If you’re planning a trip to Cambodia but are unfamiliar with the local languages, this blog post is for you. First and foremost, the Khmer language (ខ្មែរ) is by far the most widely spoken in Cambodia. However, you might be surprised to know that the languages spoken in Cambodia are many.
We will discuss the origins of these languages as well as how they are distinct from one another in today’s post. In addition, we will also investigate the numerous native tongues used by the locals so that you may have a deeper understanding of Cambodia and its people. If you are ready for that, then let’s get started!.
What Are The Languages Spoken In Cambodia?
The country of Cambodia is home to several languages that are spoken as a mother tongue. Khmer is the primary language that is the most widely spoken, but other languages are also used, including Vietnamese, Chinese, French, English, and minority languages. Let’s explore each one in detail, shall we?
The Khmer Language (ខ្មែរ)
It’s Cambodian’s official language, which you must learn if you want to ensure a hassle-free experience during your travel in the country. The majority of people in Cambodia speak Khmer on a daily basis, and it is taught in schools. Despite being the country’s official language, there are a few dialects you should be aware of. Let’s say that while people in rural areas may speak quite distinct dialects, those in Phnom Penh speak modern Khmer.
French Language (បារាំង, Barang)
French colonialism had a significant impact on Cambodia. As early as the 1890s, French was incorporated into Cambodian schools. Both Khmer and French were taught side by side in the classroom. But that was something only the upper classes could enjoy. Until the 1910s, French was extensively spoken in Cambodia, and the majority of the population was learning it. But even so, French has since faded.
English Language (អង់គ្លេស, Angkles)
As the 1990s progressed, English replaced French as the dominant foreign language in the country. As this language has become more globally relevant, its popularity has increased. By learning English, Cambodians can expect a brighter future for themselves, one with more employment opportunities and higher wages both locally and internationally.
Vietnamese language (វៀតណាម, Vietnam)
Vietnamese, like Khmer, is an Austroasiatic language with a documented history stretching back over 100 years. About one million Vietnamese people currently call Cambodia home. Consequently, it is primarily spoken by Vietnamese immigrants but has also managed to seep into society as an important foreign language to learn.
Chinese Language (ចិន, Chen)
There’s a sub-group of Chinese Cambodians called ខ្មែរកាត់ចិន (pronounced as Khmer Kat Chen, meaning people of mixed Chinese and Khmer). As Mandarin has become the dominant language of business for overseas Chinese communities, many Chinese Cambodian families encourage their children to learn Chinese to reassert their Chinese identity.
Lao Language (ឡាវ, Laav)
The Lao spoken in Cambodia is a subset of the Tai language family and is known as Lao-Phutai. Laotian Tai is another name for Laos-Cambodians. Their homes are concentrated in the lowland areas of northern Cambodia around the Mekong River and its branches.
One of the countries in Southeast Asia that has many indigenous tribal languages. The most spoken tongues are listed below.
The Cham people and their language once dominated central Vietnam as the language of the Champa Kingdom. Cambodian Cham is known as Western Cham, while Eastern Cham is spoken along the coast of central Vietnam. And many words and phrases in Cham are derived from Arabic, Malay, and Khmer.
It belongs to the Mon-Khmer language family. The Tampuan people of Ratanakiri Province in northeastern Cambodia speak this language. And according to the 2008s, 21 percent of the province’s population spoke Tumpoon.
In Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia, 20% of the population speaks the Jarai language. So there are more than 100,000 people who are native speakers of this tongue. And the Jarai language is influenced by Khmer and Lao. So some words from these two languages have made their way into the language. Additionally, Jarai has evolved in the same pattern as the Mon-Khmer languages.
It’s also related to the Mon Khmer family. Chong people in eastern Thailand and the Pursat Province of Cambodia are the only remaining speakers of this language. Presently, only the elderly can be found fluent in this language; most young people have switched to Khmer.
The Kuy language is related to Austroasiatic languages, so it looks very similar to Khmer. It’s spoken in the northeastern provinces of Cambodia, including Preah Vihear, Stung Treng, and Kampong Thom, as well as the neighboring provinces of Thailand and Laos. And the settlements of the Kuy people can be found in more remote areas.
While Khmer is the national language of Cambodia, many other languages, including minority and foreign languages, are also spoken throughout the country. This nation has a rich cultural and linguistic heritage that dates back many years. Therefore, if you are interested in integrating with the local community, you should consider learning more languages alongside Khmer.
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