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Learn Khmer Language

The Khmer Language:

The language of Cambodia, Khmer, belongs to the Mon-Khmer family of languages. Khmer uses a phonetic alphabet with 33 consonants, 23 vowels, and 12 independant vowels. Visually, the Khmer alphabet is similar to the Thai and Lao, and many words in these three languages trace their origins to common Pali or Sanskrit roots.

One significant difference is that Khmer is not tonal. In tonal languages, such as Thai, Lao, and Vietnamese, the same sound has one meaning when spoken in a high tone, and a different meaning when spoken in a low tone.

Modern written Khmer can take two forms, an "oblique script" used for handwriting and most printed texts, and a "round script," used for headings, titles, some religious texts, and other instances where certain words or phrases need to be emphasized.


Khmer Consonants

Khmer writing begins on the top left of the page, and proceeds down and to the right. Cambodian writing does not use spaces between individual words; instead, spaces are used to denote the end of phrases or sentences.

The placement of the vowels in written Khmer can be confusing at first; vowels may follow or precede the consonants, or they may go above or below, or some combination of before, after, above, or below. The placement of each vowel can be seen in the graphic showing the 23 vowels. The light gray boxes indicate the placement of the consonants.

Khmer also includes 12 "independent vowels," which can exist without a preceding or trailing consonant. The independent vowels may be used as monosyllabic words, or as the initial syllables in longer words. Khmer words never begin with regular vowels; they can, however, begin with independent vowels.

Khmer numerals are also different, although Arabic numerals are being used with increasing frequency. There are also unique markings for Khmer punctuation, but modern Cambodian writing also incorporates several punctuation marks derived from Western typography.


Khmer Vowels

Learn Khmer:

Here are some useful Khmer words and phrases, written phonetically, that will come in handy. Khmer may sound confusing. But with a little patience and practice, you can get by. 

There are 33 consonants and 26 vowels. "Ai" is pronounced as in Thai; "ay" as in pay; "dt" takes the t sound while "bp" takes the p sound. "Oo" is pronounced as in cook and "ao" as in Laos.

English

Khmer

English

Khmer

Hello

How are you?

Good morning

Good night

Afternoon

My name is.....

Yes

No

Please

Thank You

Excuse me

Goodbye

I don't understand

I want a...

Water

Tea

Rice (cooked)

Rice (uncooked)

Meat

Fish

Chicken

Bread

Restaurant

Where is the...?

Market

Bank

Post Office

Doctor

Bus

Train

Cycle

Policeman

Turn left

Turn right

Go straight

Morning

Midnight

Night

Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

jum-reap soo-a

tau neak sok sapbaiy teh?

arun sour sdei

tiveah sour sdei

reah-trey sour sdei

k'nyom tchmouh...

baat

dteh

suom mehta

or-koon

sohm dtoh

joom-reap leah

k'nyom men yoo-ul tee

k'nyom jang baan...

teuk

tai 

bia

angkoh

saich

t'ray

moan

num pung

haang bai

noev eah nah...?

p'sah

tho neea kear

bprai sa nee

peth

laan ch'noul

ra dteah plerng

see kloa

bpoa leeh or norkor-bahl

bot dtoy ch'wayng

bot dtoy s'dum

dtov dtrong

bpreuk

aa-tree-at

yoop

t/ngai aa-dteut

t'ngai jan

t'ngai ong-gee-a

t'ngai bpoot

t'ngai bpra-hoa-a

t'ngai sok

t'ngai sao

Yesterday

Today

Tomorrow

Month

Year

Last Year

New Year

Next Year

January

February

March

April

May

June 

July

August

September

October

November

December

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Night

Ten

Eleven

Twenty

Thirty

Forty

Fifty

Sixty

Seventy

Eighty

Ninety

Hundred

Thousand

Ten thousand

Hundred thousand

Million

m'serl menh

t'ngai nih

t'ngai sa-aik

khaeh

ch'nam

ch'nam moon

ch'nam thmey

ch'nam groy

ma ga raa

kompheak

mee nah

meh sah

oo sa phea

mi thok nah

ka kada

say haa

kan'ya

to laa

wech a gaa

t'noo

moo ay

bpee

bay

boun

bpram

bpram moo ay

bpram bpee

bpram bay

bpram buon

dahp

dahp moo ay

m'pay

saam seup

sai seup

ha seup

hok seup

jeht seup

bpait seup

gao seup

moo-ay roy

moo-aybpoan

moo-ay meun 

moo-ay sain

moo-ay lee-un