Intermediate Khmer and Advanced Filipino Language Courses Coming to UCLA Fall 2009

The Southeast Asian language courses will be teleconferenced to UCLA from U.C. Berkeley as part of a foreign language initiative and distance-learning partnership.

By Seth Villanueva for the UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies

SEEKING TO expand UCLA’s diverse language offerings as well as enable current language learners to progress in their proficiency, the Centers for Southeast Asian Studies at UC Berkeley and UCLA have arranged for two Southeast Asian languages, Khmer and Filipino, to be studied at the intermediate and advanced levels, respectively, via simultaneous teleconferencing technology.  Both classes will begin on Thursday, September 24, 2009 and will run from M-Th at 3-4 pm for Filipino and 4-5:30 pm for Khmer. They will meet on a compressed schedule only when both UCLA and UCB are in session.

Both languages will be taught live at UC Berkeley and teleconferenced to UCLA, thus making new material available.  Khmer (the language of Cambodia) has never been taught before at UCLA, and Advanced Filipino, while taught in the past, is not otherwise available as a regular course in 2009-10. This is not the first time that SEA language courses have been successfully teleconferenced between UC campuses.  Introductory Filipino language courses have previously been teleconferenced very successfully from UCLA to UC Irvine.  In 2009-10, several other languages are also included in the Distance Learning program including several African, Slavic, and Scandinavian languages.

We asked UC Berkeley instructors Frank Smith (Khmer) and Joi Barrios (Filipino) to provide more information about their classes:

CSEAS: Who are the classes designed for? Who are the ideal students?

FS:  The Khmer class is intended for students who, either through classroom study or family/home experience, have attained a "survival level" of spoken Khmer (able to talk about family, exchange pleasantries, name basic rooms and objects in the home, discuss names of basic food items and Khmer dishes, bargain in a Khmer market, give/receive directions and discuss transportation, talk about work and accomplishing basic tasks, describe various basic emotions/states of health and illness). No previous knowledge of the Khmer writing system is assumed or required.
JB:  The Filipino class is designed for students who have taken Intermediate Filipino, or those at the intermediate level. Ideal students are those who would like to study Philippine language and culture and either write a research paper in Filipino or work on a creative writing project.

CSEAS: How does a student enroll/register?

FS:  The course number is Khmer 100A.  UCLA students should contact Barbara Gaerlan for UCLA registration details, and also indicate their interest to me via e-mail at  General registration information for all Distance Learning language courses is available online at
JB:   The official course title for Advanced Filipino is South and Southeast Asian Studies 149 (Studies in South and Southeast Asian Languages).  Interested students should also contact Dr. Gaerlan.

The curricula for both courses is as follows:

Intermediate Khmer
In this class students will learn how to read and write Khmer and how to discuss various areas of knowledge common to all adult native speakers in Cambodia: religion, traditional culture, the rice farming cycle, and the language of news/advertising. In the second (spring) semester, they will learn about life as a modern Cambodian in Phnom Penh, the basics of discussing history and politics in Khmer, and acquire a basic understanding and appreciation of several traditional Khmer poetic meters. Throughout the two semesters, students will learn the basics of the Khmer writing system, and gain experience reading folk tales, news stories, articles on Khmer religion and history, and read (in the second semester) a Khmer novel in its entirety. Students will also learn the necessary vocabulary (spoken and written) to expand their command of Khmer from the survival/home realm into areas of common adult discourse in Cambodia today. All this will be done via a combination of written texts, videos recorded in Cambodia, and task-based classroom activities in which spoken and written Khmer will be used to design and carry out various projects, including student-designed "TV commercials," stories about everyday life, and original poetry.

Advanced Filipino
Using literary texts (short stories, poems, and creative non-fiction) and critical essays on Philippine culture and society, students learn advanced vocabulary and more complex grammatical structures.  The students shall then choose from either a creative track or a research track.  For the former, the student should be able to write either a short story, five poems, or a creative non-fiction work.  For the latter, the student should submit a critical essay in Filipino based on the texts and their own research.  These works shall be discussed using a workshop format, enabling the students to revise the work until it can be deemed ready for publication.

Published: Wednesday, August 12, 2009