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2017-03 13 Important News
Imagine a newborn baby who can barely open her eyes learning a language. It may sound intriguing yet preposterous. It was a widely-accepted view in the psycholinguistic field that an infant should be at least more than 12 months in order to acquire certain linguistic abilities. However, Choi Ji-yeon, a post-doctoral researcher of Hanyang Phonetics and Psycholinguistics Lab at the Institute of Performative Humanities, has debunked this convention through her study - Early development of abstract language knowledge: Evidence from perception–production transfer of birth-language memory. Babies can remember their birth language When Choi was contemplating about a research topic for her doctoral degree at Max Planck, a German scientific research center, she decided to pursue a theme in accordance with her interest. It was language acquisition of infants, specifically, a baby’s ability to remember its birth language. In order to proceed with her research, she went to the Netherlands where the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is located. She first gathered a group of 29 people who were adopted from South Korea to the Netherlands between the ages of 3 months to 70 months. This experimental group averaged at 32 years of age, had never learned or spoken Korean in their lifetime after adoption and used Dutch as their native tongue. Another control group was a group of native Dutch people who never had any contact with the Korean language during their infancy. To make sure to establish the experimental conditions, Choi, through interviews, gave assurance that the adopted group had no interest in learning Korean but had great interest in contributing to scientific development. Choi is explaining the process of her experiment. In the experiment, both groups were trained through computer programs and voice recorders to learn Korean phonemes 14 times. Korean contains three phonemes- lax, aspirated, and tense consonants, which is numerous, compared to Dutch. The letters used for pronunciation training were vowels ㅏ,ㅐ,ㅣ,ㅗ,ㅜ (a, e, I, o, u) and the second syllables 라, 해, 미, 조, 수 (la, hae, mi, jo, su). Together, five vowels, five second syllables, and three consonants created a total of 75 Korean pronunciation sounds which both experimental and control groups were drilled on. After 14 training sessions, the adopted group’s production (ability to distinguish speech perception and produce a language) scores improved much more than the control group’s scores. In addition, the experimental group’s speed of score improvement correlated with the training speed. “What was more impressive was that half of the experimental group were adopted when they were linguistic, which was at 17 months or older, while the other half were adopted before six months old, when they were prelinguistic,” said Choi. However, this difference showed no distinction in the ability and speed of Korean acquisition process. This proves that their Korean language ability shifted from perception (ability to interpret a language) to production and that birth language is concrete in nature rather than by nurture. “This is called the re-learning benefit, the main issue of my study,” mentioned Choi. The lonely adventure Despite the successful results, the beginning of this study was a gamble for Choi. “Everyone tried to dissuade me from this research because it was like being on an adventure,” remembers Choi. If such a topic does not have a dramatic result, then it would meant nothing but a repetition of a norm for Choi. However, she had firm faith that she had to pursue what she thought was right. “Right after I finished my research topic presentation at Max Planck, I was psychologically pressured to succeed on this study,” recalled Choi. Choi describes her experiment at the Netherlands an adventure. Another barrier that loomed ahead of her adventure was the difficulty of personalization for the experimental and control groups. “I had to visit each subject population to train them in Korean while in the Netherlands. Travelling around the whole country by train and on foot all day long was a rather daunting experience for me,” said Choi. After Choi visited every single subject group and completed the research, she delivered the recorded results to Hanyang University. She then gathered Hanyangian students to distinguish the recorded pronunciation between native Koreans, adopted Dutch, and native Dutch. As a result, Choi succeeded in clinching the psycholinguistic astonishment in her hand. Some question the result stating that the adoptees could have had more interest in Korea. Another doubt is that the experimental group might have had a significantly high linguistic ability. “However, I could refute that by proving that the experimental group did not have any linguistic progress in other languages,” said Choi. "When you choose to pursue something you are sure of, then you should carry on." Choi emphasizes the importance of patience when doing research. "Never underestimate prior knowledge of the field. We can only advance when we have a basis in former researches and experiments,” states Choi. Choi is currently working on contributing a paper on linguistic perception and its generalization. Kim Ju-hyun email@example.com Photos by Moon Ha-na
Living in a foreign country requires a lot more than being just curious. As Punt put it, “you must get ready to get out of your comfort zone”. From being a student to an employee at Hanyang University (HYU), Rick Punt (Business, Master's Program, '17) has accumulated numerous experiences here, having been an exchange student at HYU and now working for the school in taking care of the exchange students himself. Career at Hanyang Rick Punt first came to HYU in 2011 as an exchange student from the Netherlands. He discovered the Hanyang International Summer School (HISS) before the regular semester started. All Punt knew about Korea before he came to the country was North Korea, their nuclear weapons and other negative preconceptions. “I thought South Korea would be no different than third-world countries. I was shocked to see that it wasn’t.” Before he came to Korea, Punt read and analyzed the reports that other students had written on Asian countries. “I wanted to feel the Eastern Asian society for myself, and Seoul seemed to be the best,” he said. As his exchange student period ended, Punt grabbed the chance to work as an intern at HYU's Office of International Affairs. Punt wishes to help more international students adapt to Korea. After his internship was over, Punt went back to the Netherlands to graduate. He came back to Korea in 2013 and wrote papers on Hanyang University international promotion strategy. He is now in charge of HISS, the largest school program in Korea. Last year, 1,700 international students have participated and Punt currently promotes the program to universities overseas. Punt also deals with the winter school as well which goes on for one month. Having finished his MBA course and graduating this month, he is now a full-time employee at HYU. A multitude of experiences From an exchange student to an alumnus of HYU, and furthermore being a member of International Affairs office, Punt acquired diverse experiences during his stay in Korea. There have been special cases during his MBA program being the only foreigner. “I was always the center of attention and since the classes were in Korean, I didn’t have confidence presenting. Chinese letters were the most difficult part,” added Punt. During his exchange student years, he says that there were only positive memories of his friends from different countries, who have all been cordial. Through a lot of club activities, Punt was able to get along with people and learn Korean at the same time. Some of the work culture that Punt has experienced in Korea is quite different from the Netherlands. Other than the office hours, he says that there are times when his whole team works overtime. “If it was just me working alone, I wouldn’t have done it. The whole team gathering and eating food, talking- that’s the motivation that keeps me going,” added Punt. He says that the merits in working at HYU is that there are a lot more opportunities compared to other universities. “HYU provides a lot more events that shows the Korean culture. Some of my other friends that used to study in other countries later moved to HYU,” said Punt. "You must get ready to get out of your comfort zone." Having experienced the hardship of being an international exchange student firsthand at HYU, he knows the best about those students. Punt even takes care of practical things such as applying for insurance, getting a phone and doing online-shopping for international students who haven't quite adjusted to the Korean life. Punt wishes to open up all-in-one services that could make the lives of international students easier in Korea. There are no concrete future plans for him just yet, but Punt lives in the moment. "The work is good, the people are amiable, and I'm having a great time here- I don't know how long I'm to stay, but right now I'm enjoying myself enough." Kim Seung-jun firstname.lastname@example.org Photo by Moon Hana
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