Tongue lashing

23rd March 2007 at 00:00
Having problems getting pupils to speak a foreign language? Perhaps you should send them for tongue surgery.

It is a popular approach in South Korea, where pushy parents are willing to send their offspring to hospitals, and even dentists, for a frenectomy. The operation, which extends tongues by 1mm, supposedly makes it easier for pupils to pronounce English words, giving them an advantage in oral exams.

Matt VanVolkenburg, a teacher in Seoul, was appalled recently to find that one of his 10-year-old pupils had been given the 10-minute, pound;200 operation.

"I asked her why, and she told me it would help her speak English better, and insinuated that my Korean co-teacher had said it would help her pronounce 's' better," he wrote on his blog, Gusts of Popular Feeling.

The Korean government has been running a campaign to dissuade parents from the practice, but to little avail.

Critics of the operation point out that US-born Koreans seem able to speak good English without recourse to surgery.

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