WASHINGTON – Sylvain Vogel, a native of France, has spent most of the past 25 years studying, researching, teaching and helping anchor the fledgling rebirth of a culture of scholarship in his adopted country, Cambodia, following the repressive and anti-intellectual Khmer Rouge rule of the 1970s.

Vogel, who grew up in Alsace-Lorraine speaking French and German.

He has also become fluent in English, Portuguese, Farsi, Pashto and Khmer, the language spoken by the majority of people in Cambodia.

Outside the classroom since the mid-1900s, Vogel has pursued a passion project documenting a largely unwritten language spoken by members of the Bunong ethnic group.

The Bunong live in Cambodia’s sparsely populated Mondulkiri province, a place of mystical beauty under threat from modernization and encroachment by the Khmer population and foreign investment.

Earlier this year, Vogel’s work received a boost when it was recognized by the Fainting Robin Foundation.

The U.S. organization supports independent scholars and announced in March that Vogel would be the first recipient of its “distinguished scholar” award.

Most of Vogel’s research over the years about the Bunong language and people was carried out at his own expense, said Peter Maguire, chairman of the Fainting Robin Foundation.

“It was a project that took close to 20 years, with no outside support, with no support or minimal support,” said Maguire, an author and historian who set up the foundation in Wilmington, North Carolina.

“He [Vogel] is a resource that is very important to Cambodia,’’ said Chan Somnoble, one of Vogel’s first Cambodian students, who earned a Ph.D. in linguistics in 2002 from Université Paris Nanterre.

Vogel first met members of the indigenous Bunong community in 1994. He became intrigued by the unwritten language and the Bunong’s rich folklore, which was passed orally from generation to generation.