English: The Cambodian Business Lingua Franca

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13th September 2016
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19th September 2016

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You see these everywhere in Phnom Penh, indeed across Southeast Asia – absolute clangers that make most English speakers cringe.  Unfortunately, some also use them as an opportunity to poke fun at people in the region or denigrate Southeast Asians generally.

What these sniggering tourists fail to realise though, is that these mistakes are made amid an earnest attempt to market home-grown businesses to Westerners. The owners of these businesses have all understood an underlying principle: that the language of business is English.

Here at The Presentation Clinic, we believe millions of people run the risk of being left behind unless the standard of English is raised as a matter of urgency.  Recent reports underline the need for Cambodia to develop its human capital.  A growing number of Cambodian companies are expanding across the ASEAN region, but all encounter the same problem: a lack of staff that are competent and capable in English.  There are cultural issues too.  There is a perceived lack of assertiveness, particularly among sales & marketing executives.  The worry is that the majority of Cambodians are currently not well placed to take advantage of their massively growing economy.

Rare is the economy that is growing at an annualised rate of 7%.  One only has to look at the Phnom Penh skyline to appreciate the pace of growth and development.  Companies perhaps frustrated at the lack of mid-to-high level managerial and communication skills in Cambodia, often import staff from their headquarters in Malaysia, Singapore or China, but they shouldn’t have to.

English isn’t the problem.  It’s widely spoken in Cambodia, particularly by its upwardly-mobile younger generation.  There is also an appreciation of the need to speak English in an increasingly connected global market.  What’s lacking are dedicated, resident, English-medium training companies that are here to help business-owners develop their sales and management teams.

The Presentation Clinic is one of only a few companies that offers this type of training.  One client told us last week that they’d been sending staff to Singapore or Kuala Lumpur to receive the kind of training that is so badly needed.  We’re hopeful that this will no longer be needed as more companies like us set up shop in the “Kingdom of Wonder”.

It’s in all our best interests to help Cambodia put its best foot forward.


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