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Non-Profit Medicine and the Language Barrier in Cambodia

The aim of this project is to investigate the complicated, multilingual environment of medical education and practice in Cambodia. Cambodia's past history of colonisation and civil conflict has contributed to the construction of a medical field that communicates through Khmer, French and now English. The patients invariably speak exclusively Khmer, the doctors are educated in French but have recently been forced into using English in order to interact with foreign aid workers, and the nurses tend to have enough knowledge of both foreign languages to be able to function professionally. Language competency and the ability to understand are therefore often divided along educational and socioeconomic lines. There is also the question of the viability of using exclusively Khmer as the language of medicine. Currently the existing vocabulary in Khmer is insufficient to satisfy the ever-advancing medical realm, however that does not mean without certain linguistic planning and education it would be impossible. However, such a transition may limit Cambodian doctors and medical students in their pursuit of specialist training abroad and their access to resources like journals and textbooks.