khmer phrases

When you want to learn a new language, you have to be prepared to give it your all. You need to have the perseverance, hard work and determination to push further.

If you often travel, you might not need to practice or learn it enough to be fluent. All in all, these things don’t matter. But knowing a few Khmer phrases and Cambodian words will help make your travels easier. It will help you get the right directions and order the right food.

Which is why, in this article, we have put together the different Khmer phrases to help you in your travels in Cambodia.

Basic Khmer Phrases To Know

Cambodia’s official language is Khmer. It’s not pronounced as ‘Kimer’ but as ‘Khe-my’. Just by looking at the Khmer script, you might have a hard time understanding the language, but we’re here to tell you that’s it’s easy to pick up. How come? Unlike other languages, Khmer doesn’t have a lot of tones and grammar rules.

  • Turn Right – Baht Saddam
  • Turn Left – Baht Schweng
  • Stop – Chop
  • Go Straight – Da Trong
  • Hello – Chom Reap Sour (formal) or Susadei (informal)
  • How Are You / I Am Fine – Soksaby
  • Goodbye – Chom Reap Lear (Formal) or Lee Hi (Informal)
  • Yes – Bah (Male) or Jah (Female)
  • No – Ot The
  • Thank you – Arkun
  • Excuse Me or Sorry – Som Dtoh
  • How Much? – Bo Man
  • Too Expensive – T’lay

Phonetics

Before we get started, you need to have a basic understanding of the phonetics of the Khmer language.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The words written with ‘ai’ is pronounced like a long ‘i’ (imagine ‘lie’) but with an ‘e’ sound at its ending.
  • ‘Aa’ is just like the a in ‘lather’. Only more drawn out.
  • The ‘dt’ combination, on the other hand, sounds like what you’ll hear between the ‘d’ and ‘t’ sounds.
  • You have to pronounce the ‘uo’ like a sound that’s between a ‘u’ in the word ‘gun’ and an ‘o’ in the word ‘go’.
  • The combinations ‘j’ and ‘ch’ are pretty similar.
  • Don’t get confused with ‘knyohm’. It’s simply pronounced as ‘koon-yohm’ – only faster.

Now that’s sorted out, the Khmer phrases you definitely have to learn are:

Directions

First things first, to help you avoid getting lost, Khmer phrases for asking directions is pretty essential.

Turn Right – Baht Saddam

Pronounced as bart sadam

This is a handy Khmer phrase to know when you are getting around the country.

Turn Left – Baht Schweng

Pronounced as bart shweng

Not only should you know the ‘right’ way, but you also need to learn how to say ‘left’. You wouldn’t want to be left and lost, right?

Stop – Chop

Pronounced the same as chop

Ask your transportation to stop by using this Khmer word. Add in ‘som’ (please) to make it more polite.

Go Straight – Da Trong

Pronounced as da trong

Not everything is left or right. There are times when you have to also go straight.

Greetings

The first thing you do when you meet someone new is to greet him or her a good morning, or say hello, right? This is most often how friendships start. Learn a few Khmer phrases on greetings to make that possible.

Hello – Chom Reap Sour (formal) or Susadei (informal)

Pronounced as chom -reap-sore and soos-a-day respectively

The Cambodian culture is very much a respectful one. Always say hello formally to elders and those who have a high social standing. On the other hand, use the informal hello when it comes to greeting friends. It is often accompanied by ‘sampeah’ – a Cambodian greeting or a way of being respectful.

How Are You / I Am Fine – Soksaby

Pronounced as soks-a-bye

In Cambodia, this one word means two different things. What’s more shocking is that it is both the question and the answer. ‘Soksaby’ both means ‘how are you’ and ‘I am fine’. Crazy right?

Goodbye – Chom Reap Lear (Formal) or Lee Hi (Informal)

Pronounced as chom-reep-lear and lee-hi respetively

Again, just like hello, the Khmer phrases for goodbye has it’s formal and informal tones. Use the formal one for situations where you have to show respect. Do not forget to smile.

Yes – Bah (Male) or Jah (Female)

Pronounced as bah and chaa respectively

If you’re curious as to what the ‘bah, bah, bah, bah, bah’ are spoken by most men and ‘chaa, chaa, chaas’ are spoken by women, we’ll answer them today! It’s the Khmer translation for the English word ‘yes’. This is usually said several times, unlike the English counterpart.

No – Ot The

Pronounced as ot-tei

Unlike the Khmer word for yes, the Khmer for ‘no’ is only one word. There’s no difference whether a man or a woman says it. When you want to turn down some of the persistent ‘tuk tuk’ drivers, learning this word is a must. Saying no in their native language will make it clear that you really mean ‘no’.

Thank you – Arkun

Pronounced as as-koon

No matter where you are in the world, it is good to learn to always be thankful. Don’t forget to be polite and smile.

Excuse Me or Sorry – Som Dtoh

Pronounced as som-toe

This is one of the Khmer phrases that you need to know. It will come in handy when you did something wrong to someone who can’t speak English.

Sincerely apologise by saying ‘som dtoh’.

Shopping

Of course, when you’re in Cambodia, you shouldn’t forget to buy souvenirs for friends and families back at home or maybe just for yourself. Here are some useful Khmer phrases when you are shopping around the country.

How Much? – Bo Man

Pronounced as bow-man

Know how to bargain by knowing first the price of the product of your choice. It will provide you with a lot of rewards and better prices.

Too Expensive – T’lay

Pronounced as t-lay

Haggle with the locals especially when you really think that the prices are too expensive. However, do keep in mind that you shouldn’t haggle too much. After all, this is their livelihood. So stop haggling when you think the price given to you is just about right.

And that’s about it for the useful Khmer phrases to know when travelling to Cambodia. Did you like our list? Which one’s your favourite?