SOTY 2014: Judges offer advice for Linguist of the Year candidates

By Wong Tsui-kai

Judges in the language-based category reveals what they expect from Student of the Year candidates

By Wong Tsui-kai |

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The Student of the Year-Linguist is awarded to the top students in each of these three languages: English, Cantonese and Putonghua. To gain some insight into the minds of the judges of the category, Young Post asked them a few questions about what they expect from contestants and advice for prospective candidates.

Professor Virginia Yip of the department of linguistics and modern languages at Chinese University; Linda Yeung, education writer for the South China Morning Post; and Professor Cheung Hin-tat, head of the department of linguistics and modern language studies at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, offered their thoughts.


"Just be confident," says SCMP's Linda Yeung

What qualities do you expect to see in the contestants' works?

Yip: I would look for originality, creativity and imagination. I'd like to know what messages they'd like their works to [convey] and to what extent they have succeeded in getting the messages across.

Yeung: Clear presentation of insightful ideas, sound arguments, fluency in language and a good command of [the language].

Cheung: Learning a second language is more than learning a subject like chemistry. Contestants should consider themselves social agents, equipped with linguistic skills that allow them to perform tasks that would expand or even create space where mutual understanding can be enriched and prejudice and biases can be overcome.

What qualities do you expect to see in the contestants?

Yip: I expect the contestants to present themselves with confidence and clarity. They should be ready to talk about their personal achievements and take pride in them.

Professor Cheung Hin-tak of the Hong Kong Institution of Education.

The qualities I look for include leadership, vision and a sense of mission. It would be great if they showed creativity, critical thinking [skills], and the ability to think outside the box, as well.

Yeung: Confidence, articulation and good cheer. I also expect them to have public speaking skills and write fluently in order to convey ideas clearly and effectively. Finally, they should enjoy the process, not just submitting works mechanically but enjoying the act of sharing their ideas.

Cheung: While it is expected that each contestant should be highly competent in one particular language, he or she should not confine themselves within a narrowly defined cultural space of that language. Their high competence in one language allows them to expand their world, and [they] can further explore and experience the worlds of speakers of other languages.

How can contestants serve the community?

Professor Virginia Yip of Chinese University.

Yip: They can serve the community by taking up voluntary work on behalf of disadvantaged groups, or by working on environmental projects.

Yeung: Interpretation and translation is the most common way to use their spoken language skills. [As skilled writers], one way to contribute is by being a school reporter or submitting articles to Young Post, or even to the main paper when they grow up. They can share their opinions on current and social issues. Maybe one day they can become journalists.

But as students they can do volunteer work for NGOs [non-government organisations] using their skills and knowledge to help NGOs that cannot hire full-time writers or public relations people.

Cheung: The best service to the community is to enrich mutual understanding and to overcome prejudice.

What advice do you have for contestants?

Yip: The contestants should feel free to speak their minds and dare to be different.

Yeung: Just be confident. Everyone has different strengths, so be proud of what you have. Have the heart and passion to improve your skills by exposure to different language environments.