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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