How You Can Pick Up Khmer with Tutors or Language Exchange Partners

If you want to learn Khmer but think it’s too difficult or aren’t sure how to go about it, I recommend watching two great videos that inspired me to continue with the language by acquiring it with a tutor: “How to Acquire any language NOT learn it!” and “How to Language Exchange!

I’ve written a post based on the videos on my blog Beyond Language Learning called How to Acquire a Language with Tutors and Exchanges, and Speak It Like a Native Speaker.

It details the method that language instructor and polyglot Jeff Brown sets out, and my suggestions about how to use it based on the ALG approach that’s used in the AUA Thai Program and former Language Institute of Natural Khmer (LINK):

In the first video, Brown explains how we become fluent in languages not through things like grammar study or practice and correction, but through lots of comprehensible input: hearing the language in ways that we can understand what’s being said and pick it up.

He tells us how he gets comprehensible input from tutors and language partners, and shows us how he uses his method to acquire Egyptian Arabic and speak it within one year.

In the second video, Brown demonstrates his language exchange method, showing how to get your partner to speak the language you want to acquire in ways you can understand using actions, pictures, and stories.

With his method, you first pick up lots of basic vocabulary by having your tutors or partners give you commands in the language to do actions that they demonstrate (called Total Physical Response, or TPR), and describe pictures and ask you simple questions about them, and

Brown suggests using magazines that have many photos. Another source of illustrations, which I introduced in a previous post, is aakanee.com, which has many illustrations about everyday life and culture in Southeast Asia.

Once you acquire enough vocabulary this way, you start having them interpret or retell stories using illustrated children’s books that have a lot of pictures.

In previous posts I’ve recommended sources of free children’s stories you can find online: Let’s Read! Khmer E-books and the Let’s Read site.

The resources section of my post on Beyond Language Learning has links to more sources of illustrated stories online.

Brown highly recommends stories for language acquisition and spends most of the time in his sessions on stories, which he records to listen to again later.

Stories are powerful tools for language acquisition because they are interesting and understandable through having meaningful structures and sequences of events.

Our brains remember stories better than other kinds of information, and even treat them in some ways like real-life experiences.

Recommendations

The main thing I would recommend is not to try to repeat or speak the language you’re acquiring from the very start, as Brown does in the video.

Instead, I would recommend focusing on listening a lot first to “get an ear” for the language, learning to hear the sounds and pronunciation clearly.

This will lead to a more native-like pronunciation when you do start to speak Khmer or whatever language you want to acquire, because you’ve heard and internalized a clear “mental image” of how the language should sound.

Your speaking may not be perfect at first, but it will over time naturally converge on this mental image you’ve acquired through listening.

Achieving a very high level of pronunciation can be important for languages like Khmer, which have sound distinctions that are unfamiliar to learners who speak unrelated languages like English, and which have many speakers who are not used to hearing their language spoken by foreigners.

To avoid speaking Khmer at the start, you can simply speak and respond in your own language that your partner understands, such as English, then start to use Khmer as it comes to mind automatically without trying.

This natural speaking will start like a child learning a new language, with words and simple phrases that you’ve heard many times, and eventually grow to the ability to express yourself in longer sentences.

For things you can’t express automatically in Khmer, you can just continue to use English.

With a Khmer speaker whose English is at a similar level to your Khmer, you could both pick up each other’s language at the same time by each speaking your own language, using things like the pictures and stories to provide context and topics.

In the ALG approach this kind of communication, where each person speaks their own language and uses non-verbal tools as needed to get across meaning, is known as Crosstalk.

Free Khmer Language Story for Learners with Audio and Transcript: A Picnic

picnic-2039993Here’s yet another story that I’ve had translated into and recorded in Khmer to go with the collection of “mini-stories” I shared and the ones about buying coffee and smartphone addiction.

Here are the links to the story and audio:

A Picnic story – Khmer transcript and English original (Google Spreadsheet)

A Picnic story (mp3)

A Picnic – Questions & Answers (mp3)

Like the other stories, the short story is told and then retold with the circling technique, asking a lot of questions about each sentence, right after each sentence.

Note that the English and Khmer translation do not always match word for word. You can use the English as a guide for the general meaning of each sentence, but it’s best to let the meaning of words become clear by hearing them again and again in various contexts.

