Basic Khmer Language for the Traveler

Khmer Language, Living in Phnom Penh / Monday, March 23rd, 2009

The Khmer (or Cambodian) language is the official language of Cambodia and it is spoken by majority of Khmers.

Though English is fast becoming the second language specially of younger Khmers, it is still great if those taking Cambodia vacations know a little of Khmer. It’s a great help in learning and gaining more understanding of Cambodia culture.

This is particularly helpful if you are traveling independently and it goes a long way when you are bargaining in the markets.

A little intro: The Khmer language has 33 consonants and about 24 vowels and diphthongs.

The Khmers have also retained French pronunciation of the Roman alphabet and of some words. When it comes to grammar, the language is quite simple. Adding a few words can make a sentence tense to past, present or future.

Learning the language can be a bit tricky and difficult but a little Khmer will really go a long way. The Khmers just love it when foreigners show the effort to speak in their language.

Here’s some basics for every Cambodian visitor:

Greetings and other Basics:

Hello – jum reap sour (formal) | sua s’dei (casual)
Goodbye – jum reap lear (formal) | lia suhn hao-y
See you later – juab kh’nia | th’ngay krao-y
Thank you – ow-kohn | ow-kohn charan
You’re welcome – awt ei te | sohn anjoe-in
Excuse me / I’m Sorry – sohm-toh
Yes – baat (for men) | jaa (for women)

Small Talk Basics:
Hi, how are you? – niak sohk sabaay te?
I’m fine – k’nyom sohk sabaay
Where are you going? – niak teuv naa?
What’s your name? – niak ch’mooah ei?
My name is – k’nyom ch’mooah ______________.
Where are you from?- niak mao pii prateh naa?
I’m from – k’nyom mao pii___________.

Addressing a Person: Many of the pronouns are determined on the basis of the person’s age and sex in relation to the speaker.
You -niak (can be used with either sex )
Mister – lowk
Older sister – bawng srei | lowk srei (madam)
Uncle – pu
Older men or women who appear to be older than you – bawng

Getting Understood:
I understand. – k’nyom yuhl | k’nyom s’daap baan
I don’t understand. – k’nyom s’daap muhn baan te| k’nyom at yuhl
Do you understand? – niakyuhl te | niak s’daap baan te?
Does anyone here speak English? – tii nih mian niak jeh phiasaa awnglee te?
How do you say ________in Khmer? – kh’mai thaa mait?
What does this mean? – nih mian nuh-y thaa mait?
Please speak slowly. – sohm niyay yeut yeut
Please translate for me. – sohm bawk brai ao-y k’nyom
What is this called? – nih ke hav thaa mait?

Getting Around:
Where is the _____? – neuv ai naa?
Bus station – kuhnlaing laan ch’nual
Train Station – s’thaanii roht plaeng
Airport – wial yohn hawh
Plane – yohn hawh
How can I get to _____? – phleuv naa teuv?
Is it far? – wia neuv ch’ngaay te?
Is it near? – wia neuv jeht te?
Go straight ahead. – teuv trawng
Turn left. – bawt ch’weng
Turn right – bawt s’dam
At the corner – neuv kait j’hrong
In front of – neuv khaang mohk
Next to – neuv joab
Behind – neuv khaang karo-y
Opposite – neuv tohl mohk
I want to get off here – k’nyom jawng joh!
How much is it to_____? – teuv ____________ t’lai ponmahn?
That’s too much? – t’lai pek
Please take me to_____________. – sohm juun k’nyom teuv.
This address. – aadreh | aasayathaan nih
Here is fine. – chohp neuv tii nih kaw baan

Will post some other’s soon…

Check out my latest post on:ย Khmer Numbers and Amounts

5 Replies to “Basic Khmer Language for the Traveler”

  1. Wow this has helped soo much! Thanks! My boyfriend is Khmer and his family is more comfortable talking in their native tongue even though they live in New Zealand so I am trying to learn, and before I found this i was going off YouTube videos. My Khmer note book is almost half full! Oh, and the cooking/ingredient terms were awesome as my man is a chef..very helpful. Thanks so much! Keep it up ๐Ÿ˜€

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