Learning the language

How and where to learn Khmer in Cambodia

Learning the language

Given that the reach of the Khmer language is restricted to the boundaries of Cambodia, you may expect that learning resources are scarce. However, there are in fact several ways to learn the Cambodia’s official language.

Learning Khmer online

First of all, expats in Cambodia can start to learn the language at beginner’s level and pick up basic vocabulary through an online learning programme. Studio Martin is a simple but incredibly informative website allowing visitors anywhere to access its Khmer learning material.

The programme is based on the everyday dialect spoken in the capital Phnom Penh and contains audio files recorded from a native Phnom Penh-born Khmer speaker. Users select from a list of ‘lessons’ related to everyday themes and topics to best introduce them to the Khmer-speaking world.

Other online resources include the language section of the Tourism Cambodia  website and the detailed web page with chapters and search tools Bong Thom  and the easy-to-navigate Rikitikitavi  website.

Cambodian language schools  

The more common, and conventional way to learn a new language in a foreign country, at a language school, is available too. The Khmer School of Language, in Phnom Penh, is probably the most well-known. This learning facility provides courses for both short term and long term visitors to the capital, ranging from a morning’s crash course to regular classes over a period of several months. It specialises in teaching oral, listening, reading and writing Khmer to expatriates.

The classes are conducted mostly in English, but the school employs staff who are proficient in French, Thai, Korean and Vietnamese. The most common method of teaching there is one-to-one, but there is also the opportunity to study 1:2, 1:3, in a group, or via Skype. In addition to everyday topics, students can learn specialised subjects in Khmer such as agriculture, as well as health and the Bible if requested. Fees vary according to students’ lesson pattern, and enquiries should be made via email or telephone.

Failing all that, there’s even a Khmer learning app to help you on your way! It’s called Cambodian Language Guide & Audio by World Nomads and is a handy tool to have when on the move.

Further reading

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