Connie Wong Chor Yiu
Name: Connie Wong (Wong Chor Yiu)
Nationality or Ethnicity: Chinese
Where do you live?: Hong Kong
Languages: Cantonese and Mandarin (native), English, Korean and Japanese (fluent), French (intermediate).
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
My story started when I began to work at an international jewellery event in Hong Kong. With many global exhibitors coming to my counter every day, I heard over 20 languages and their distinctive sounds and pitch attracted my attention. Gradually, my ear became attuned to different accents, and this helped me a lot in pronouncing words even without knowing how to spell them correctly. I found myself busy writing down all the keywords that could effectively help me to initiate a conversation with them and acted as a magic trick to get into all these languages unconsciously by immersing myself in a multi-lingual environment.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
I wish I could spend more time practising German since its sentence structure is syntactically complex. Without practising it, it is not possible to recall how to position the verb in the second and last position of a sentence for the purpose of conveying meaning. With the separable verb, the meaning of a sentence can be altered by merely spreading the verbs into 2 different positions and one has to wait until the last verb to determine the meaning imparted by the speaker through employing separable verbs, the exceptional verb in European languages. It is an exhausting but rewarding process once you know the skills to master these systematic and memorable language units.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I’d like to learn Arabic in the future since it is very different from Chinese, characterised by writing from right to left and particular lines denoting the first part, middle part, and last part of the same word. It is quite a fascinating, but challenging language to learn.
4. So, let’s be honest. What’s the sexiest language?
The sexiest language in the world is French as there are many 'kissing verbs' in French symbolizing people’s relationships. “Faire la bise” is a common expression that can be used between friends. “Gros bise” might denote a closer friendship. “Je t’embrasse” might indicate a more intimate relationship. Other examples include “amour” and “Je t’aime”.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
The greatest pleasure from speaking so many languages is the different perspectives you gain from listening to people from diverse backgrounds expressing themselves. You get to know the logic of their thinking by examining their language system and have a better understanding of their behaviour and culture to a large extent compared with that of others. You are also in a better position to help them to solve problems effectively through different dimensions which is essential for developing critical thinking.
6. Some people say the world is really just going to have a few languages left in a 100 years’ time. Do you think this is really true?
Yes, it is true that a few languages will be left 100 years from now. With the advancement of technology, people do not need to remember many things as before and it is possible that people might not spend both time and effort to memorize those languages that are spoken by a small population in the world. For convenience and globalization, people may rely on fewer languages for communication in the future. In spite of this prediction, each language has its rich cultural heritage and values.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
For those young people who are interested in studying multiple languages, my advice is to choose a language that fascinates them the most or to choose a language which they can have a chance to speak. Exposure is regarded to be one of the criteria for the successful mastery of a language and it would be far easier to start by equipping yourself with a language which you can practice with someone close to you. Thus, this inevitably builds up your confidence to learn a third language afterwards or even more in the future.