 01 Feb 2003

PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2003 1:21 pm    Post subject: A snip of the tongue and English is yours! Reply with quote

Have you read this article?

A snip of the tongue and English is yours!
Barbara Demick
Los Angeles Times
April 8, 2002

Korean children undergo fad surgery

SEOUL In a swank neighborhood renowned for designer boutiques and plastic surgery clinics, anxious parents drag frightened toddlers into Dr. Nam Il Woo's office and demand that he operate on the children's tongues.

t is a simple procedure: Just a snip in a membrane and the tongue is supposedly longer, more flexible and - some South Koreans believe - better able to pronounce such notorious English tongue-teasers as "rice" without it sounding like "lice."

"Parents are eager to have their children speak English, and so they want to have them get the operation," said Nam, who performs about 10 procedures a month, almost all on children younger than 5, in his well-appointed offices in the Apkujong district here. "It is not cosmetic surgery. In some cases, it really is essential to speak English properly."

In this competitive and education-obsessed society, fluent and unaccented English is the top goal of language study and is pursued with fervor. It is not unusual for 6-month-old infants to be put in front of the television for as long as five hours a day to watch instruction videos, or for 7-year-olds to be sent out after dinner for English cram courses.

South Korean parents will spend the equivalent of a month's salary here on monthly tuition at English-language kindergartens and as much as $50 an hour for tutors. Between the after-school courses, flashcards, books and videos, English instruction is estimated to be a $3 billion-a-year industry - and that does not include the thousands of children sent abroad to hone their skills.

In another display of linguistic zeal, the Seoul city government recently set up a hot line for citizens to call if they see spelling or grammar mistakes on public signs that are in English.

"Learning English is almost the national religion," said Jonathan Hilts, the host of a popular English-language talk show on South Korea's Educational Broadcasting System.

Not surprisingly, a backlash is developing. Linguists warn that children pushed too early or too hard to learn the language might end up in linguistic limbo, speaking neither English nor Korean with skill. Child psychiatrists report cases of preschoolers suffering anxiety from too much pressure.

"English makes children's lives hell!" declared a recent cover story in the weekly magazine Dong-A. .The most controversial aspect is the tongue surgery, which critics say is unnecessary. The procedure, known as frenectomy, has been used for years to correct a condition popularly known as "tongue-tie," in which the thin band of tissue under the tongue - the frenulum - extends to its tip. If the tongue can't easily touch the roof of the mouth, it is difficult for a person to pronounce some sounds.

No statistics exist in South Korea about the number of such operations, which usually are done in private clinics. However, doctors say the procedure's popularity has soared along with the boom in English instruction.

"This is a recent phenomenon," said Jung Do Kwang, an ear, nose and throat specialist at the Hana Nose Institute in Seoul. "Korean mothers have a fervor for education. They think it will make their children fluent in English."

Jung said the operation takes as little as 10 minutes and can be done as outpatient surgery with local anesthetic. It usually costs $230 to $400.

Jung said it helps pronunciation of both English and Korean if the procedure is performed on a child younger than 5 and if the patient has a tongue that is genuinely too short or inflexible.

"If the tongue is really short, you can't pronounce Rs and Ls properly," Jung said. "But this condition is relatively uncommon, and you get 10 times as many parents who want the operation as children who really need it."

A study published in 2000 of 37 children who had undergone the operation was inconclusive because young people usually cannot pronounce words properly until about age 9, according to Koh Joong Wha, a throat specialist who wrote the study.

"This operation is taking place more than in the past. The reason being that the younger generation is affluent and, having no more than two children, they pay a lot of attention to each child and their expectations of their children are getting higher," Koh said. "And, of course, there is the income these operations generate, so doctors are reluctant to say no."

In Seoul, the operation is most often performed in the Apkujong neighborhood, especially near a strip known as Rodeo Street. Interspersed among designer stores such as Gucci and Jil Sander are dozens of clinics specializing in plastic surgery.

Nam, a former professor at Seoul National University who specializes in jaw reconstruction, runs the Cleo Plastic Dental Clinic in a sleek new building. Most of the parents who bring their children in for surgery, he said, were frustrated by their own inability to learn English and want their children to have an easier time. "Some people blame the length of the tongue instead of recognizing how difficult it is to learn a foreign language," he added.

Linguists sneer at the idea that South Koreans' tongues are too short to speak English properly, pointing to the unaccented speech of hundreds of thousands of Korean Americans.

"O.K., since Westerners are taller they might have longer tongues. But this operation lengthens the tongue by only a millimeter or two and that has nothing to do with it," said Lee Ho Young, a linguist at Seoul National University.

The real problem for South Koreans, as for Japanese, is that their languages make no distinction between Ls and Rs, so they cannot detect the difference, Lee said.
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Zyzyfer



Joined: 29 Jan 2003
Location: who, what, where, when, why, how?

PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2003 3:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oooooooooh Pilseung Korea!
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willgreen



Joined: 30 Jan 2003

PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2003 7:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A seven year old girl had tongue surgery at my old school, so she could speak better english.

But this was not her problem. The girl had learning disabilities, and the poor girl was getting tongue surgery.
Remind you, that this girl was only 7 years old Korean age, still in preschool.

It was like the parents were in complete denial, that the girl was a special needs child. She did not even know how to speak Korean.

Just more crazy parents.
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mokpochica



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Location: Ann Arbor, MI

PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2003 8:00 pm    Post subject: Re: A snip of the tongue and English is yours! Reply with quote

Trinny wrote:
Have you read this article?

A snip of the tongue and English is yours!
Barbara Demick
Los Angeles Times
April 8, 2002.

