Basic Khmer is funded by Open Educational Resources at Michigan State University. It is an online, interactive theme-based textbook for the beginner of the Khmer language. This book aims to provide a practical introduction to speaking, listening, and reading. By the end of this course, students will be at B1 level of the Common Framework for Language and at the low-intermediate level on the ACFTL proficiency scales.

This book contains eight chapters. In the first five chapters, each chapter is divided into two parts. The first part is based on a conversation and presents the grammar and vocabulary necessary to deal with everyday situations. The Cambodian script and sound system are introduced in the second part of each chapter.

Topics covered in Chapters 1 & 2 include: polite and colloquial greetings, introducing oneself; addressing people properly; the 16 individual consonants and their meanings; polite and colloquial farewells; question words “what” and “where”; numbers 1-10; kinship terms in combination with the verb to be “ជា”; and the combination of consonants and/with diacritic.

Topics covered in Chapter 3 include: asking and talking about families; Khmer classifiers; question word “how many”; the verb “to have/has”; asking and talking about ages; possessive adjectives; numbers 11-100; an introduction to vowels and the position of vowels; and the first and second series of consonants.

Topics covered in Chapters 4 & 5 include: asking and telling time with particle “ហើយ” and “នៅ”, asking and talking about different days of the week and months of the year, time of the day, and other expressions related to time; asking and telling phone numbers using pattern “do you have?”; and numbers 100-1,000,000.

Topics covered in Chapters 6 & 7 include: past tense; “used to” to talk about habits or repeated actions in the past; past expressions; first and second series vowel sounds; occupations and professions in Khmer; the expressions “to want to be/become”; Khmer modifiers (not very much/not so and adverbs (too/as well); special pronoun “ឯង” and “គ្នា”; and sub-consonants and consonant clusters.

Topics covered in Chapter 8 include: making appointments in-person and via telephone; making requests with the pattern “សុំបានទេ?”; expressing politeness and respect with the word “សូម”; the adverb of time (before and after); diacritic​​ “​​ ៊”​​​​ and​​​​​ “​ ៉”​​ ; and conjunctions ប៉ុន្តែ and អីចឹង​ (“But” and “So”)​​.

Each chapter has clear learning outcomes, a review of the previous chapter, a review of the previous vocabulary, grammar points, and cultural notes. The layout of each chapter is followed by three modes of communication (interpretative, interpersonal, and presentation mode) across the four skills. Each chapter also has a listening, speaking, reading, and grammar section, followed by interactive activities. Cultural notes and a few online materials related to the theme of the chapter are also introduced. Each chapter ends with key vocabulary/expressions and a grammar summary.

Vocabulary in reading and listening is built in the conversation with the English translation, so that learners can infer the meaning in the given context. Learning activities have been developed by using H5P so that learners can get immediate constructive feedback.

This book is an online resource; your constructive feedback will help me keep this book updated. If you find any errors and/or have suggestions, please do not hesitate to write to I hope that this textbook will be an indispensable resource that helps both independent learners and students who are taking courses in Cambodian/Khmer.


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Basic Khmer Copyright © 2022 by Vathanak Sok is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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