SOTY 2016: Linguist award winners tell a tale of learning language with love

SOTY 2016: Linguist award winners tell a tale of learning language with love

Nicola Chan spoke to the three 2016 Student of the Year Linguist award winners about what got them to the top

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Catherine is dedicated to helping students less fortunate than herself.
Photo: Edmond So/SCMP

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Hang-chi wants to create Cantonese-language dictionaries in the future.
Photo: Yue Hang-chi

Most people in Hong Kong recognise, if not speak, all three MTR broadcasting languages: Cantonese, English, and Putonghua. But have you ever wondered how it feels to truly master them?

Student of the Year 2016 Linguist winners Yue Hang-chi (Cantonese), 15; Catherine Wang, 18; (English), and Angel Man Ka-yee (Putonghau), 19; understand what it takes. While the three girls come from completely different backgrounds, they all have one thing in common - a love of literature.

Young Post spoke to the three winners about their incredible accomplishments.

"Confidence and hard work are what bring me success," said Hang-chi, the Secondary Four student from Holy Family Family Canossian College. The talented Chinese writer - who also loves science and maths - added that support from her family is equally important.


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Angel, the Form Six student from Heep Yunn School, agreed with Hang-chi, saying her family was a great source of motivation.

"They supported me through thick and thin, encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone to accept challenges," said the Canadian-born Chinese debater. "They helped me develop my unique debating style, which helped me get where I am today."

For the US-born Catherine, who is of Chinese and Mongolian heritage, she understands how lucky she is to have been born into a privileged family. The dedicated writer and musician believes she has access to resources that her peers "might not have, and yet, deserve". Because of this, she is dedicated to helping students less fortunate than herself.

Angel has learned the importance of not just knowing what to say during her speeches, but also why she is saying it.
Photo: Angel Man Ka-yee

"I use my frustration to fuel myself in my studies and initiatives, so that I can bring about change and contribute to society," said the devoted Young Post junior reporter, who also ran her school magazine. "I compete in as many short story and poetry competitions as I can, even though I used to be scared of letting other people read my work."

Angel has also participated in multiple competitions, and was named Best Debater of The 14th and 15th Basic Law Debating Competition - Basic Law (Putonghua). Her passion lies in promoting Mandarin through real-life experiences and practical examples, and raising awareness for the difficult situations faced by Putonghua-speaking students in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Hang-chi has won multiple prizes in the MuseTeens More: The 10th Youth Leadership Scheme (2016). She, like her fellow linguist winners, expressed concern for the future of language and culture during a panel interview. "After participating in SOTY, I realise the need to conserve Cantonese culture," she said, adding that she would like to work on creating Cantonese-language dictionaries in the future.


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For Catherine, the first place winner for Fiction in the Bennington Young Writer's Awards, winning Student of the Year helped her slow down and take a moment to appreciate her achievements.

"The past year has been very turbulent for me, both academically and personally," Catherine said. "Being recognised in the SOTY awards was a celebration of how far I have come as an individual."

She advised students who wish to become future SOTY candidates to participate in as many competitions as they can. "Even if you only win a handful, or none at all, you have nothing to lose. The competitions are designed to challenge you, so they can greatly improve your existing skills."


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Hang-chi believes that anyone hoping to win a SOTY award needs to be proactive. "You have to take advantage of every chance to show your talent," she said. "Opportunities slip away if you don't grab them."

Angel's SOTY experience has taught her the importance of not just knowing what to say during her speeches, but also why she is saying it. She will use this skill when she continues studying language and literature in university.

Catherine, like Man, will be attending university next year. However, the young Hang-chi said she may return next year for the SOTY 2017 Linguist (Cantonese) award and, possibly, the Grand Prize.

Edited by Ben Young

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
A love of learning about language

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