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Learn Khmer: Part 2: Basic Introductions & Goodbyes

Updated on July 18, 2012

A Review of Khmer Sounds

The symbol "(b+p)" indicates a blend of a "B" and "P" sound from the English language.

The symbol "(g+k)" indicates a blend of a "G" and "K" sound.

The symbol "(v+w)" indicates a blend of a "V" and "W" sound.

The symbol "(j+ch)" indicates a blend of a "J" and "Ch" sound.

The symbol "(d+t)" indicates a blend of a "D" and "T" sound.

  • In the first lesson, I did not mention that the (d+t) sound is often described by Cambodians as a heavily accented "Th" sound, which, technically, is also true, so if you come across a Cambodian that phonetically spells their words with a "Th," just keep in mind that it is the same sound as (d+t).

Introductions

In the last lesson, I already taught that the word for "hello" in Khmer is:

Suer S(d+t)ey

  • Again, the "r" at the end of "Suer" should be pronounced very slightly.


However, there is also another commonly accepted greeting:

(j+ch)um Reap Suer

  • The "Suer" should be pronounced just like the one in "Suer S(d+t)ey."
  • This greeting is commonly said while bowing to the other person.
  • *The phrase "(j+ch)um Reap" means "to tell." Hence, "(j+ch)um Reap Suer" means "to tell someone good/happy things." This simply translates as "greetings."


If you wanted to introduce yourself to another person, you would say:

Kyom ________________. (and fill in the blank with your name)

  • The word "kyom" means "I" or "me."
  • Therefore, translated, the phrase means "I am ___(your name)___."


You could also introduce yourself in this manner:

Chmoh Kyom _____________. (and fill in the blank with your name)

  • The word "chmoh" means "name."
  • Therefore, the translation means "My name is ___(your name)___."
  • The word "chmoh" should be pronounced with a distinct breathing sound at the end. The "h" at the end should be dragged out for about half a second.


You can tell someone to call you a certain name by saying:

Hao Kyom ___________. (and fill in the blank with your name)

  • The word "hao" in Khmer means "to call" in English.
  • Therefore, translated, the phrase means "Call me __(your name)__."

Goodbyes

There are two ways to say "goodbye" in Khmer:

  1. Lia Hai
  2. (j+ch)um Reap Lia
  • The second phrase is often said while bowing to the other person.
  • Be careful to not drag out the "A" at the end of "Lia." It should be kept fairly short.
  • *Again, the phrase "(j+ch)um Reap" means "to tell." Hence, "(j+ch)um Reap Lia" means "to tell someone goodbye." This simply translates as "goodbye."


A Basic Conversation Example

Let's say that two people, Li and Chan, are meeting each other for the first time. An introductory conversation could occur somewhat like this:

Li: (bows) "(j+ch)um Reap Suer."

Chan: "Suer S(d+t)ey!"

Li: "Sok Sa (b+p)ai (d+t)ey?"

Chan: "(j+ch)aa, Sok Sa (b+p)ai."

Li: "Chmoh Kyom Li."

Chan: "(j+ch)aa, Hao Kyom Chan."


Here is the English translation for the conversation:

Li: (bows) "Greetings."

Chan: "Hello!"

Li: "Are you doing well/How are you?"

Chan: "Yes, I am well."

Li: "My name is Li."

Chan: "Okay, you can call me Chan."


* If you wish to hear how these words and phrases are pronounced, check out the video below.

Learn Khmer: Part 2: Basic Intros & Goodbyes

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