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【Cubic Zine Issue 7】Scholar-Social Innovator: Prof Gladys Tang & Sign Linguistics|Guatemalan Professor & Duolingo

Le thème of this issue is languages – we’ve seen what it can do especially these past few weeks, just naming of the novel virus has fueled enough debate, even a diplomatic shouting match. Words may divide, but can also empower; the weak in particular.

Prof Gladys Tang is committed to restoring the status of sign language – mother tongue of the Deaf. On the other hand, Luis von Ahn from Guatemala believes that learning foreign languages helps lift one out of poverty. He’s been offering a learning solution – free-of-charge – to 300 million to date. Are you one of them?

In this issue: #Duolingo #RepairCafé #RightToRepair #CircularEconomy #EU #DeafGain #SignLinguistics

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Scholar-Social Innovator → LOCAL

Stamping out prejudice with linguistic research: Prof Gladys Tang’s sign bilingual academy

Prof Gladys Tang, Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, CUHK (Photo: SoCUBE)

“Oftentimes in life, simply making a choice is not as straightforward as it seems.” Referring to the indecision plaguing the eponymous hero of her favourite play, Hamlet, Prof Gladys Tang likens his struggles to the confusion met by many deaf individuals including their parents. To communicate or not to communicate with sign language, that is the question.

Gladys is a professor at the Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages at CUHK, and is also the director of the Centre for Sign Linguistics and Deaf Studies (CSLDS). For over two decades she strove to eliminate societal prejudice towards sign language, when she actually, after finishing her PhD in the UK, had intended to pursue a career in English teachers training…

Read the full interview

SLCO Community Resources at a glimpse

(Photo: SLCO-CR)

Founding year: 2016
Founding team: Prof Gladys Tang and Mr Chris Yiu
Members: Deaf and hearing sign bilingual instructors, sign interpreters, special education teachers, etc.
Mission: To develop and provide self-sustainable community services and social ventures based on linguistics research and experience in frontline services, promoting sign bilingualism in communication, education and social inclusion, creating a diversified community without communication barriers
1. “Fun with Sign and Speech” – Early sign bilingual development programme
2. Professional sign language learning activities and classes
3. Deaf awareness workshops
4. Sign interpretation and communication support
Product: “Learn with Sign and Speech” Sign Bilingual Vocabulary Learning Package

Deaf Gain | Scholarly keyword

(Photo: SoCUBE)

A lack of understanding spawns misunderstanding. Think calling the deaf “hearing impaired” oozes respect? Not quite, according to a sharing on deaf awareness by CUHK CSLDS this early March. The Deaf is exactly the best way to call them. It means you recognise their identity, unique language and culture.

Some scholars even suggested to see deafness not as a “loss of hearing” or handicap, but a “gain” in another sensory and cognitive capability. The deaf usually has greater vision than the hearing, more sensitive to the human face, expressions, colours and light. May we all learn to embrace our diverse world!



Circular economy | European Union

(Photo: Unsplash)

The EU – pioneer in global environmental policies – announced in March its latest Circular Economy Action Plan. In response to the growing e-waste issue, it plans to expand the “right to repair” policy to cover cell phones and laptops, requiring manufacturers to design upgradable software and products with replaceable batteries. They are even considering to introduce a common charger.

Two-thirds of Europeans are looking for products with longer lifespans, and even better, to have the lifespan clearly indicated, facilitating repair and replacement of components. To achieve the EU’s 2050 target of zero net carbon emissions, going for an alternative economic model would be imperative.

Repair Café | Hong Kong

(Photo: Repair Café)

You have the right to repair too, Hongkongers! Repair Café, set up in 2018 by a group of retirees, offer free repairing services to the Kwai Chung neighbourhood – small appliances, broken items, even your flat – you name it!

While the concept’s introduced from the Netherlands, the local version has been initiated by Community Leap. The volunteer repairmen are all graduates from retraining programmes. Empowering the elderly while promoting environmental protection? Great potential even as a paid service!


Scholar-Social Innovator → GLOBAL

Rewriting the rules of language learning: Guatemalan professor’s chart-topping app Duolingo

Luis von Ahn, Co-founder of Duolingo (Photo: Duolingo)

Brought up in a country where half of its population lives below the poverty line, Luis von Ahn experienced first-hand how English learning could be a life-altering step. In non-English speaking countries, English is a pivotal tool to shake off poverty – those who know the language are paid double that of those who don’t, according to the computer scientist.

Age 18, he started pursuing an education in the US. A little over 30, he already sold two companies to Google, including reCAPTCHA, thanks to which we get prompted to identify unrecognisable letters and verify our humanity each time we log in. He once turned down an offer from Microsoft to continue teaching at uni, then founded Duolingo with his student, drawing 300 million users in eight years…

Read the full story


Stay strong! Act together against Covid-19

The famous bridge behind Chung Chi Chapel (Photo: SoCUBE)

With the new normal, online learning and webinars are becoming mainstream. Aside from regular classes, CUHK organised a series of “Class Acts” online talks to be delivered by distinguished scholars from all its faculties. Fret not if you’ve missed the live broadcast, just review it later online.

The CUHK Alumni Affairs Office and Convocation are also running seven sharing sessions – learn one trick or two from our professional alumni on battling the epidemic!


CUHK's support to scholar-social innovators

CUHK runs two funding schemes that support researchers to get down to social innovation – KPF and S-KPF. Selected projects may receive up to HK$400,000 for KPF projects or HK$600,000 for S-KPF companies. Around 200 teams have already benefited from the schemes.

Applications for 2019/20 are already closed. Missed the deadline? (Oops!) Prepare for the next round by learning the details here. Or share with us your ideas to get ready in advance!


Enjoyed reading?

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Interested in our content and desperate for more? Recommend Cubic Zine to your friends and partners – let us all do good and do well!

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