Due to Hong Kong’s colonial past, I was fortunate enough to have received education in English since my secondary schooling; but my first real linguistic adventure began when I joined a cultural exchange programme to Denmark with AFS Intercultural Exchanges. Like most other AFSers, I acquired the local language without formal instruction and was able to communicate with my peers almost entirely in (broken) Danish. From this experience, I started to ask questions about language learning. For example, I wondered why, after all those years in the classroom, my English had not progressed the way my Danish had. Also, I asked what influence my Danish (my third language, or L3) might have on my English (my second language, or L2).
After two years, I failed to get admitted to university in the first go, so I learnt French as I prepared myself for another round of application exercise the next year. Eventually, HKU accepted me to read for my BA and BEd. I then had an opportunity to go on exchange to Tufts University where I was first introduced to the academic filed of Second Language Acquisition (SLA) by Saskia Stoessel. At Tufts, I also attempted Latin, which led me to understand a little more about such linguistic concepts as case and declension in nouns. All these experiences, especially my beginner French, turned out to be very useful because I was able to use my knowledge in French for my undergraduate thesis, which investigated the potential influence of French as L3 on English as L2 of Chinese-English-French trilinguals (see Qualification for the abstract). Thanks to the tremendous support and encouragement from my two supervisors, Professor Stephen Matthews and Dr WL Tsang, I was able to produce some scholarly work and to show that an L3 could indeed have some influence on an L2. More importantly, there were signs showing that acquisition of an L3 could potentially influence L1 transfer to an L2. The data were later published in a local Applied Linguistics journal (see Hui, 2010, see Publication). These results also somehow gave a preliminary answer to the question I had asked earlier after my year in Denmark.
I put aside research for three years as I took up a teaching job after obtaining my degrees, but I had always wanted to further my studies. Oxford later accepted me to read for a Master’s degree in Applied Linguistics and Second Language Acquisition. Oxford was where I got some exposure to the more theoretical aspects of language learning. I also gained some experience in exploring how the mind processes language. I wrote my thesis on the role of Mandarin tones in English spoken word recognition of bilinguals (see Qualification) under the supervision of Dr Xin Wang.
I was then back to teaching at a secondary school for another four years. During that time, I did my utmost to bridge research in second language acquisition and teaching practice at real classrooms. For once more, I am back to school now to receive my doctoral training, hoping to develop a career as an academic in second language studies.