A Picnic ពិចនិក
It was a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon. អាកាសធាតុក្តៅនិងមានពន្លឺថ្ងៃនៅរសៀលថ្ងៃសៅរ៍
Bob and Alice were taking a walk outdoors. ប៊ប់​និងអាលីសកំពុងតែដើរលេងនៅខាងក្រៅ។
Because the weather was so nice, they decided to have a picnic. ដោយសាអាកាសធាតុល្អខ្លាំង ពូកគេសម្រេចចិត្តធ្វើពិចនិកមួយ។
So they went to an indoor market to buy some food and they brought it to a park. ដូច្នេះពួកគេបានចូលទៅក្នុងផ្សារទិញម្ហូបអាហារខ្លះ ហើយពួកគេយកម្ហូបអាហារនោះទៅសួនច្បារ។
They sat down on the grass and began to enjoy their meal. ពួកគេអង្គុយនៅលើស្មៅហើយចាប់ផ្តើមញ៉ាំអាហារ។
This is delicious, Alice said as they ate. «ម្ហូបនេះឆ្ញាញ់» អាលីសនិយាយនៅពេលពួកគេកំពុងញ៉ាំអាហារ។
Yes, Bob agreed. “All of this food tastes great.” «បាទ» ប៊ប់យល់ស្រប។ «អាហារទាំងអស់នេះមានរសជាតិឆ្ងាញ់អស្ចារ្យ»
Suddenly, dark clouds filled the sky and it started to rain. ភ្លាមៗនោះ ដុំពពកខ្មៅដាសពេញមេឃហើយវាចាប់ផ្តើមភ្លៀង។
In less than a minute it was pouring. មិនដល់មួយនាទីផង វាក៏ចាប់ផ្តើមធ្លាក់ភ្លៀង។
Bob and Alice quickly packed up their food and headed back to the market to take shelter. ប៊ប់និងអាលីសខ្ចប់អាហាររបស់គេយ៉ាងប្រញាប់ហើយធ្វើដំណើរសំដៅផ្សារវិញដើម្បីជ្រកភ្លៀង។
They sat down at a table inside to finish their meal. ពួកគេអង្គុយនៅតុមួយក្នុងផ្សារញ៉ាំអាហារពួកគេអោយអស់។
They were soaking wet from the rain. ពួកគេទទឹកជោកដោយទឹកភ្លៀង
The food was also wet, but it was still delicious. អាហារក៏ទទឺកសើមដែរ ប៉ុន្តែ វានៅតែឆ្ងាញ់។

English recordings of the story for English learners

The following videos have English recordings of the story that learners of English can use to practice listening as well as speaking and thinking in English through answering the questions. Khmer learners of English can use the Khmer translation to understand the story better.

As usual, any comments, corrections, and suggestions are welcome.

Over 250 Free Khmer Language Storybooks with Pictures

Let's Read Website - Free Khmer Children's Books

In a previous post I introduced a set of a dozen illustrated Khmer children’s stories, e-books created as part of the Let’s Read initiative to provide free stories to children in their own languages.

As it turns out, there is much more Khmer material from the same project.

If you go to the main Let’s Read reader site and select Khmer (ភាសាខ្មែរ) from the language menu on the left, you’ll find over 250 books in Khmer at various reading levels.

Some have been written in Khmer, and others have been translated from other languages into Khmer.

In my previous post I suggested ways that you can use storybooks like these with a tutor so that you can get comprehensible input in Khmer—hearing the language in ways that you can understand and pick up words.

Besides just reading the story to you, you can have the tutor retell it in Khmer in their own words, read it again and ask you questions about each sentence, describe the pictures in detail and ask questions about them, and talk about the pictures and stories in relation to their own life and experiences.

With their permission, you can also record their reading and descriptions to listen to later and review while following along with the storybooks to get more Khmer listening practice.

Focus on listening and understanding before reading

Especially if you are a beginner with Khmer, I would recommend not focusing on the written language but first getting a grasp of the spoken language though a lot of listening before spending much time at all on the Khmer alphabet and reading.

With these stories the written part should be mainly a guide for your tutor to read and elaborate on so that you can gain understanding of spoken Khmer and pick up words.

Reading Khmer becomes far easier when you recognize most of the words you read through having heard and understood them many times in a variety of contexts and have a clear idea in mind of how they are pronounced through listening.

