UK Student Cuts Tongue to Speak Korean

Princess 19 on 19 Aug 2011 at 9:00am

Talk about doing anything for an "A."  A 19-year-old student in Great Britain has voluntarily cut part of her tongue to lengthen it - all to speak better Korean.

Rhiannon Brooksbank-Jones from UK's Nottingham is obsessed with all things Korean.  Her goal is to one day work and live in South Korea once she is finished with college.  To do this, she has started to prepare herself by studying the Korean language.  But, her progression to master Korean was limited to an unusual circumstance - her tongue was too short.

"I'd been learning Korean for about two years, and my speaking level is now high, but I was really struggling with particular sounds," she told the Daily Mail.

"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," Rhiannon added.

frenulum cutting procedureAccording to the report, her dentist thought it might be because she had a shorter than average tongue, caused by having an unusually thick lingual frenulum - the thin piece of skin that joins the underside of the tongue to the bottom of the mouth.

She consulted her parents and tutor and she decided it was best to cut her tongue and make it stretch longer.  This way, she could speak Korean better.

Rhiannon underwent a lingual frenectomy, which involves making an incision in the frenulum.  Her tongue is now about 1cm longer, and she can now say Korean words that she once struggled to do so. 

Being born with a thick lingual frenulum is known as Ankyloglossia, or being “tongue-tied.”  Because of this, Rhiannon’s procedure was covered by UK’s National Health Service.  Even better.

"It's not that uncommon for people who are ‘tongue-tied’ to have their frenulum cut. It's a fairly standard procedure," says Megan P., RealSelf's Dental Community Manager.

But, this is the first time we have ever heard of someone doing it to learn a completely different language.

“Some might say it's extreme, but you could apply the same argument to plastic surgery,” said Rhiannon. “That makes people feel more confident looks-wise, and this made me feel more confident language-wise.”

Good point.  Now that’s what you call dedication.

Photo credits:  By Alphabeter and burge5k on flickr