CHL Student Buzz: Meet Emma Milton

17th May 2021

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Student, Bachelor of Languages, Bachelor of Asian Studies and a major in Korean language and Linguistics, with minors in Mongolian and German Language and culture

Languages, Asian Studies, Korean language and linguistics, German language and culture, and Mongolian….phew! That’s a lot of subject matter and diversity, but that’s what makes it worthwhile for Emma Milton, who plans to take her studies in Mongolian further someday so she can study it in greater depth in Mongolia itself. She talks about what drew her to Mongolian and what she loves about the language.

"The cultural notes are a definite highlight of the ANU Mongolian course. For example, to harvest the Saussurea involucrate, monks would be required to build a tent over the flower so as to not be struck by lightning and have the spirit poisoned."

1. Tell us a bit about yourself—what you do currently and what you studied.

I am currently in my fourth year studying a Bachelor of Languages and a Bachelor of Asian Studies, majoring in Korean language and Linguistics, with minors in Mongolian and German Language and culture.

2. What drew you to Mongolian?

In high school, I became interested in the various scripts used to write languages and their development, which drew me to Mongolian through the traditional writing system. This led to an interest in the history of the language and how it has developed overtime. The history of the Mongolian language is surprisingly well documented, and to learn more, I decided to learn Mongolian and observe some of the changes between what I had been reading about and the modern language. I was also drawn to it as it functions in such a different way to any other language I have studied. By studying Mongolian, I wanted to further my understanding of the possibilities of how a language can convey information.

3. What were your top 3 favourite things about your language course?

First, the cultural notes and stories that are built into the weekly lessons, and secondly the small cohort means that lessons can be catered to interests and you can become close with your classmates and lecturers. The third appealing factor is that the lecturers are from the National University of Mongolia, which allows for a lot of cultural exchange and a chance to hear firsthand experiences of what’s happening in Mongolia.

4. Can you name 3 reasons for people to study Mongolian?

One, to further your understanding of the history of Mongolia, there are so many great resources written in Mongolian that are otherwise very hard to access. Two, to experience a new culture that is very friendly and varies greatly from Australian culture. And three, to understand The Hu (a Mongolian folk rock band)!

5. How does it help /has it helped you in your profession or in life?

Learning Mongolian allows you to look at the world from a new perspective. It has also helped me in my linguistics classes to think about how I can approach a question or theory from a different direction, or how I would apply such theory to Mongolian and how that might differ in some manner to how it would with the other languages I study.

6. Can you share one fascinating/fun fact about Mongolian/something you find particularly incredible about the language?

Mongolian is an agglutinative language and, thus, words can end up looking extremely threatening due to their length. But don’t fear it; once you learn some of the basic endings, you’ll suddenly be able to split up the word into sections with no problem. A word that seemed impossible to understand before will later become very clear, and you can impress your friends by knowing what seem like very complicated words!

7. What are your future plans with respect to Mongolian or any other language?

In the future, I hope to research Korean Linguistics; however, I would like to continue my study of Mongolian in Mongolia someday to experience the culture firsthand and experience some aspects of nomadic life as well as the growing city culture of Ulaanbaatar.

8. Anything else you’d like to share? An interesting anecdote about your study of the language perhaps?

The cultural notes are a definite highlight of the ANU Mongolian course, which are built in through the lessons and as separate sections themselves. A lot of these can be interpreted in a very romantic fashion as one of my classmates loved to point out, but they also include fun cultural facts. For example, to harvest the Saussurea involucrate, monks would be required to build a tent over the flower so as to not be struck by lightning and have the spirit poisoned. While studying a language like Mongolian, it may seem impossible to find people to practice with or resources; however, most Mongolians are more than happy to teach you about their language and culture, and other learners are happy to share the resources they create. This, in turn, manifests in a real sense of community within the Mongolian language-learning community. And finally, I’d like to share my favourite Mongolian word—цэвэрлэгч (tseverlegch), which means 'cleaner'. I like it purely because it's just really fun to say and it has a few of the sounds that are hard to say, so it was fun to practice pronouncing them with this word.

Are you interested in learning Mongolian and enriching your cultural world view, just like Emma has? Enquire now!

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Updated:  7 July 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director, Culture, History & Language/Page Contact:  CHL webmaster