Watch Out! Cambodian Children Might not be able to Properly Use Khmer Language

When it comes to social topics, Samnang and Sothie rarely run out of ideas to discuss. The two friends took turn sipping their coffee while conversing about Khmer literature. This morning, Sothie and Samnang were discussing why some young Cambodians cannot properly write their very own language.



Sothie: Some young Cambodians are very competent when using foreign languages, especially the English language. It makes the overall situation better, doesn't it?



Samnang: Of course! Did I say otherwise? Knowing different languages is very beneficial. Being able to use more than one language means you have an extra pair of ears and an extra pair of eyes. Being able to use two more languages means you have two extra pairs of ears and two extra pairs of eyes, and the list goes on. What I really want to say is that the more languages you know, the more information you can absorb and process.



Sothie: Well, you clearly said it yourself! Knowing foreign languages is a very good thing, isn't it?



Samnang: Just like what I have said just now. Knowing foreign languages is preferable. However, what worries me is that, as more and more Cambodian children enroll in English schools, regardless of whether it is within our borders or outside the country, some children begin to know their own language less than the English language. In some cases, some Cambodian children are not able to write in Khmer at all since they have been strongly influenced by foreign languages.



Sothie: So, what will happen when Cambodian children do not actually know how to use their own language?



Samnang: Some parents feel excited and proud when their children can speak foreign languages such as English with a very British or American accent. Yet, they rarely think about their children’s or grandchildren’s ability to use the Khmer language properly. From my own personal view, being able to use English is already something appreciably good. However, not being able to speak or write properly in Khmer is, I would say, a shameful thing in terms of the honor of our own nation.



Sothie: Why does it have to relate to the honor of our nation?



Samnang: Generally, being a Cambodian means that we must know how to function in our own language clearly or at least above average. If the Khmer Language is not being used properly by its own people, our nation’s fame could, in some ways, be damaged. It is even better if we can absorb foreign languages as we already excel in our own language. Allow me to state this clearly, Sothie. Twenty years ago, proportionally fewer Cambodians knew any foreign language. However, a lot of them back then knew how to use Khmer. Two decades later, the opposite scenario starts appearing among the younger Cambodians. Once again, I just want to stress that learning any foreign language is good. But, please, let’s not underestimate or forget our own Khmer language. My friend Sothie, do you understand?


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