Thursday, May 1, 2014

Our Linguistics Analysis & What We Learnt From The Session

2. When you tell people you’re a linguist, people always ask you how many languages you speak.

hello again :3


Mr. Lee Woong Ho is a Korean hence he acquired that language first. When he was 6 years old, he was sent to a Chinese Primary School. Basically, Chinese is the second language he acquired through socializing and environment in his school.

He also said that he learned English before he reaches his critical period which is shown when he said that he and his parents moved to Scotland. He stayed there for 1 year and that's probably where he learned basic English and how he was able to talk in a Scottish accent.

After that, they moved back to Korea and this probably gave him a chance to master and improve his Korean language. Mr. Lee stayed there until he was 19 years old and soon after, he went to Japan for an exchange foreign student program. While he stayed there, he managed to acquire the Japanese language before he went to China for half a year as a language student.

Based on our point of view, it all comes down to the critical period hypothesis by Eric Lenneberg and the first language acquisition. The critical period hypothesis states that for language acquisition, early childhood to pre-puberty may be the best time in which humans can acquire a first language. Mr. Lee's native tongue is Korean which he was able to acquire easily from his environment and his parents. He was also able to learn Chinese and English easily as these languages were exposed to him at a very young age. Japanese, however was quite tough for him as he said that he learned it when he was around 19-20 years old. Although it was hard, Korean grammar and Japanese grammar are known to be very similar to each other so this was considered as a huge help to the problem.

Another topic was brought up, which is code-switching. A student asked on whether Mr. Lee uses code-switching in any of his languages and he said no. As a Korean, he doesn't find the need to code-switch while talking in Korean to other Koreans as they believe that in Korea, they don't have any problem communicating with each other using their native language, hence code-switching didn't seem necessary.

Mr. Lee also said that learning a language after the critical period is easier with the help of the environment. For example, learning Japanese while actually living in a community which only speaks in that language will actually help you acquire that language easier because you feel the need to learn them in order to talk and understand the people around you.

Our Experience

Well to be honest, when we were told about this assignment, 3 of us were quite 'lost' (because we have never done something like this before) but excited at the same time. Interview... Sounds fun!


So obviously Geena loves Koreans and she was glad that Mr. Lee was able to come that night and listening to him talk in Korean and other different languages was fun and interesting at the same time. It's totally different from what we've seen on television.

Listening to how other speakers from other countries talk in various languages has always been something that we've been curious about. Sadly, he hasn't acquire Malay fully yet so we didn't get a chance to hear him talk in Malay fluently. We've always been interested in languages, there are specific ones of course but all of them are still fun and unique. 

Meeting Mr. Lee was kind of an eye opening because we have been trying to learn other languages and it's so hard. Geena tried learning from books, online and videos but it takes a lot of time and she thought it was impossible but Mr. Lee knows 5 languages, including Arabic and most of them, he can speak fluently and that is pretty amazing and impressive! This shows that nothing's impossible if you put your effort and heart into it.

Korean is, of course, Mr. Lee's mother tongue. He learned Chinese when he went to a chinese primary school at the age of 6. He started learning English language when he was 7 years old. His first English word was "apple." He went to Scotland in the year 1990. He told us, he stepped on the Scotland Airport on August 5th, 1990. He said he knew nothing about Japanese language until he went there for an exchange student program when he was 20 years old. That was the time he started learning Japanese which is after his critical period.

Well, Sal thinks Mr. Lee is a cool guy. As you can see from the night when he came, he only wore t-shirt and shorts along with sport shoes. He prefers to keep it casual. From our experience in spending about 40 minutes with him, we could see that he is quite a funny guy. I think he is a bit weird (just like you Mr. Nazriq! But in a good way) I also noticed how he makes long pauses before he starts talking.

In spite of knowing how to speak the four languages - Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese, Mr. Lee also knows how to write in these languages. But he finds it a little hard to write in Japanese and Chinese compared to the other two. He knows the old classic Chinese writing.

