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When traveling to another country, it’s always a good idea to learn a bit of the language. Most Cambodians in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kampot, and Koh Rong Samloem speak at least a bit of English, but that doesn’t mean you should always revert to your native tongue. Attempting to speak the language will show the locals that you appreciate their culture and will mostly likely evoke plenty of smiles and laughs. We know it’s overwhelming learning so many different languages while traveling around Southeast Asia, so we’ve translated the most useful phrases from English to Khmer. So take a few minutes to learn a bit of Cambodian (or bookmark for later use!) so you’re ready to order a beer or direct a tuk-tuk once you’ve landed in the Kingdom of Wonder.

 

English to Khmer: Useful Cambodian Phrases
Cambodian Tuk Tuk © Courtesy of Kirsten Muolic/Mad Monkey

 

English to Khmer: A Few Tips

The official language of Cambodia is called Khmer, pronounced “Khe-my”. Even though the Khmer script might look like hieroglyphics, the language is relatively easy to pick up because there aren’t a ton of grammar rules or tones. There are many different ways to say these phrases (depending on who you’re talking to), so these will be mostly informal expressions that are most commonly used. As in any language, adding “please” will make whatever you’re saying more polite!

 

English to Khmer: A Few Tips - English to Khmer: Useful Cambodian Phrases
Cambodian Children © Courtesy of Kirsten Muolic/Mad Monkey

 

English to Khmer: Phonetics

Because you probably don’t have time to learn the Khmer script, we’ve written the translations out phonetically.

Words written with…

  • “uo”: this sound is in between a short u (like in “gun”) and a long o (like in “go”)
  • “ai”: this sound is a long i (like “tie”) with a bit of a long e sound at the end
  • “aa”: this sound is like the a in “father” but more drawn out
  • “dt”: this sound is between a “d” and “t” sound
  • “ch” and “j” are very similar, try to say it in between these two sounds
  • the “r” is often rolled like in Spanish
  • “Knyohm”, which means “I”, sounds kind of like “koon-yohm” but it’s said so quickly to where it’s only one syllable. You’ll obviously see this word in a lot of phrases!

 

English to Khmer: Phonetics - English to Khmer: Useful Cambodian Phrases
Unique Art Craft of Cambodia© Courtesy of Kirsten Muolic/Mad Monkey

 

English to Khmer: The Basics

 

Hello (formal)Chom reap suor (it’s also good to bring your hands together and bow – the higher your hands, the more formal/respectful)
Hello (informal)Soo sdai
How are you?Suok suobai? (The inflection at the end is important!)
I’m fineSuok suobai (The same as “How are you?” but without inflection!)
GoodbyeLee hai
YesFor males: Baat or Baa. For females: Chaa
NoAw dteh
Thank youAw kuon
Thank you very muchAw kuon cheh-rran

Please

Suom

Sorry/Excuse me

Suom dtoh

I don’t understand

Knyohm aht yohl

I don’t know

Knyohm aht duong

Do you speak English?

Tah nyek neeyay preesah ahng-lay tay?

Bathroom

Bahn tuop tuk

How much is this?

Tlai puon maan?

Expensive

Tlai!

What’s your name?

Nyek chmua ai?

My name is _____

Knyohm chmua _______

What time is it?

Tahl maong puon maan?

 

English to Khmer: The Basics - English to Khmer: Useful Cambodian Phrases
Buddhist Temple at Bankong Siem Reap Cambodia ©Courtesy of Kirsten Muolic/Mad Monkey

 

English to Khmer: Restaurant Phrases

 

RestaurantPuo-ja-nee-tahn
DeliciousChnang
SpicyHaal
I am hungryKnyohm klee-en
I am a vegetarianKnyohm ot cheh nyam sach teh (literally, I’m not able to eat meat)
One water, pleaseSuom tuk muy
 One beer, please

Suom beer muy

The check, please

Suom ket loy

 

English to Khmer: Giving Directions

 

Where is…?… noh ai nah?
I want to go to…Knyohm jang toh…
Go straightTao trahng
Turn leftBot chwaing
Turn rightBot sdam
Stop here, pleaseSuom chuop teenee
I’m lost Knyohm vohng vang

 

English to Khmer: Giving Directions - English to Khmer: Useful Cambodian Phrases
Tuk Tuk in Cambodia ©Courtesy of Kirsten Muolic/Mad Monkey

 

English to Khmer: Dating/Romantic Phrase

 

I am singleKhnohm aht mee-en suongsah
I have a boyfriend/girlfriendKnyohm mee-en suongsah
I’m marriedKnyohm reap kah
What’s your number?Tahl too-roh-sahp nyek leh puon maan?
You are beautifulNyek saat
I love youKnyohm sra laing nyek (gender-neutral).
If you are addressing a male: Knyohm sralaing bahng.
If you are addressing a female: Knyohm sralaing ahwn.
I miss youKnyohm nuok nyek
Term of endearment for a malebahng (sohm laim)
Term of endearment for a female ahwn (sohm laim)

 

Want a few more Khmer tips? Then watch this video!

 

More English to Khmer Resources

Did this article get you excited to learn Khmer? If you’re heading to Cambodia soon or already here, check out these articles and you’ll be speaking basic Khmer in no time!

 

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English to Khmer: Useful Cambodian Phrases

About the Author

Kirsten Joelle is the RevOps Marketing Director for Mad Monkey. When she’s not working, you can find her doing yoga while Netflix binging, or more so just the latter.