British Teen Has Tongue Surgery to Learn Korean Language

Rhiannon Brooksbank–Jones, 19, plans to take Korean Studies at university and dreams of living in the country, even though she has never visited it. While taking language lessons, she struggled to pronounce certain sounds in Korean.

It was blamed on Rhiannon, of Beeston, Notts, having a slightly shorter than average tongue, caused by an unusually thick lingual frenulum – the flap of skin that joins the underside of the tongue to the floor of the mouth.

Her parents agreed to her having a lingual frenectomy, a 15–minute operation under local anaesthetic that involved an incision in the flap of skin. Rhiannon admitted that it was “agony at first” but her tongue is now about 1cm longer and she can say words that were impossible before.

“I’d been learning Korean for about two years, and my speaking level was high, but I was really struggling with particular sounds,” she said.

“It became apparent after a little while that I was having trouble with the Korean letter ‘L’, which is very frequent and comes from a slightly higher place in the mouth than the English ‘L’, and that my tongue was too short.

“The surgical procedure was my only option. My pronunciation was very ‘foreign’, but now I can speak with a native Korean accent.”

Rhiannon’s mother, Fiona, 56, said she supported her daughter’s decision. “I’ve heard of people having the condition corrected as babies, but never later in life. But we looked into it, and have backed her all the way. When she sets her mind to something, she usually goes for it wholeheartedly,” she said.

Taken from The Telegraph: 11.08.11