Using the stories as a beginner in Khmer

There are a lot of stories in Khmer in the Let’s Read! collection that have clear pictures and very simple texts that use a lot of repetition of words.

You can find many of them by choosing Level 1 in the reading level menu.

You may find these simple stories particularly helpful if you are a beginner in Khmer.

Again, your tutor shouldn’t merely read the stories to you, but do things to make the Khmer understandable to you as a beginner in the language and give you a lot of meaningful repetition so that you can pick up the words.

For example, they should point to the pictures a lot to make it clear what they’re talking about, and also describe what’s in the pictures in their own words.

They can also make their own drawings and use gestures and actions while using the words to indicate the meanings of words.

There are some other techniques that they can use as well, which I’ll describe in more detail in another post.

However you approach it with your tutor, remember to have fun!

Another Free Khmer Language Story for Learners with Audio and Transcript: Smartphone Addiction

candy-crush-1869655Here’s another story that I’ve had translated into and recorded in Khmer to go with the collection of “mini-stories” I shared and the one I wrote about buying coffee.

Entitled “Smartphone Addiction”, this one is a somewhat silly story about an obsession with mobile games taking its toll on a relationship.

I had written it without a particular country or culture in mind, but I’m told that it’s relatable from a modern Khmer perspective, as smartphone use has become so widespread and popular in Cambodia as with many other countries, with even many older people becoming highly attached to their devices.

Here are the links to the story and audio:

Smartphone Addiction story – Khmer transcript and English original (Google Spreadsheet)

Smartphone Addiction story (mp3)

Smartphone Addiction – Questions & Answers (mp3)

Like the other stories, the short story is told and then retold with a lot of questions about each sentence, right after each sentence.

This technique makes the story easier to understand because there is a lot of repetition of language, and gives you practice in listening to Khmer as well as thinking in Khmer by listening to and answering the questions.

Smartphone Addiction ញៀននឹងទូរស័ព្ទដៃទំនើប
Tom was addicted to his smartphone. ថមញឿននឹងទូរស័ព្ទទំនើបរបស់គាត់។
Every day, he would spend 16 hours playing games on it. រៀងរាល់ថ្ងៃ គាត់ចំណាយពេលលេងហ្គេមក្នុងទូរស័ព្ទដៃ១៦ម៉ោង។
One day, as he was engrossed in a new game, a message popped up on the screen. ថ្ងៃមួយ នៅពេលគាត់ញក់នឹងហ្គេមថ្មី មានសារមួយលោតឡើងលើអេក្រងទូរស័ព្ទ។
It was a text from his girlfriend, Julie. វាជាសារពីមិត្តស្រីរបស់គាត់ជូលី។
“I’m leaving you,” it read. “You spend all your time on those stupid games and never any time with me. Goodbye.” សារនោះសរសេរថា«ខ្ញុំចាកចេញពីអ្នក» អ្នកចំណាយពេលទាំងអស់របស់អ្នកទៅលើហ្គេមឆ្កួតៗនិងមិនដែលមានពេល សម្រាប់នៅជាមួយខ្ញុំទេ លាហើយ»។
Tom was stunned. ថមស្រឡាំងកាំង។
He had been spending so much time playing games on his phone, that he had forgotten that he even had a girlfriend. គាត់បានចំណាយពេលលេងហ្គេមច្រើនពេកតាមទូរស័ព្ទ គាត់បានភ្លេចថាគាត់ធ្លាប់មានមិត្តស្រី។
And now she had dumped him. ហើយឥឡូវនាងបោះបង់គាត់ចោល។
Tom realized that he had to make a change in his lifestyle. ថមបានដឹងខ្លួនថា គាត់ត្រូវតែផ្លាស់ប្តូររបៀបរស់នៅរបស់គាត់។
So, he deleted all of the games from his phone. ដូច្នេះ គាត់បានលុបចោលហ្គេមទាំងអស់ចេញពីទូរស័ព្ទ។
He promised Julie that he would quit playing games on his phone, and they got back together. គាត់សន្យាជូលីថា គាត់នឹងលះបង់ឈប់លេងហ្គេមតាមទូរស័ព្ទ ហើយពូកគេត្រឡប់មកត្រូវគ្នាវិញ។

English recordings of the story for English learners

The following videos have English recordings of the story that learners of English can use to practice listening as well as speaking and thinking in English through answering the questions. Khmer learners of English can read the Khmer translation to understand the story better.

