Tag Archives: Cantonese

How do children acquire language?

This week I have the pleasure of introducing you to Shirley Cheung. She is currently researching how children acquire language for her Phd at Lancaster University. My sister took part in one of Shirley’s research sessions and we met shortly afterwards. So without further ado, on with the interview.


Could you tell us a little about your early language learning

My first (native) language is Cantonese. My mother is from Hong Kong and my father was from mainland China, but I was raised in the United States. I started to learn English as a second language in preschool, but I only transitioned to using English as my dominant language when I was around 10 years of age. As I started using more English at school and with my friends over time, I slowly lost my fluency in Cantonese.


Why are you interested in languages?

I am fascinated with languages and how we learn them from a very young age, because language acts as a gateway to communicate our thoughts and intentions with others. The ability to use language at the level that we do is what distinguishes us from primates and animals. Language is so complex, yet it seems like we acquire it with remarkable ease. Languages are also very different from each other (for example, Sign Language vs. French) yet they accomplish the same goal??? to communicate!

Why did you decide to do the research you now do?
My PhD investigates how language background (i.e. monolingualism vs. bilingualism) affects speech perception in young infants. More importantly, whether learning two languages promotes a greater advantage for infants to pick up sounds from languages they have never been exposed to before (that is, non-native languages). My main research question asks whether bilingualism aids in perceptual flexibility in the speech signal at the time where infants’ native-language perceptual systems start to become focused on only the sounds of the language(s) they are exposed to.


How can we help you with your research?

Currently I am seeking Mandarin-English bilingual families to participate in my research. Below is a PDF copy of my recruitment flyer. I’d also like to mention that I anticipate bringing my research down to London for a few months, so if any parents around the area are interested in taking part, please keep in touch. My email address is s.cheung@lancaster.ac.uk

Teddy’s Tips for language learning.

This week we’re lucky to have an interview with Teddy Nee’s Language Blog
Teddy is a native of Medan city, Indonesia, who loves writing as much as language learning.Teddy Pic

Hi Teddy, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for a while now. Could you tell us a little about your language learning journey?
My language learning journey began at a very early age, on my Sundays visit to my grandma, who speaks Cantonese natively apart from Indonesian and Hokkien. I speak only the latter two as native languages.
All students learn English as primary language subject at school, and luckily, the school I attended also offered Chinese Mandarin, Japanese, and German. The latter two are optional subjects, and I chose German over Japanese thinking that I could learn it faster because of its origin from the same language family with English.
I did not realize my interest in foreign language until I went to the university to study in an international program, where students come from many countries around the world. Since the beginning semester, I felt a stronger and stronger emotion with foreign languages, especially when I could speak it with international students.
Nelson Mandela once quoted “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language,that goes to his heart.” This quote also motivated me to learn foreign language in order to understand other culture from a different perspective.

What do you think is a good reason to learn a language?
Some language learners claimed that economic factor is the learning motivation, or heritage factor for some others. I always believe that one can be benefited by knowing foreign languages, no matter directly or indirectly. Language learning has become my hobby rather than school assignments or job requirements, and it will be what it is indefinitely because language learning is fun and easy. Everyone can learn languages successfully as they know themselves better than anyone else.

Thanks Teddy. I look forward to speaking to you again soon.