Rhiannon Brooksbank-Jones, a young student from Nottingham, England, underwent surgery to have her tongue lengthened after her dentist suggested it might be the reason she couldn’t pronounce certain Korean sounds.
Although she’s never been to South Korea, Rhiannon is really passionate about the language and culture of the Asian country, and dreams of living and working there later in her life. Her fascination with everything Korean started a few years back, after she listened to Korean pop and watched some television shows at a friend’s house. Pretty soon, all her free time was taken up by anything related to Korea, and she even began attending a Korean church in Nottingham.
The 19-year-old had been studying Korean for two years, and while her speaking level was high, she had problems pronouncing some crucial sounds like the Korean letter “L”, which is used very frequently and comes from a higher place in the mouth than the English “L”. This made her pronunciation sound very foreign, and it just wasn’t good enough for a perfectionist like Rhiannon . Luckily, her dentist suggested the root of her problems was an unusually thick lingual frenulum (the piece of skin that binds the tongue to the floor of the mouth), which made her tongue shorter than average.
This rare condition didn’t cause her any problems when speaking English, but it made it impossible to speak perfect Korean. After discussing it with her parents, Rhiannon Brooksbank-Jones underwnt a lingual frenectomy that made her tongue 1 cm longer than before, allowing her to pronounce those previously impossible sounds with ease. Now, she’s planning on studying Korean Studies and Business Management at Sheffield University, and dreams of living and working in South Korea.