Mastered Khmer and feel like tackling another lingo? Various well-regarded language institutions can hone your linguistic endeavours in any direction
It's easier to teach foreigners…Khmers don’t always have the time to study at home.
It's no secret that in Phnom Penh we're spoilt for choice when it comes to leisure activities - from yoga and dance classes to film showings and art openings.
But what about massaging the left side of your brain and taking up a language course?
You're already fluent in Khmer - naturally - but with so many nationalities in the city, there is ample opportunity to broaden your horizons.
Some languages require a bit of research and persistence to locate a teacher that suits your requirements.
But the good news is that you can find courses for half what it would normally cost you in the West.
Huixian He, a certified Mandarin teacher who has been tutoring in Cambodia since 2005, says the prices for students studying in the Kingdom are more than reasonable.
"I don't think that US$10 per hour for private lessons is a lot because I've been teaching for so many years and I always have great results," she says.
According to her, it would take two lessons per week, over a six-month period, for an average student to learn all the basic communication skills in Mandarin.
And in her experience, Western students learn fast.
"Especially adults," Huixian He says. "Because it's their own choice - interest is the best teacher!"
However, if you're the kind of student who thrives in a classroom environment, then the well-organised, recently established Goethe Institut could be for you.
Coordinator Eva Pritscher says she was surprised by the response from locals.
"We started the first evening class on June 30, and it is already full," Pritscher says. I'm surprised that so many people want to learn German."
Based at Meta House, the classes at the Goethe Institut contain a maximum of 15 people, which means that students get the best of both worlds - interaction with classmates, as well as a lot of personal attention from the instructor.
Eva only works with certified teachers and receives authentic German textbooks via the Goethe Institut in Vietnam.
At US$2 per lesson, her classes are a bargain.
"The price is the same for Westerners," she adds.
Mandarin: Huixian He, 017 387 586 / [email protected]. Private lessons at US$10/hour.
German: Goethe Institut at Meta House, Eva Pritscher, 023 224 140 / 099 755 782 / [email protected] / www.dzpp.meta-house.com.
Russian: Keo Chantheavy, 016 841 106 / 017 375 120 / [email protected].
French: Centre Culturel Français: [email protected].
For learning more exotic tongues in Phnom Penh visit www.language-school-teachers.com.
"I sometimes ask if someone is interested in sponsoring a student, but I don't want to have different rates."
The next course starts in September, but if new students want to be sure of a place, they will need to enrol soon.
Meanwhile, with Russia enjoying something of a renaissance in recent years, the language of the tsars is back on the agenda for many students.
Kem Valentyna teaches at the Russian Cultural Centre, with her assistant and fluent Russian speaker Keo Chantheavy, helping out if things need to be explained in Khmer.
"It's easier to teach foreigners because Khmers don't always have the time to study at home," Kem admits.
The Russian classes at the Russian Cultural Centre are currently only for Cambodians and are free of charge.
However, Keo Chantheavy also teaches private lessons to anyone who is interested.
This seems to be the norm amongst many teachers - having a regular job in a school but also tutoring private students.
Jung In Hyoo has been teaching at the Korean Language Centre for three years, helping Cambodians increase their chances of finding employment with Korean companies.
His particular vernacular may not top the wish list of many Westerners, but, if you're a language enthusiast, attempting to decipher the alien-looking Korean script can be good fun.
"Whoever tries their best to study the Korean language can accomplish it," Jung promises.
Funky Japanese, on the other hand, might be more of an obvious choice for Westerners.
Not a problem if you already know the basics, but as a beginner it might be hard to find a Japanese teacher who can communicate with you.
"Many of them don't speak English and have no experience teaching Westerners," says Eng Haksreng, who teaches at Nagasaki Japanese School.
Apart from a few other Asian nationalities, all of their 180 students are Cambodians.
"If a foreigner wants to study Japanese, we'll have to discuss it with our general manager," he admits.
But with five years of teaching experience under his belt, Eng assures us he is willing to offer private lessons.