A Cambodian professor in the state of Hawaii has been given a distinguished award for the creation of a Khmer-language program there.
Chhany Sak Humphry was awarded the Regent's Medal for Excellence in Teaching at the University of Hawaii for her work building the language program over nearly 25 years, said John Mayer, director of the Indo-Pacific Department of Languages and Literature at the university.
Humphry, who is 57, had created “the best Cambodian program in the US,” he said, through an online program, text book and CD.
Humphry has lived in Hawaii since the early 1970s, following a scholarship from the East-West Center. She received a PhD in linguistics and now teaches Khmer at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Humphry told VOA Khmer the award meant she would “commit more to help our Khmer language move forward.”
“If we have made such an effort and they applaud us like this, then we have to continue to do more for others to have the ability to teach our Khmer language in other universities,” she said.
Her program consists of four levels—in vowels, consonants, writing, listening and speaking—and takes four years to complete. At least 1,000 students have learned the language from her course, either at the university or online, she said.
Her students are like Mariko, a 24-year-old Japanese woman in her first year who said she was interested in Khmer because she wanted to speak to her Cambodian friends.
“I want to learn more Khmer, because I want to chat with them, and I also want to work in Cambodia,” she said.
Humphry said she wanted to expand Khmer programs into other universities and sometimes even teaches online free of charge.
“I like teaching, and I want people in general to learn my language, our Khmer language, and to understand the literature and linguistics and our Khmer culture,” she said.
In that way, she said, she helps Cambodia, albeit from a distance.