Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Esperanto just the thing for secret lovers



Esperanto just the thing for secret lovers

Esperanto just the thing for secret lovers

THE banners have been hanging in the wind and rain for 15 days now, but only five

children have turned up to ask about training for the new Esperanto language course.

Esperanto teacher Chhim Sokha has been forced into a new approach: offering the course

for free.

That has only encouraged mockery and derision. "Even if they came to my house

to teach me for free I wouldn't learn," said Mao Saran, 27. Reflecting, Saran

decides he might learn it if he had a girlfriend, so he could whisper "words

of love" so that other people couldn't understand.

Chan Mach reckons Esperanto might be a good idea for spies or secret police. Another

student, Tep Sok, said: "In Cambodia Esperanto is a dead language. I would rather

learn Cham [spoken by the small Islamic community], not Esperanto."

Learning foreign languages is big business in Cambodia, and an issue seeped in history.

English and French were included in school curricula before the Khmer Rouge era of

1975. After 1979, Russian and Vietnamese were taught. People could only learn English

and French secretly during much of the 80s, but now the two languages have been reintroduced

into the school syllabus.

However, most Cambodians know little about Esperanto.

Esperanto was created by a Polish eye doctor in 1887 with the aim of promoting it

as an international language. Its roots are derived from words commonly found in

European langauges.

Encyclopedia Brittanica says that Esperanto is the most successful of the international

artificial languages, with over 100,000 speakers.

However, "Kamboga Esperanto Associo" director Chhim Sokha reckons there

are millions of speakers now around the world.

Undaunted by the apparent lack of interest from Cambodians, Sokha - in addition to

making his classes free - is going to ask different ministries and departments to

nominate students to learn the langauge.

Sokha began learning the language in Ho Chi Minh City, and continued when he returned

to Cambodia in the late 80s. He first opened an Esperanto class in 1990, and claims

to have taught 1,000 Khmers the strange language.

Sokha, who also speaks English, German, Spanish, Vietnamese and French, launched

his "Kamboga Esperanto Associo" in 1993. Since then, he has mostly taught

curious Cambodians privately at his home.

"Anything that is easy to learn is also easy to lose," he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Municipal hall releases map detailing colour coded Covid risks by commune

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng released an official map detailing the red, yellow and dark yellow zones within the city under the new lockdown orders for Phnom Penh announced on April 26. The designation of red, dark yellow and yellow corresponds to areas with high,

  • Inter-provincial travel ban lifted; Phnom Penh and Takmao not exempted

    The government on April 25 decided to lift the inter-provincial travel ban and the closure of tourist attractions across the country, effectively immediately. The travel ban and closures of all resorts were imposed on April 6 and 17 respectively in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19,

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • Phnom Penh, Takmao lockdown extended for another week

    The government late on April 26 announced an extension of lockdown in Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province for another seven days – or longer if residents do not comply with Covid-19 preventive measures and the community outbreak does not subside – until May 5. According

  • Gov't mulls extension of Phnom Penh, Takmao lockdown

    The Inter-ministerial National Commission for the Control and Enforcement of Lockdown held a video conference meeting on April 25 to review a draft document on the extension of lockdown in Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal province’s Takmao town. The meeting was chaired by Minister of

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a