Pick up Khmer with Free Khmer Language Lesson Videos

Free Khmer Lessons - Natural Khmer YouTube channelThe Khmer language school LINK, or Language Institute of Natural Khmer, closed down in 2016, but its YouTube channel remains online with more than 60 videos that you can use to help you pick up Khmer.

What makes these different from almost all other language teaching videos is that they’re designed for everyone, regardless of first language, to pick up the language from without translation.

The Khmer teachers do this by using a lot of non-verbal communication like pictures, drawings, props, and gestures to make the meaning of what they are saying understandable.

With this kind of understandable experience with language, known as comprehensible input, we can learn languages without conscious study.

This is the basis of the Automatic Language Growth approach used by LINK, which suggests adults can learn languages as well and as easily as children routinely do with the right experience and approach.

If you’re unfamiliar with this approach, the best way to understand it better is to just watch some of the videos, starting with their sample beginner classes, or their set of 60 lessons:

These lessons cover many topics from Khmer family words to Khmer numbers to cultural differences like Cambodian and Western breakfasts.

Some of the videos have conversations where a Cambodian person speaks Khmer and a foreigner speaks English or French:

In the ALG approach used by LINK, conversations like this where each person speaks their own language are known as Crosstalk.

With Crosstalk, each speaker uses non-verbal communication as needed to make themselves understood, and as participants understand more and more of each other’s language the need for non-verbal communication decreases.

(This playlist has just the videos with Crosstalk, while this one has the other videos that use Khmer only:)

In all these video lessons total around two to three hours. While this isn’t enough content to learn a great deal of Khmer from, this content is still a way for beginners and even more advanced learners to pick up vocabulary and hear how it is used in context.

In the near future, we may see much more highly understandable content like this, perhaps even enough that one can learn a lot of the language just by watching it without any other study and practice.

Beginner Khmer Lesson Videos

If you’re new to the Khmer language, there are some videos that provide a great introduction to the language of Cambodia entirely in the language.

These YouTube videos are demonstrations of beginner classes at LINK (Language Institute of Natural Khmer), a school that taught Khmer using a natural approach of picking up the language through listening to interesting comprehensible input.

The videos contain a lot of basic vocabulary, phrases, and concepts from everyday life in Cambodia, and are worth watching repeatedly.

Here is the first one:

Even if you are a total beginner in Khmer, you will find that with repeated viewing, the meanings of more and more words start to become clear.

You might find that you even understand some words on the first viewing, but if you feel like you don’t understand anything, don’t be discouraged.

Focus on what’s happening and what the teachers are communicating with their pictures, just making guesses rather than focusing on trying to work out the language.

After watching a few times this way and perhaps coming back to it after a day or two, you may be surprised to find that many things suddenly make more sense.

Here’s another video with a similar beginner class demonstration:

If you watch this video after viewing the first one a number of times, you may find that some words “click” for you when you hear them again in a slightly different context.

You may be wondering: why not just give translations of the words to teach them?

One main reason for this is the approach used by schools like LINK, called Automatic Language Growth, which is intended to provide the foundation from which you can develop a very high level of fluency.

Really knowing a word and being able to use it fluently like a native speaker means among other things, being able to pronounce it clearly, understand its correct usage, and having it come to mind without having to translate.

These things come not from simply knowing a translation for the word, but from having many understandable experiences with that word that come from hearing it in a variety of contexts.

The focus of the teaching at schools like LINK is to provide these kind of experiences in abundance.

With this in mind, the approach also recommends a “silent period” listening to a new language with understanding for many hours, without trying to produce it or analyze it by doing things like comparing it to one’s first language.

By allowing speaking to emerge naturally and gradually without forcing it, you can avoid the problems many adult learners have in second languages such as unclear pronunciation and “broken” grammar.

As words become clearer over time through understandable experience, you will eventually start to be able to produce the language correctly and with good pronunciation without conscious effort.

This blog will look at methods and resources to get these understandable experiences in Khmer.

While the school has since closed, LINK’s YouTube channel remains and beyond their sample beginner classes is a lot more content, which we’ll take a look at it in another post.

To learn to speak Khmer fluently, you need comprehensible input

If you want to learn and become fluent in Khmer—or any other language—you need to hear a lot of the language spoken in ways that you can understand what is being said.

This kind of understandable exposure to language is known as comprehensible input.

We get comprehensible input when we can understand what is being communicated, even if we don’t know all the words and grammar being used.

For example, even if we don’t know a language at all, we can understand what a speaker of that language is saying if they use gestures and drawings to get across the meaning as they speak.

With enough of this input, we will start to understand what words mean, and eventually be able to use these words ourselves.

Dr. Stephen Krashen, who popularized the concept of comprehensible input, demonstrated it with two short German lessons:

With these lessons, he showed the difference between incomprehensible input and input that’s made highly comprehensible to beginners using things like gestures and context.

Here’s a similar demonstration that uses Khmer to show the difference between incomprehensible and comprehensible input:

Experts have called comprehensible input the foundation and sine qua non of language acquisition, meaning that without it, nothing is possible.

It is essential to get many hours of comprehensible input if you want to become fluent in a language.

For a few years, a school taught Khmer using an approach based entirely on comprehensible input, giving students hours of understandable communication and experiences entirely in Khmer.

Known as LINK, or the Language Institute of Natural Khmer, the school, based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, posted many videos of their teaching on their YouTube channel, such as this sample beginner class:

The teachers use non-verbal communication like drawings, gestures, and actions to make what they are saying understandable, even to someone who knows no Khmer.

This way, if you are interested in what is being communicated, you can pick up the language without effort.

Unfortunately, the critical role of comprehensible input in language learning is often overlooked in second language teaching, especially for adults.

Many, if not most, language schools and programs focus on study and practice of the language, leaving students on their own when it comes to getting lots of comprehensible input.

What’s more, many online videos intended to teach languages like Khmer provide very little comprehensible input.

They often simply teach lists of words with translations, instead of letting you hear these words in context, using images, sounds, and interesting stories and examples that would let you pick up their meanings and pronunciations naturally.

Sadly, LINK closed down in 2016, so the school is not available anymore as an option for anyone who wants to pick up Khmer through comprehensible input.

This current site is intended to provide information on how to get comprehensible input in Khmer, sharing the best methods and resources.

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