Want To Learn Khmer?
Cambodia is an under-appreciated gem. Despite its beautiful sites like the world-famous Angkor Wat temple complex, the country doesn’t get the attention that its Southeast Asian neighbors like Thailand enjoy. They are beginning to build up their infrastructure to make it easier and more convenient for people around the world to discover everything the country has to offer.
Khmer, the language spoken in Cambodia, has 16 million speakers. It shares close roots with Vietnamese and has been influenced by both the Thai and Laos languages. As such, there are several dialects of Khmer used throughout the country that are mostly mutually intelligible, but have several unique traits and differing accents.
For writing, Khmer uses its own script which is said to be one of the oldest still in use in Southeast Asia. The language does not use inflection. Meaning is derived heavily from word order, with sentences following an SVO structure. In spoken Khmer, it is generally the last syllable of the word that the stress is placed. Similar to Thai, there is differentiation between aspirated and non-aspirated consonant sounds to an extent.
Cambodia’s past has greatly shaped the country today, so anyone with an interest in the history of the country and the surrounding region will benefit greatly from gaining some understanding of the Khmer language. As the infrastructure is built up, more of the country will become easy to access, making it somewhere great to explore that is more off the beaten path than many areas in Southeast Asia. Of course, these less visited areas will likely have very limited English skills, so to make the most of your stay, you should consider learning some Khmer.