From Student to Teacher: Yorn Srey Pech's Journey with the Chinese Language

PHNOM PENH – Chinese has become a widely influential language in several countries, particularly in Cambodia, where it has gained importance in daily life and business activities due to the country's strong relationship with mainland China. 

Yorn Srey Pech, a 26-year-old woman, embodies the success story of Cambodian students who learn Chinese: Thanks to her proficiency in the language, she has been able to secure a well-paying job to provide for her needs. 

Srey Pech began learning Chinese in grade 7. She now works as a Chinese teacher in both a private and a public school, for grade 4 students.

Despite her family’s financial constraints, she could learn Chinese for free at a church in Phnom Penh and passed the Bachelor of Chinese Language scholarship examination at the Royal University of Phnom Penh in 2019.

“Because I started learning Chinese at a church and pursued my learning at university, I have succeeded in becoming a Chinese teacher and have good Chinese knowledge to this day,” Srey Pech said.

In January 2024, she spent two weeks in China to attend a Chinese language teacher training course at Tianjin Normal University. It was the first time she could visit China.

“I was overjoyed to be heading to a place I had dreamed about since I was young,” she said.

The opportunity enabled her to gain extensive knowledge and experience, including teaching methods, production techniques, and materials, while also visiting numerous historical sites in China. 

A difficult yet achievable language to learn

When asked whether learning the Chinese language is difficult, Srey Pech acknowledged that she has had to overcome many challenges with pronunciation and writing. 

“The first reason is the sound because Chinese includes up to four tonal categories, making it difficult for students to pronounce them correctly. The second reason is that writing letters is also a problem as there are a lot of characters to remember to be able to write correctly,” she explained.

Despite this hardship, her motivation to work hard has been the key to her success while her interest in the Chinese language and culture inspires her to keep going. 

Srey Pech explained that just like any other language, learning Chinese requires actively listening to Chinese songs, watching Chinese movies, and writing characters as often as possible to improve memory and fluency.

Learners also need to seek opportunities to converse with people who speak Chinese to improve conversation skills.

Developing a mutual understanding

When she started to learn Chinese, Srey Pech didn’t yet see the potential the language had for her career. Either being in business or in teaching the language.

Because of China's massive economic development over the past three decades, the language has gained importance and is being spoken by an increased number of individuals who would like to engage in business with Chinese companies.

Whether they like it or not, some business owners and employees need to learn Chinese in addition to English, Srey Pech explained. 

Knowing Chinese, she emphasized, has significantly improved her standard of living through work.

“This language has offered me a good job with a decent salary. It allows me to interact with Chinese people and learn about their culture and traditions,” she said, adding that she also introduces Khmer culture to the Chinese for a deeper mutual understanding.


Originally written in Khmer for ThmeyThmey, this story was translated by Chhuon Kongieng for Cambodianess.

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