14 January 2010 ~ 0 Comments

Does preserving local languages sometimes mean preserving class divides?

I am learning to read Khmer – and it is SOO hard.  Nearly every new vowel I learn, the teacher says “but that is an exception, it doesn’t turn AW consonants to O” or “That is from Sanskrit.  There are no rules as to why you have to pronounce it that was, you just have to memorize how to write that word.”  It is seriously like doing a logic game and a guessing game and a memorization game at the same time.  I have realized that you have to be REALLY smart to read Khmer (which clearly I am not!).  MANY of the teachers in primary schools here have a hard time reading fast and often don’t know how to spell words correctly (they are always correcting each other, even around the PEPY office).  It makes me wonder if it wouldn’t make more sense to do what Korea did (in the 1700’s?  someone fact check for me!).  Transitioning from very difficult Chinese characters to an interchangeable written language which is one of the most intuitive in the world made it so that nearly everyone could learn to read, not just the elite or very smart.

Maybe that is what Cambodia needs? Or is that a less-linguistically-inclined-centric thing for me to say?