Saturday 3 December 2016

Longer tongue for Korea student

Published 18/08/2011 | 12:06

Rhiannon Brooksbank-Jones underwent a surgical procedure which loosens the tongue to perfect her Korean pronunciation
Rhiannon Brooksbank-Jones underwent a surgical procedure which loosens the tongue to perfect her Korean pronunciation

Language-lover Rhiannon Brooksbank-Jones is celebrating leaving sixth form college with top A levels, and a longer tongue.

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The 19-year-old achieved her target grades of two Bs and one A, which is enough for her to further her passion for the Korean language by studying it at degree level.

But had it not been for surgery to stretch her lingual frenulum - the flap of skin that joins the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth - her dreams could have fallen flat.

Rhiannon, from Beeston in Nottingham, said: "When I started learning I realised I couldn't pronounce the L, which comes from a slightly higher place in the mouth than the English L, and because I was born with a tongue tie it was impossible for me to do it.

"I spoke to surgeons and doctors and they referred me to the Queen's Medical Centre because it's not possible to stretch the piece of skin that connects the tongue to the bottom of the mouth through another method. There aren't stretches and things you can do because it's not a ligament, it's just a piece of skin."

Rhiannon underwent the 20-minute procedure on the NHS, known as a lingual frenectomy, under local anaesthetic and by making an incision in the flap of skin surgeons were able to lengthen it by around 1cm.

"I tried speaking when the anaesthetic was still working and it felt much more comfortable, even with six stitches," Rhiannon said.

"It felt like having the world's biggest paper cut when the anaesthetic wore off." Even though her condition, known commonly as a tongue tie, has never caused Rhiannon any problems speaking her native English, she said she is much more pleasant to listen to now when speaking Korean.

After passing her A-levels in business, government and politics, and English language at New College Nottingham, she will now go on to the University of Sheffield to study Korean Studies and Business Management. Part of the four-year degree course involves spending a year in Korea.

Her parents were very supportive of her decision to undergo the surgery, she said, and she now has very good conversational Korean thanks to her teachers and the people at Nottingham Korean Church. Rhiannon hopes to further her Korean studies at postgraduate level after her degree and eventually aims to live and work in the country.

Press Association

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