For people who travel as much as our Pioneers, you will be unlikely to learn the language of every country you go to. Still, it is certainly possible to learn enough Cambodian phrases to at least appear polite.
So, how do you say hello in Cambodian?
សួស្តី/suostei, but more on that later!
What Is the English Level in Cambodia?
Thankfully most Cambodians, particularly the younger ones, speak English to at least degree, certainly better than in your average Chinese town. Older people speak less English, but you may bump into the odd old-timer who can speak French.
What Is the Writing System of Cambodia?
Cambodia has its own writing system known as the Khmer Script. It was invented around 611 AD and is similar to both Thai and Laos script.
There are officially 74 letters in the Cambodian alphabet, which makes it the most extensive alphabet in the world! The script consists of 33 consonants, 23 vowels, and 12 independent letters. Thankfully almost everything is written in both Latin and Khmer script.
Here’s something we translated special into the Khmer Script for you;
ដំណើរកំសាន្តត្រួសត្រាយវ័យក្មេង damnaer kamsant truosatray vyokmeng – see if you can translate it.
Cambodian Language Family
The language is actually referred to as Khmer, which is what the people also refer to themselves as. Cambodia and Cambodian are phrases you will rarely hear in the country. The Khmer language is related to both Laos and Thai.
Useful Cambodian Phrases:
- How do you say hello in Khmer? សួស្តី – suostei,
- How do you say goodbye in Khmer/Cambodian?លាហើយ – leahaey
- How do you say thank you in Cambodian សូមអរគុណ -saum arkoun, or simply arkoun
Thank you is a particularly good and easy one to learn in Khmer, with locals and foreigners using it instead of the English version.
How to say brother in Khmer -បងប្អូន bangobaaun – shortened to bang is how you call a server politely.
Beer – ស្រាបៀរ srabie – Simply holding up your fingers and saying beer will be enough to get served, or simply embark on a series of charades.
1 to 10 in Cambodian! Cambodian numbers are particularly complicated (even 1-10 in Khmer). Basically, 1-5 are easy, then 6-9 consist is 5-1, 5-2, 5-3, 5-4, before ten just being 10. Higher Khmer numbers get even more weirdly complicated.
- 0 – but
- 1 – moy
- 2 – pee
- 3 – bay
- 4 – buan
- 5 – pram
- 6 – pram-moy (five-one)
- 7 – pram-pii (five-two)
- 8 – pram-bay(five-three)
- 9 -pram-Buan (five-four)
- 10 – dop
Susaday (suu-saa-day)/ hello – while we previously covered how to say hello in Khmer, Susaday is more like saying hi in Cambodian and much more frequent as a greeting between friends.
Barang – Foreigner – After bong, this is the most common word you will hear as a foreigner in Cambodia. It is gnarly an affectionate term and has less of the bad connotations that Lao Wai has in China, or farang in Thailand. Foreigners will often refer to themselves and other foreigners as barang. Farang and Barang show the similarities between Thai and Khmer.
Choul mouy (chull muy)/ cheers – Literally, this means to “bump one” and is very trendy! I initially thought cheers in Cambodia was John Voight, but thankfully now I know different! Khmer people love to bump glasses, so get used to saying this one a lot.
Songsaa – sweetheart Instead of saying boyfriend, or girlfriend, the romantic Khmer people refer to their better halves as Songsaa, or sweat heart. Cute eh. Whether you get to use this one, or not depends on you, but never rule out falling in love in Cambodia.
And that is our bite-sized Khmer/Cambodian language guide