We might call the proliferation of specialized English teaching in Phnom Penh "Entrepreneurial
English". Side-by-side with signs touting classes in "Essential English"
or "Stream-line" English, classes in "Bangkok Post English,"
"Bangkok Business English", and "CNN English" can now be found.
Essential English and Streamline English are the standard introductory texts used
in the private English classes taught in Phnom Penh. But now some teachers have specialized,
they focus solely on the translation of Khmer newspaper articles, for example.
Others use articles from Bangkok English papers. As the average English proficiency
of the English student in Phnom Penh increases a market for business, legal, and
political English has developed.
Mr. Tony, as he likes to be called, teaches specialized English mornings, over lunch
and in the evening. His classes attract one hundred to one hundred and seventy students.
The mostly male students pay five hundred riel apiece for the hour's instruction.
Everyone receives a photo-copy of a Bangkok Post or Nation article, and the class
hour is spent in translation, explanation and discussion.
One day last week Tony used a Bangkok Post article entitled "KR offer one hand
for reconciliation, but keep the other on the trigger".
"He is a good teacher, he taught here for so many years, more than ten years.
People [used to] study in the house, and invited the teacher to come into the house.
I studied with Mr. Tony since 1986, since I was fourteen years old." Phan Sophal
Only 31 years old, Tony has been teaching English in Phnom Penh since 1980. When
he first started, he had to slip in and out of house-holds at night.
"The government did not allow English to be taught, and many English teachers
fled the country." At that time he would only teach at houses "whose owner
could be responsible for my security".
After 1986, things became easier, but not because English teaching became legal.
Tony was able to teach openly "in the third floor of a building near the O'Russei
market" because he "had an uncle who was strong in power, he could protect
me" He taught from English texts that came from the Soviet Union, "like
In 1990, the Phnom Penh government sent Tony to India to "take an English proficiency
course." After a year he returned to take a job in the Foreign Ministry. Each
day he teaches for four hours .
Chang Sim, one of Tony's students said that "all the students in this class
have 'high capacity', their English is very good. Many of them are possible to teach
[Stream-Line] English, from Book One until Book Four ".
Many are University students or professionals.
Another student, Sopha Im said that perhaps 80 percent of the students are from Phnom
Penh University, from the Medical School and from the other Faculties. Chang Sim
is a doctor. He says "learning the specialized English [that Tony teaches] is
very important to my future."
On the importance of English, Tony says "I think English is a top priority [for
Cambodia], according to the reality, and because of ASEAN cooperation.
Sopha Im said "every student comes here to study about policy, business, by
Bangkok Post, Washington Post and CNN because every situation in Cambodia, many situations
Another student, Pohn Pheth said that he came to "class to improve my English,
I only want to learn, that is my big ambition". Asked why he came to this particular
class, he said "There are many classes in Phnom Penh, but [Mr. Tony] is a very
good teacher, I cannot go to study anywhere else."
Tony says that his teaching is "democratic". There is a great deal of interaction
in the classroom. The students are lively, supplying alternative phraseology and
synonyms for phrases and words under discussion, against a background of irreverent
commentary and laughter.
"I teach this class, because I want to give my knowledge to the student, not
only in literature, but philosophy, logic and the reality of the society. I want
them to learn about democracy and human rights. I think that the Bangkok Post and
The Nation have up to date articles. For the CNN (Cable News Network) class I listen
to the TV. and after that I go to find a newspaper article concerning the news show,"
Most of the English teaching in Phnom Penh is done privately. Often teachers rent
classroom space in public school buildings. Others teach English in their own homes.
Tony rents space by the hour from a home owner off of Norodom Blvd. It costs him
30,000 for one hour. His occupies one of three open-sided classrooms where mathematics,
physics and chemistry are also taught.
Tony works as an assistant to the SNC. He says that he doesn't use the Phnom Penh
Post because "every student can buy one themselves." His classes are standing
room only, so come early for a seat.