For this 2021 Student of the Year Linguist winner, English is a way to build confidence

Clara Ki Lu
  • Nathan Ng was born with a stutter, but through hard work and speech training, he was able to overcome this obstacle and has since won many awards for public speaking
  • He now volunteers to teach English to primary school students from underprivileged communities, saying good language abilities an help raise self-esteem
Clara Ki Lu |

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Nathan Ng Leong-hang, a student from St. Paul’s Co-educational College, overcame a stutter to excel at public speaking and eventually win the linguist (English) award at the SCMP’s Student of the Year 2021. Photo: SCMP

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Many people associate the English language with literature published across the globe, whether that is poetry, novels or plays. However, for Nathan Ng Leong-hang, the English language is more than those writings. It is a device that can give people confidence and bridge gaps in understanding.

Winner of the 2021 Student of the Year Linguist (English) Award, Nathan was born with a stutter. As a child, his speech disorder worsened whenever he had to take on public speaking.

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“That was when I would get really nervous and lose confidence in my speech,” said the St Paul’s Co-educational College student.

However, even at a young age, he knew avoiding the problem was not an option. Through speech training and discipline, Nathan was able to overcome this obstacle, evident by the many awards he has won after taking part in debates and Model United Nations at his school.

Having gained confidence from public speaking, Nathan began volunteering at the Young Women’s Christian Association to teach English to local junior primary school students from underprivileged communities. He believes that having a “wealth gap” between your classmates can “immediately [give] this kind of mindset that you’re inferior”.

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“They really had to find their confidence,” Nathan explained, and English was a way for the students to build their self-esteem.

Nathan hopes people will understand that “your inadequacies would really be able to shape your identity and individuality”.

As a person who has had difficulty expressing his opinions, he knows the value of speaking with clarity.

That is why the language is important to him.

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While some may assume the winner in a Linguist category would want to pursue a career in language, Nathan wishes to follow a path in science.

Nevertheless, he believes English can be a crucial part of that journey because scientists need language to share their findings with the general public.

“[Scientists] are obviously very specialised but to ... make a substantial impact, then [scientists’] message must get through to the general public”, he explained. “Language is very important to simplify abstract concepts.”

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He believes language not only generates a more harmonious society but also empowers advancements.

This year marks the 40th edition of the Student of the Year competition. It recognises the achievements of secondary school students, with 11 awards being presented in nine different categories.

The results were announced earlier this year.

It is organised by the South China Morning Post and sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club.


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