October 22, 2021

Professor Henny Yeung Awarded 2021 Cormack Teaching Award

Of course Dr. Henny Yeung loves teaching the students who we may think of as “keeners”, who sit in the front row, ask questions in class, and want to engage with the material -- even in projects beyond the class.  But in his short talk at the Cormack Teaching Symposium this week, he asks, what about “the student who is not eager to demonstrate knowledge or participate enthusiastically?” or the student who appears to have other priorities than the simple love of the subject? In a few, engaging minutes, Dr. Yeung outlined how and why he has come to love the ‘anti-keener’ in his class too and shared 3 strategies for fellow teachers.

Dr Yeung talks about how humanizing foundational knowledge makes a difference to student learning – and what that might look like in his classes.  He creates variety in the ways that students engage with the intended material. “Experiential learning can make a difference to student motivation and appreciation of the course content.” He teaches key linguistics courses such as LING 221 (phonetics), LING 290 (speech science), LING 350 (first language acquisition), and LING 415 (neurolinguistics). And students consistently appreciate Dr Yeung’s approach.

Included within the nomination, a student wrote, “Not only does he teach the course content, but Dr. Yeung also makes great effort to connect what he is teaching to the real world and provide his students with practical skills.” And his teaching approach translated well to changing conditions and the pandemic teaching context.  The same student added that, “Dr. Yeung rose to the challenge of creating engaging, well-structured online courses, and I can confidently say that his have been the best online courses I have taken.”

“Knowing something about language and linguistics is just helpful for understanding the world,” says Dr. Yeung. “So many things, from how children or adults learn a new language, to understanding what happens to our ability to use language after a stroke or accident, to knowing how a computer might one day 'read' our linguistic thoughts -- all of these things have linguistic ideas at their core, and I think everyone -- even if you're not a huge linguistics nerd -- will benefit from understanding these ideas.”

After receiving the award on Tuesday, he was asked, “In what ways are you a better version of Henny, because you teach?” Dr. Yeung responded, “Teaching keeps me on my toes -- it is always challenging me to make connections between language and linguistics, and students' individual interests and passions. Every time I teach, I get new questions, or new ways of thinking about topics that thought I knew well! Learning is a two way street!”

We congratulate Dr. Henny Yeung on being a 2021 recipient of the Leslie Cormack Teaching Award and on his recent promotion to Associate Professor with tenure.

Established by former Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Dean Lesley Cormack in 2010, this honour celebrates excellence and innovation in teaching throughout the Faculty. The awards recognize the passion that our teaching faculty bring to the classroom, the quality of their pedagogy and the value they bring to their students’ education and to the FASS teaching community at-large. On October 19, the Faculty of Arts held the annual Cormack Teaching Symposium on-line to celebrate and learn from the 7 award recipients for 2020 and 2021.


Among Dr. Yeung’s contributions to pedagogical innovation is the work he carried out as PI of a Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG) from SFU in 2018-19.

As part of the project, entitled “Experiential Learning about Language Development by Engaging with Community Parents,” his LING 350 students participated in supervised sessions conducted at Science World, Vancouver, during which they interacted with children and their caregivers using research toys. The sessions gave students a unique opportunity to gain practical insights into the nature of research on first language acquisition.

Looking to the future, Henny is thinking about how to align EDI goals with course structure and content. Recognizing that every student has their own story, Dr. Yeung asks, “How do we harmonize student’s own experience and backgrounds with course content that is often quite dated?”


Earlier this year, Dr. Yeung wrote in the Globe and Mail about the value of universal access to childcare noting the benefit to infants and children being cared for. 

Dr. Yeung’s LAB

Dr. Yeung is Lab Director for The Language Learning and Development (LangDev) Lab. The Lab is a research group in Linguistics and Cognitive Science at SFU that studies the learning of spoken language in infants, children, and adults.