Nam, a former professor at Seoul National University who specializes in jaw reconstruction, runs the Cleo Plastic Dental Clinic in a sleek new building. Most of the parents who bring their children in for surgery, he said, were frustrated by their own inability to learn English and want their children to have an easier time. "Some people blame the length of the tongue instead of recognizing how difficult it is to learn a foreign language," he added.


Honestly this surgery really annoys me. I think that what Dr. Nam here said is right on--it's just difficult to learn a foreign language. And the older you are the more difficult it is.

I've met a number of Korean children that have been taking phonics classes before studying English reading and writing--and guess what?! Their pronunciation is great. It seems to me like the parents are just looking for a fast and easy way for their kids to have great pronunciation. They would do better to invest in a phonics teacher/tape set while the kid is still young.

But to be fair, it's not just parents (and not just Korean parents) who are all crazy about this. Just last year I was at a dental school getting my teeth cleaned and one of the periodontics students got all weird when he looked under my tongue and saw my frenulum (That's the name of that silly membrane they're talking about). He thought it was too short and was surprised I hadn't had it clipped many years ago. He kept grilling me about any speech impediments I've had in my life---didn't I use to lisp? When I told him I could speak perfectly well and actually even spoke languages other than English without a problem, he seemed sort of suspicious of me. Anyway, this operation for being 'tongue-tied' or having ankyloglossia is apparently performed way too often, kind of like C-sections.

I've also wondered if Korean people just aren't used to kids having problems pronouncing a language. According to several Korean people I've talked to, no Korean child has speech impediments. It's very common for English-speaking kids to have problems with sounds like 'R' and 'L', 'TH', 'S', and I'm sure there are more. That's why we have so many speech therapists. I've told some of my English students before that even American people have trouble pronouncing English, especially as children. My intent is to make them feel better about making mistakes, but I think I may have made one or two feel like English is an impossible language.

Anyway, last thing---isn't the 'R' sound made with the lips anyway? Your tongue doesn't even need to touch the roof of the mouth to make it!
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kimcheeking
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2003 9:54 pm    Post subject: Re: A snip of the tongue and English is yours! Reply with quote

mokpochica wrote:
Anyway, last thing---isn't the 'R' sound made with the lips anyway? Your tongue doesn't even need to touch the roof of the mouth to make it!


R and L are flap sounds and use the tongue to briefly tap or almost tap the roof of your mouth. This is somehting I can barely remember from my phonetics class in '93
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mokpochica



Joined: 21 Jan 2003
Location: Ann Arbor, MI

PostPosted: Wed Jun 04, 2003 11:04 pm    Post subject: Re: A snip of the tongue and English is yours! Reply with quote

kimcheeking wrote:
mokpochica wrote:
Anyway, last thing---isn't the 'R' sound made with the lips anyway? Your tongue doesn't even need to touch the roof of the mouth to make it!


R and L are flap sounds and use the tongue to briefly tap or almost tap the roof of your mouth. This is somehting I can barely remember from my phonetics class in '93


You're right--after writing this I read somewhere else that the R sound does use the tongue. So I guess tongue probs could cause issues with the R sound. In the case of my students it's because they don't use their lips when making an R though---and try to make it like the ri-eul vowel when it is used as the initial consonant sound.
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tomato



Joined: 31 Jan 2003
Location: I get so little foreign language experience, I must be in Koreatown, Los Angeles.

PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2003 2:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why can't we pronounce the riul ()?
Do we need tongue surgery, too?

PS Whenever Korean appears as garbage in this forum,
click on Pogi/Inkoding/Hangukeo.
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gang ah jee



Joined: 14 Jan 2003
Location: city of paper

PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2003 2:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i heard about this in Japan too i seem to recall. Absolute rubbish.
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kimcheeking
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2003 3:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

tomato wrote:
Why can't we pronounce the riul (?)?
Do we need tongue surgery, too?


Because that sound is not in the English phonetic system. It is about halfway between an r and an L. If you try hard you can do it, with lots of practice. My wife tells me I'm good for about 50%-60% of the time. A big improvement over a couple of years ago.
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Korea Newfie



Joined: 27 Mar 2003
Location: Newfoundland and Labrador

PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2003 6:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think I'm missing something here... I've heard about this surgery many times, but wouldn't the fact that gyopos have no trouble with our pronounciation shoot a big hole in the logic?
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gatohorrible



Joined: 02 Jun 2003

PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2003 9:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

flap story is old 'news '.

Gimchee Wang sed :
<If you try hard you can do it, with lots of practice. My wife tells me I'm good for about 50%-60% of the time. A big improvement over a couple of years ago?.


Glad to hear it!!!!!!!
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FierceInvalid



Joined: 16 Mar 2003

PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2003 9:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A kid in one of my classes was sticking his tongue out the other day, the others looking on admiringly and giving him a "OOOwah..". He looked at me with a big grin and said "Tongue is very long". Great kid too. <Shudder>
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anae



Joined: 13 May 2003
Location: cowtown

PostPosted: Thu Jun 05, 2003 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can't believe this kind of thing is still going on! I thought humankind would have progressed further than this illogical belief by now.

Apparently this surgery was performed on people in Canada in the post WWII era. I guy in my ed faculty said his Dutch grandmother had her membrane cut when she arrived in the 1950s. It didn't do very much for her but cause discomfort.
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gatohorrible



Joined: 02 Jun 2003

PostPosted: Fri Jun 06, 2003 1:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

QUOTE anae :

<I can't believe this kind of thing is still going on! I thought humankind would have progressed further than this illogical belief by now>


You need to change 'humankind' there to 'koreans'.


QUOTE
Apparently this surgery was performed on people in Canada in the post WWII era


Some say it is still is the post WWII era is in KKKorea.
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Pyongshin Sangja



Joined: 20 Apr 2003
Location: I love baby!

PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2003 4:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So, if I want to learn Korean should I have most of my ______ surgically removed?
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