The current use of the Khmer language in Cambodian society is a source of controversy because too many speakers have become disinterested in its proper daily use and that this inattentiveness to language can lead to anarchy and immorality in society, according to local linguists.
On September 8, five language specialists held a workshop with the theme Distortions in the Current Use of the Khmer Language with Kim Pichpinun, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, in attendance.
At the workshop, San Poeu, vice-president of the National Council of Khmer Language (NCKL) at the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC), presented the topic Distortion of the Use of Khmer Language in Public Advertisements.”
In his presentation, Poeu noted that there were four main issues of concern with the current Khmer alphabet: “Overall, I can say that writing words, forming new words and borrowing words are issues of concern in Khmer alphabet nowadays”.
Kheom Sochan Akhaing, deputy head of the Khmer Writer’s Association, presented on the topic “distortion of the use of Khmer language in writing”
Norng Thuok, advisor to the Ministry of Information, presented on the topic “distortion of the use of Khmer language in the media”.
Chea Vanny, director of the Department of Natural Sciences, Behaviour and Gender of the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences at the RAC, contrasted the use of language by the clergy, the royal family and in daily life.
Touch Sokheak, head of the Cambodian MC Association, presented on the topic “ethics in the use of Khmer language”.
Kok Ros, director of the culture ministry’s Department of Books and Reading, noted that the current use of the Khmer language had three main distortions, especially in public places: Through media such as the radio, TV and social media; in morphology (writing) and in acoustics (speaking).
“The purpose of holding this workshop is to uphold the proper use of our national language. Under Cambodia’s Constitution our official language and script is Khmer. We want to inspire Cambodian youths to know the importance of our national language and to preserve and safeguard Khmer literature.
“We urge them to participate actively in promoting and strengthening the national language in cooperation with all relevant parties. We must no put the burden or responsibility on any one institution because the Khmer language belongs to us all,” he added.
With the constant development and globalisation of technology, many aspects to the use of the Khmer language have not yet been agreed upon.
For example, writing in logos, trademarks, banners, leaflets, flyers, posters, inscriptions and so on. In particular, the language varies widely when used verbally on the radio, TV, online media, social media and other broadcast programmes.
Another issue is that some people use rude, pornographic or immoral words which are provide a bad example and cause hostility in society and can also result in the loss of words.
Kim Pichpinun, undersecretary of state at the culture ministry, said at the workshop that “we’re holding this workshop to share the knowledge and experiences offered by the five speakers who all have clear specialties regarding the use of our national language.”
“This is a good opportunity for participants and those who host radio, TV or media programmes as well as authors, civil servants who manage signs, trademarks and logos in public places – for everyone to consider studying and gaining knowledge from these speakers who are highly experienced in using languages including foreign languages, body language and sign language,” he said.
Pichpinun added that arts and culture content from every country and in every form are currently flowing into Cambodia, so youths are changing rapidly, but everyone has the obligation to preserve and protect the values of their national identity while also preparing young people to know how to navigate the modern media landscape with all of its influences.