Sal asked him if he is learning Bahasa Malaysia. He said "Yes, I have to." Mr. Lee is studying in Universiti Malaya doing his second degree in Linguistics (he is of course, Mr. Nazriq's classmate). So at the age of 31, he is currently learning a new language. This is way passed the critical period.

He told us that he loves mathematics, science, anthropology, history and language. His first degree was Chemical Engineering. Who says engineering students cannot learn language? Like Madam Adlina said "We are engineers too. Alphabetical Engineers." :D

To be able to ask questions to someone that really has the credibility and experience in this kind of thing is something that we can't really describe. This interview session somehow really enlighten us about some major topics in Linguistics. 

Sadly the interview session was quite short and everything was kind of rush that night. How we wish we would be able to ask more questions to Mr. Lee. His journey and experience was incredibly amazing and to acknowledge that he is able to speak multi-language at that age.. what an achievement! It somehow motivates us to work harder and never give up. Nothing is easy but if you do something that you really want to do and you know this is it, well, this is it.


Based on what we have learned from our talk session with Mr. Lee, we believe that critical hypothesis is not an obstacle for us to learn a new language. Yes, it is true that it becomes harder for us to learn a new language when we reach puberty, but it's not a major problem. We still can learn them. Well, it all comes down to our will.

From this unforgettable experience, we have realized how hard it is to learn a new language after the critical period but it also proves that it is not impossible. Geena bought a lot of book on basics to this language and simple phrases to that language and she has been trying to learn them over these past few years and it used up a lot of her time. She wanted to give up but seeing Mr. Lee gave her a lot of hope and somehow he was able to encourage her to keep on learning. We have been wondering how far learning language would take us and whether this was the right thing we should be doing with our life and seeing how far Mr. Lee has achieved, including Mr. Nazriq , it helped us to believe in our choices and one fine day, everything will fall into places.

Mr. Lee said one of the most important factors to learn a language is our environment. He said our surrounding is very important to help us with it. We need people around us to speak the language, so it will be easier for us to learn. An addition for that, in the process of acquiring a language, if that particular language is basically more or less kind of the same with the first language, it'll be easier for one to acquire that language, even though after his/her critical period. In Mr. Lee's case, he said acquiring Japanese language is not really a problem for him since, his first language is Korean, which the vocabulary between these two languages is quite the same.

Mr. Lee said, in acquiring language, other than speaking, learning and memorizing new vocabulary everyday, watching movie also helps. EXACTLY! 100% agreed. For instance, Geena watches TONS of Korean dramas and movies, somehow she is able to speak Korean and knows the slang, pronunciation or the way they speak. Even though she never intended to learn that language, she is able to understand and speak a few dialogues and words. Same goes to Aina and Salsabila who watch TONS of Spanish dramas and Hindi movies, they are able to understand what the actor and actress are saying even though without the subtitle!

Aina finds that in the process of acquiring language, if we are living in a particular area which the people there majorly speak that language, it would be a LOT easier to learn that language. For instance, Ms. Hazirah told us a story about her nephew. Her nephew is able to speak Mandarin. One major reason is because his parents asked their neighbour which is a Chinese, to speak with him every single day. This surely helps a lot in acquiring another language other than the mother tongue language (which is something that everyone in their house uses that language).

We are in IIUM today, we have to learn Arabic language. It is beyond our critical hypothesis now, so it's a bit hard for us to acquire it. From what Mr. Lee has told us, I suggest all of us to make friends with Arabs (we have many Arabs in our main campus). To be friends with them, means we have to talk to them. So, talk to them and ask them to speak Arabic in order for us to learn the language faster and more effective.

Language is something that you have to acquire and put a really hard work on it. It's not something that you can learn by memorizing formula or format. So, it is not a walk in the park process. You gain what you work for. In whatever we are doing, if we really put our hearts into it and 'ikhlas', InsyaAllah, no matter how hard and how painful the journey is, we will be able to face it and receive rewards in the end. In addition, learning is an 'ibadah as stated in al-Quran. It's not a burden. No matter how hard it is, if it is worth fighting for, why not? :p