Thomas tries… to learn Khmer

My Khmer practice
Here are twenty facts about the Khmer language.

  1. Khmer is the oldest of the Mon-Khmer languages.
  2. It has been influenced by Sanskrit, Pali, Thai and French.
  3. Unlike its neighbouring languages, it isn’t tonal (thank goodness).
  4. The stress falls on the last syllable.
  5. If the word is a compound word, it might have two stresses in it.
  6. There aren’t tenses in the same way we have them: verbs don’t inflect.
  7. Adjectives go after the noun; adverbs go after the verb.
  8. Words are repeated: sometimes to show plurals or to express intensity.
  9. There are a lot of sounds that don’t have equivalents in English.
  10. There are thirty-three consonants in Khmer.
  11. Thirty two of these have a main letter and a subscript version (when it forms part of a consonant cluster).
  12. 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.
  13. There are twenty-four dependent vowels, that are placed around the consonant they come after.
  14. There are a further eleven independent vowels.
  15. The dependent vowels create different sounds depending on whether they are attached to an A or O series consonant.
  16. Therefore there are over one hundred symbols with different sounds to learn.
  17. There are some consonant clusters we don’t have, such as km, kn (they actually pronounce the k), tl.
  18. 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.
  19. This means Google translate can struggle to get the right word.
  20. 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.

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