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Language classes open new doors

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Students at the Goethe-Institut during interactive lessons. REBECCA HELIOT

Language classes open new doors

The Goethe-Institut offers students the chance to learn German and much more

When Sokna Prum first began learning German many years ago, she never expected the opportunities it would open up for her. After listening to a former boss converse in German with his son, her interest was piqued, and soon after, she began taking lessons to learn the language.

Although the difficulty of German grammar was once a challenge, she soon managed the ability to communicate almost fluently. With her ability to quickly grasp the language, in 2010, she became an assistant at the Goethe-Institut. Now she helps new students expand their knowledge of the language.

Her hard work paid off and in autumn of 2012, she was able to visit Germany for a month and experience the country first-hand, as well as her first fall season - an indelible memory.

“I’ll never forget walking through the park there, while leaves and flowers fell on me,” she says. “That was an amazing memory and it was very clean and very orderly to me. Most people were friendly and very helpful.”

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Sokna Prum, assistant of Goethe-Institut Cambodia. REBECCA HELIOT

Goethe-Institut, which opened in 2009, is the only institute in Cambodia offering German language classes. Wolfgang Asen, director of the institute, says the number of students has increased in recent years with 700 students currently enrolled.

“I believe [this increase is a result of] Germany becoming better-known as a welcoming country to people abroad,” he says, adding that since many German public universities are extremely affordable, learning the German language can benefit students wanting to study abroad.

The institute follows the European reference frame for teaching language courses. With no more than 18 to 20 students per class, the professor focuses his lessons in interactive group work and active white board examples with the German culture at the heart of every lesson.

The course teaches students how to write, speak and read in German.

In addition to six language levels offered by the institute, students can also choose the more advanced special program with two levels that solely focus on reading and writing in the Latin alphabet.

“It just gives people one more option. After students learn German, they can work for German NGOs here, work for tourism-related jobs or go study or work in Germany,” Asen says, adding that Goethe-Institut works with universities in Germany and the German Academic Exchange Service headquarters in Hanoi to provide scholarships to students.

Asen says that the institute has been able to provide 37 scholarships in 2014 to study towards master degrees in Germany, and believes that in 2015 and 2016, the institute should be able to provide 50 to 70 scholarships.

The scholarship, which usually lasts two to three years, pays for the flight with an additional stipend of $750.

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Wolfgang Asen, director of Goethe-Institut Cambodia. REBECCA HELIOT

“It is enough to live a comfortable life,” says Asen. “It may not be very luxurious, but it is the same amount most university students have.”

After completing their studies, universities can then help students receive a five-year work permit to stay in the country.

Apart from the scholarships, Goethe-Institut also provides advanced training for teachers working in Phnom Penh, as well as scholarships for faculty members.

For Prum, the opportunities of learning a new language boosted her confidence and broadened her career options, she said, adding that she hopes this is something younger, industrious Cambodians consider.

Besides the opportunities to live, work and study in Germany through the Goethe-Institut, “furthermore, you will have chance to learn [about] a very enthusiastic history and culture,” Prum said.

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