[lg policy] Cambodia: Language Expert Warns Against "Foreignization" Under Globalization

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Fri Jun 26 15:19:47 UTC 2015

 Language Expert Warns Against "Foreignization" Under Globalization

  [image: Mr. Chan Virak, Ph.D student in Culture, Literacy, and Language
on a Fellowship at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He joined a
discussion on]
Mr. Chan Virak, Ph.D student in Culture, Literacy, and Language on a
Fellowship at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He joined a
discussion on "Language Policy for Cambodia’s Higher Education" on VOA
Khmer's New Voices (Hello VOA) radio call-in show, Monday, June 15, 2015.
(Courtesey of Chan Virak)
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      Sophat Soeung <http://www.voacambodia.com/author/22671.html>, VOA

25 June 2015

As Cambodia seeks greater integration with regional and global economies, a
language expert warns against overreliance on foreign identity and language.

Chan Virak, a doctorate student in culture, literacy and language at the
University of Texas at San Antonio, says Cambodia should invest in its own
language, by developing higher education curriculum, in order to preserve
its identity.

The danger, he says, is that by investing too heavily in other languages
(and cultures), such as English, native Khmer will be undermined.

“To me, learning many languages is not a problem, but the problem is when
we [overvalue] them,” he said in a recent interview on "New Voices"
<http://m.khmer.voanews.com/a/2822662.html>. “Normally, when we learn a new
language, we are also influenced by its cultural and economic forces.”

Cambodia’s working language has been influenced by outside forces since its
colonization by the French. Aside from its native Khmer, the country has
seen major influence from French, English, Vietnamese and Russian. Much of
its post civil war development centered around English, and these days more
and more people are learning Chinese, as investment comes from that country.

Khmer remains the language of instruction for many higher education
programs, but Chan Virak said an increasing number are using English or
Chinese. Without a careful policy, there is a danger of “foreignization” of
Cambodian values.

“Cambodians who study English not only learn the language, but at the same
time start to value the socio-economic status of English-speaking
countries,” he said.

This kind of cultural pressure will only increase as Cambodia seeks greater
integration with the economies of Asean and the world, he said.

These days, universities are considering the job market and student
preferences when they decide on a language of instruction. Some are locally
oriented, using Khmer. Others are internationally focused and taught in

VOA Khmer asked its Facebook users
whether they would like to see bilingual policies at universities. Many
echoed Chan Virak’s concerns, saying an increase in the use of English
could erode the value of Khmer language.

English could be used as a second language, user Sokha Smos Sne said. “But
some schools use foreign language as the main language, thus devaluing and
endangering the use of Khmer itself.”

Facebook user Heng Rithy questioned the role of English in Cambodia’s
development, pointing to Japan’s lack of English proficiency relative to
its development.

Chan Virak agreed, saying that Japan can be a model for Cambodia. Students
need to prioritize the languages that help them get good jobs after
graduation. He encouraged them to attend job fairs
to understand the job market before making a decision.

But he also said a choice of language should not come at the cost of
Cambodia’s own language and culture. He suggested Singapore as a good model
in the region, where English is the professional language but where
Chinese, Malay and Tamil are all are part of the national fabric.

*As part of the New Voices radio show's requirement for guests to suggest a
good reading material for audience, Chan Virak suggested “Golden Bones”
by Cambodian-American Sichan Siv. For success tips he suggests young
Cambodians to identifying clear life goals and passions.*


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