The approaching integration of the GMS into the AEC calls for an increased effort on behalf of all concerned countries, to advance and enhance the communication skills of its citizens. Although the English language has been adopted as the default language for inter-regional communication, local languages remain an undeniably important and defining aspect of the region and its people.
Recognizing the importance of this issue and the increased cross-border flows of people between Cambodia and Thailand (particularly Cambodian workers into Thailand), MI conducted a one-week basic Khmer language course for 23 doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, academics and social workers from the Thai Department of Mental Health.
The course, held at MI's residential training facility in Khon Kaen and co-taught by Cambodian native, MI Program Coordinator, Sopheak Seang, exposed participants to their neighbors' native language, providing them with not only the tools needed for basic communication, but a deeper understanding of the its society, culture and traditions.
Throughout the course, participants were exposed to variety of learning activities including peer conversation, role playing activities, listening exercises (using Cambodian TV programs and texts), as well as songs and games. Activities were specifically created to address the language areas which mental health staff encounter in their every-day work to assist participants to deliver more effective services to Cambodian patients.
Dr.Sorayut Sungrasamee, a particpant from Songkhla Ratchanakarindra Psychiatric Hospital, stated, "The course has enabled me – someone who knows nothing about Khmer language – to be able to speak and listen and able to carry on a basic conversation."
The next training phase will see participants undertake field trip to Cambodia in order to expose them to an authentic Khmer-language environment where they can even further push and develop their Khmer communication abilities.