Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Comment :Let the majority prevail



Comment :Let the majority prevail

Comment :Let the majority prevail

Sometimes, when you consider the realities, the charm and beauty of a potential partner

cannot be reason enough to engage in a relationship. Thus, several hundred students

from the Institute of Technology set an early end to what was supposed to be a future

love story: They rejected French as the medium of instruction in their classes and

asked for English instead.

The news of the students' protest was even worth a mention in many foreign newspapers.

But not so for the French-language local paper Le Mekong which on seven lines reduced

the number of protestors to some dozens. According to Le Mekong, the students even

asked the francophone organiszation AUPELF to "implement faster the envisaged

support: materials, teachers..." etc.

Of course you can look at subjects from many points of view as in the way a friend

might tell you how well his soccer team just played without mentioning a word about

its actual defeat. It is only natural that people do not like to mention their team

came second. But, ultimately, they have to simply accept the facts and not act like

sulky children.

In the case of French as second or third language in Cambodia, I have my doubts that

the responsible authorities will accept the reality and adapt their policies.

Although I personally admire the French language and literature, I do not have much

sympathy for the way the French like to impose the beauty of their tongue on other

people. The proponents of francophonia should not forget the history of their language

in France.

It was not that many centuries ago that, by a Royal decree, the language spoken in

a limited area around "l'Ile de France" suddenly became the national language.

Students throughout France were suddenly taught French under duress and punished

for falling back on their mother tongue. This way, several dialects disappeared under

the denomination of "Occitan". And what seemed to work for the introduction

of French in their own country seemed appropriate to other parts of France's colonial

empire.

The supporters of French as first foreign language in this country may leave the

linguistic past out of the picture but they just cannot ignore the interest of hundreds

of Cambodians who flock daily to the numerous English schools, outnumbering by far

the few who volunteer for private French lessons.

They should not forget either that in this part of Asia, English is used as a means

of communication between nations. A French language island does not make much sense.

Lastly, the standard bearers of francophonia should acknowledge that the students

who took to the streets of Phnom Penh expressed their own will.

After a decade of enforced Russian teaching, the institute is not in the mood to

switch to another medium of instruction that turns out to be a disadvantage once

the students graduate and look for work.

Of course nobody expects the French to halt their efforts to preserve the status

of their language in this part of Indo-China. But the least one can expect is that

the response to the real needs of these countries should prevail over a strategy

to intergrate another nation in the community of francophone countries.

Otherwise, any support will only be seen as serving self-interest and not doing very

much for a young Khmer generation, eager to make the best of its situation and showing

a lot of self-confidence.

- Beat Gruninger

MOST VIEWED

  • Phnom Penh placed in two-week lockdown

    The government has decided to place Phnom Penh in lockdown for two weeks, effective April 14 midnight through April 28, as Cambodia continues to grapple with the ongoing community outbreak of Covid-19, which has seen no sign of subsiding. According to a directive signed by Prime Minister

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Hun Sen: Stay where you are, or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the two-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal provincial town Takmao could be extended if people are not cooperative by staying home. “Now let me make this clear: stay in your home, village, and district and remain where

  • Businesses in capital told to get travel permit amid lockdown through One Window Service

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration has issued guidelines on how to get travel permission for priority groups during the lockdown of Phnom Penh, directing private institutions to apply through the municipality's One Window Service and limit their staff to a mere two per cent. In

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Ministry names types of business permitted amid lockdown

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training singled out 11 types of business that are permitted to operate during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town, which run through April 28. Those include (1) food-processing enterprises and slaughterhouses; (2) providers of public services such as firefighting, utility and