Even with a small Khmer vocabulary you will be liked by many in Cambodia, they enthusiastically improve your pronunciation and teach you a few more words to reward your efforts.
The Khmer language is non-tonal, but the language has a complex pronunciation, with 33 consonants (some seemingly identical, some in difficult to pronounce consonant combinations) and about 24 vowels and diphthongs.
Khmer is written in a beautiful script, which is derived from Sanskrit. We have tried to approach the proper pronunciation of words and sentences without having to use phonetic charts. Pronunciation is based on the English language.
If you would like to learn more about reading and pronunciation, have a look at ancientscripts.com’s excellent article on the Khmer script.
Khmer traditionally greet each other with a gesture called a ‘sompheah’, very similar to the Thai ‘wai’. Younger man seem to have adapted the western handshake.
Sentences are usually constructed in the following order:
Person – verb – noun – adjective
Khnyom djong njahm mahobe chnganj na
(I want eat food delicious very)
If you want to learn more Khmer, check out Vanna’s Learn Khmer Now blog. Vanna also offers Skype lessons for very reasonable prices – ideal if you would like to learn Khmer when you are outside of Cambodia.
Vanna has a BA in English from one of the top universities in Phnom Penh, and she has 4 years experience in teaching foreigners the Cambodian language.
A very useful iPhone/iPad app with audio to help with learning the Cambodian language. (Links directly to iTunes)
I have added this post on the Khmer language to help tourists and other visitors to Cambodia with their first steps in the language. I am not a linguist, and am far from fluent in the language – I only recognise a couple of the letters of their script. All translations on this page are done with help from our wonderful staff. For these reasons, I cannot keep up with the numerous translation requests we receive.
In case you have any translation needs from English to Khmer or the other way around, here are some sources that may help you:
advise animal bird Bokor Cambodia day trip fish flower fruit health history hospital Kampot Kep Khmer Khmer Rouge Koh Kong mammal map money Phnom Penh safety Sihanoukville superstition telephone tree volunteer weather