Basic Khmer Vocabulary

Wondering what language is spoken in Cambodia? The Cambodia official language is Khmer

Are you worried that you may not be able to learn Cambodian well and communicate with the locals? Although many Cambodians speak some English, especially in touristy cities such as Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, there are also plenty who don’t speak much English at all! Don’t fret though! You CAN learn Khmer language easily and I’m here to help you out.

Why you should learn some Cambodian phrases

If you are visiting Cambodia for a long stay or just a few days, some phrases in Khmer (the Cambodian language) will definitely help you out!

Learning some Khmer words will be particularly useful if you are planning to venture off the beaten track, or if you are planning to spend much time in Phnom Penh.

Just knowing a couple of phrases will take you really far in Cambodia! Even if you’re only exploring the temples and the beach; knowing the Khmer language will help endear you to the people you meet, and may get you some discounts as well! Now that would be good wouldn’t it!

You’ll be switching from English to Khmer in no time at all, and be able to translate Khmer to English in your head like a boss! Let’s get to it!

How hard is the Khmer language?

Trying to learn Khmer pronunciation can be challenging, as there are some strange sounds that have no equivalent in English. Yet, you will find that locals usually aren’t shy about you on how to pronounce Khmer. You’ll be able to learn quite fast and change from English to Cambodian easily.

Let’s get you off to a great start with out English to Khmer translation with pronunciation.

These essential Cambodian phrases will make your Khmer study easy and your adventure to Cambodia a successful one!

How to be polite in Khmer

The Khmer language and its phrases change depending on who you are talking to, as a sign of respect.

In this guide you will find the standard transcription for each phrase, and a pronunciation guide which is as phonetic as possible. Capital letters show the stressed syllables.

How to say hello in Cambodian

Let’s learn how to say hello in Khmer! There are a couple of different ways to say hello in the Cambodian language, depending on how formal you want to be. Both of these phrases can be used at any time of day.

Formal Hello

When you are meeting someone older or more important than yourself, you should use the formal ‘jom reab suar’. It is pronounced ‘jom REE-up SOO-wer’.

Informal Hello

When you meet someone who is the same age or younger than yourself, you can use the informal ‘suasdey’. It is pronounced ‘SOO-wer sa-DUH-ee’.

Good morning

If you would like to say ‘good morning’ in Khmer, you can say arun suasdey. It is pronounced ‘Arun SOO-wer sa-DUH-ee’.

Extra culture points!

For a traditional Cambodian greeting, it is polite to use the ‘sampeah’, a gesture performed by placing your palms together in front of your body like the Thai wai. The height of the sampeah varies depending on how formal you want to be. When meeting someone older than yourself, your fingertips should touch your nose, but when you meet someone your own age, a sampeah at chest height is fine. Urban Cambodians may offer Westerners a handshake but will be pleased if you know the sampeah.

How to say goodbye in Khmer

Saying goodbye in Cambodian is not difficult either. Let’s give it a go shall we?

Formal Goodbye

Say ‘jom reap lia’. It is pronounced ‘jom REE-up LEE-er’.

Informal Goodbye

Say ‘lia haeuy’. It is pronounced ‘LEE-er HIGH’.

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