Another odd thing about teaching in Cambodia

Another odd thing about teaching in Cambodia:

To appreciate this it helps to know that

  1. Cambodians refer to themselves as “Khmer” and their language as “Khmai”, so Cambodian internet sites end with “.kh”
  2. Cambodians tend to accent the last syllables of words. They abbreviate their names to the last syllables not the first.  If Jonathan were Cambodian he’d be Than, not John.
  3. They have many vowel sounds which are so short I generally can’t hear them, and involve little jaw and lip movement, and therefore:
  4.  When teaching some English words you have to drag out the vowel to triple its normal length and physically show them how to round their lips by pinching your own mouth on the sides with your finger and thumb to emphasise that the lips need to be rounded to get the “ooh” sound. Or put your finger under your chin and make them watch how your finger drops when you say “cup” etc.  Attempts to get the students to imitate this are met with embarrassed laughter and sometimes outright refusal. They find my pronunciation antics highly amusing.
  5. Google exists in Cambodia: the site is  I’ve seen the hotel staff using it. I’ve seen people on it in internet cafes. I know that people know about it. Google defaults to this site unless you put “” , “” or “” into the name to force it to the British, New Zealand  or Australian sites. If you look for the American Google site it goes to the .kh site. Even if you Google Google itself, and click the link to the American Google, you end up back on the Cambodian one.
  6. In China, where the internet is censored and sites are blocked, you can’t get Wikipedia, Facebook or Twitter. But you can get them on Cambodia’s version of Google.


I’m talking about something in the classroom to a bunch of 16-25 year olds  and I suggest if they want to know more about whatever it was they should look it up on Google.


Google, on the internet: how many of you can get to an internet?

 Lots of hands go up.

Well you know Google then? On the internet?

Eyebrows are screwed up, heads are tilted, “what teacher?”

I draw a big rectangle on the board, draw an address bar and write

Howls of laughter.

“No teacher, you say it wrong. It  G’GOL. G’GOL

I do the round lip thing: “Well in English you say Gooooogle.  Try that Goooogle”.

Hysterical laughter. Faces are hidden in books and behind pencil case. Some of them try and the rest collapse laughing.

Tonight they did the end of semester exam. It’s my last day in this university. They had to write sentences with comparative adjectives and the “as adjective as” pattern.

One student has written: “Richard is funnier than my old teacher. He is as funny as a joker.”


One thought on “Another odd thing about teaching in Cambodia”

  1. This is very funny. I guess we would be rolling about on the floor at attempting to speak another language, especially one so reliant on dipthong pronunciation. I read a story about an American who gave a speach in Vietnamese, trying to say,
    ‘May Vietnam live for a thousand years’ but due to his dyspronouncment (is that a word, or is it just shit pronouncement?), he ended up saying,
    ‘The sunburnt duck is lying down.’ Hardly the same thing!

    Sounds like you’ve found your groove and are doing well in it.

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