Here are twenty facts about the Khmer language.
- Khmer is the oldest of the Mon-Khmer languages.
- It has been influenced by Sanskrit, Pali, Thai and French.
- Unlike its neighbouring languages, it isn’t tonal (thank goodness).
- The stress falls on the last syllable.
- If the word is a compound word, it might have two stresses in it.
- There aren’t tenses in the same way we have them: verbs don’t inflect.
- Adjectives go after the noun; adverbs go after the verb.
- Words are repeated: sometimes to show plurals or to express intensity.
- There are a lot of sounds that don’t have equivalents in English.
- There are thirty-three consonants in Khmer.
- Thirty two of these have a main letter and a subscript version (when it forms part of a consonant cluster).
- Each consonant has a natural vowel sound (that sound a bit like ore or oh). This means the same consonant sound has two consonants depending on the vowel sound (e.g. gore and go). They are called the A series and O series consonants.
- There are twenty-four dependent vowels, that are placed around the consonant they come after.
- There are a further eleven independent vowels.
- The dependent vowels create different sounds depending on whether they are attached to an A or O series consonant.
- Therefore there are over one hundred symbols with different sounds to learn.
- There are some consonant clusters we don’t have, such as km, kn (they actually pronounce the k), tl.
- There aren’t any spaces between words in a sentence. You have to work out where one word ends and the other begins by context.
- This means Google translate can struggle to get the right word.
- There is a punctuation symbol to show the previous word or phrase is repeated.
I’m trying to learn a least one letter a day, and if I’m feeling bold, a word as well. I’m hoping this will really help my pronunciation. When I know what sounds the letters and letter combinations make, my speech will hopefully be more accurate.
I’ve got a Khmer alphabet keyboard on my Khmer phone and on my laptop. I’ve also downloaded a load of Khmer fonts. This is helpful as the alphabet you get given in books and on websites is a very precise, almost printed version. It would be like trying to write in Times New Roman. The fonts show other less time consuming and delicate ways of writing the alphabet.
I quite like the process. I think the script is quite beautiful, and as I’m gradually becoming more confident in speaking Khmer it means I should be able to put the two skills together. Hopefully, this means my language learning can pick up a gear.
Anyway, chom reap lear.