Updated: Feb 9, 2022
If you are heading to Cambodia, especially Siem Reap which is known as a sweet and friendly smile Kingdom where most tourists should not miss because of the historical temples and people. Picking up a few Khmer phrases is a good idea, while Cambodians, especially younger ones can speak pretty good English. Here are the Khmer language phrases to swot upon during your visit.
BASIC KHMER GREETINGS AND ESSENTIALS
Chom reap sour [chom-reap-sour] – Hello (formal)
Cambodians have an extremely respectful culture, with elders and those of a higher social standing greeted using this more formal way of saying hello.
Susadei [soo-sa-day] – Hello (informal)
This is a more informal Khmer greeting that is used between peers or friends. It is also accompanied with a sampeah (a small bow with the hands joining together).
Soksaby [sok-sa-bye] – How are you and I am fine
It may seem strange, but the Khmer way of asking “how are you?” and the response “I’m fine” is the same. However, you can notice the difference in intonation. The question has the rising intonation and the answer has the falling one.
Chom reap lear [chom-reep-lear] – Goodbye (formal)
Again, this is the formal way to say goodbye in situations where respect is required. Don’t forget to throw in a smile.
Lear hi [lea-hi] – Goodbye (informal)
This is the more commonly used and casual way to wave goodbye.
Bah [bah] – Yes (male)
Jah [chaa] – Yes (female)
You’ll hear a lot of “bah, bah, bah” from Cambodian men and “chaa chaa chaa” from women – usually said several times.
Ot teh [ot-tei] – No
Learning how to say no will come in very handy for turning down the tuk tuk / remork drivers you’ll face as soon as you arrive in the country.
Arkun [ar-koon] – Thank you
A polite “thank you” always goes a long way, wherever you are in the world.
Som dtoh [som-toe] – Sorry/ Excuse me
This is another useful phrase that is well worth picking up before you land in the country.
Baht schweng [bart-shweng) – Turn left
Baht saddam [bart-sadam) – Turn right
A tuk tuk is likely to be your main mode of transport in Cambodia so learning a few phrases will come in handy.
Chop [chop] – Stop
You can throw a “som” (please) in front of it to be polite, so all together in a polite way of saying this is “Som chop”.
Tini [tinny] – Here
Why not place some of your newly learned words together to say “please stop here” or “som chop tini“.
Tov trong [tov-trong] – Go straight
Another handy phrase when your tuk tuk driver looks like he wants to take a wrong turn.
AT THE RESTAURANT & BAR
Chhnganh [ch-nganh] – Delicious
Cambodians love talking about food, so saying something “delicious” will bring about a smile.
Som toek [som toek] – Water please
Cambodia’s heat means staying hydrated is essential.
Knyom khlean [knoym-klean] – I’m hungry
If you grasp this phrase, then you’ll soon find yourself being ushered to the nearest restaurant or street stall.
Som ket loy [som-ket-loy] – The bill please
Cambodians don’t often use the word “please” or “som” so this can be dropped for speed - ket loy.
Choul Mouy [Chull Mouy] – Cheers
If you plan on sinking a few beers at one of the many beers, then choul mouy is essential vocabulary. Cambodians love to cheer. In fact, it’s a custom to do it before each sip, followed by everyone at the table clinking glasses and shouting choul mouy. This can make finishing a beer a lengthy process.
Lerk dach [lerk dutch] – bottoms up
This is used as a toast or to tell people to finish their drinks. You or your friend would say Lerk dach, and there is no way to keep it left if you want to make the moment joyful.
AT THE MARKET
Bo man [bow-man] – How much?
Picking up a few phrases to take to the market with you will be rewarded with much better prices when bartering.
T’lay nah [t-lay nahs] – too expensive
You’ll definitely need this one if you want to haggle. Place more emphasis at the end of “nah” to highlight your level of horror.
Number from 1 to 10
Moi 1 Bram moi 6
Bee 2 Bram bee 7
Bai 3 Bram bai 8
Boun 4 Bram boun 9
Bram 5 Dop 10
Getting to grips with counting is a good way to get around, as streets tend to be numbered rather than named in Cambodia.
Chhmua ei? [cham-moo-ey] – What is your name?
This is an essential phrase for forging friendships with locals.
Knyom chhmua ___ [knyom-cham-moo] – My name is ___
And, of course, you need to know how to say your own name back.
Knhom srolanh nak [khnhom-sralanh-anak] – I love you
If making friends goes really well, you’ll want to learn how to say “I love you”. This is the gender-neutral way of saying I love you in Khmer.