Again, any comments, corrections, and suggestions are welcome.

Free Khmer Language Stories with Illustrations and How to Use Them with a Khmer Tutor

floating-garden-lowres-001A language learner who I shared this site’s “mini-stories” collection with suggested another great resource which you can use for learning Khmer with a tutor: a collection of free illustrated children’s stories in Khmer, available for download from the site Let’s Read! Khmer E-books.

These e-books were created by Cambodians who worked in teams in intensive one-day events as part of Let’s Read!an initiative of The Asia Foundation’s Books for Asia program to provide free reading materials for children in Cambodia and other countries in their languages.

While many children’s stories aren’t always suitable material for language learners, for example, using too much poetic language and overly fantastic or nonsensical elements, the stories in this collection appear more suitable.

The writing and dialogue in the stories reflect how people speak Khmer, using simple, natural language.

Many also feature realistic aspects of everyday life in Cambodia, such as details of the kinds of villages where many people live, combined with an element of fantasy.

For example, The Floating Garden (សួនបណ្តែតទឹក) tells the story of a girl who lives on a floating village and takes care of a garden that one day mysteriously floats away, pulled by a big fish.

In this video you can see the illustrations and listen to audio of the text:

How you can use these storybooks with a Khmer tutor

I don’t recommend as a beginner or even intermediate learner just trying to read and study children’s stories like these ones by yourself, even with an audio of the text.

The “magic” happens when you have a speaker of the language make them more understandable to you by describing the pictures, talking about the story, and elaborating on it in their own words

All of this creates a lot of comprehensible input that you can pick up the language from.

Here are some ways that you can do this with a tutor:

  • Have the tutor read the story out loud
  • Have the tutor tell and retell the story in their own words
  • Have the tutor read the story and ask you questions based on each sentence, supplying the answers if you don’t know
  • Have the tutor point and describe the pictures in detail—what things are, what people are doing, what is happening
  • Have the tutor ask you many questions about the pictures—for example, how many people or animals are there

With your tutor’s permission, you can record them so that you can listen to them reading, retelling, and talking about the stories again later, helping you to pick up more of the language.

While you might not understand much of the story when it’s first read to you, you will find that after hearing it told and described again in many ways, when you listen to it again you may understand it far better.

If you and your tutor enjoy a story enough, you can come back to it again and again, with your tutor retelling it and talking about it in different ways.

This provides you with a kind of narrow listening, where you are listening to a lot of material about a topic that you understand and hearing the same vocabulary and themes again and again.

This kind of listening is great for providing a lot of comprehensible input because it is familiar and understandable, and interesting for you personally.

You may also find that such stories help you and your tutor to communicate in Khmer about other topics, because since both of you will become familiar with them, your tutor can refer back to them when talking about other things to provide examples and explanations.

If you use these stories with a Khmer tutor, please share in the comments how it goes for you.

Introducing Free “Mini-Stories” with Audio for Learning Khmer Through Listening

I’m happy to share with you a new set of free Khmer learning materials, which includes over 180 minutes of audio recordings with transcripts.

These materials comprise 60 short stories that are designed to help you pick up Khmer through listening with minimal effort.

The stories come from the collection of “Mini-Stories” that were created for the language-learning site LingQ and have been translated into many languages.

I’ve had them translated into Khmer and recorded so that Khmer language learners can now benefit from them.

You can find the materials here:

English text with Khmer translations:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1R54YcxL3Msu2RDeyaVsLfo1hUpdPyJpptEnR6EniweA/edit?usp=sharing

MP3 recordings of each Mini-Story:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1pqLTHfZkpPuf8ZwJ65Q7hmDvkJk4WhFP?usp=sharing

Contact me if you have any corrections, suggestions on formatting, or would like to contribute, for example by providing further recordings for this material, or are interested in creating and sharing similar material.

It would be helpful to hear these stories recorded with a variety of voices and speaking styles, and the more materials there are like this, the better.

How the Mini-Stories work

Mike Is A Cook Question Khmer
“Mike is a cook at a restaurant. Is Mike a cook? Yes, Mike is a cook at a restaurant.”

The stories provide a source of listening input that uses language in a highly repetitive yet meaningful way that’s different from ordinary language learning materials.

This repetition, achieved through retelling the stories using different perspectives and many questions, makes them easier to understand and makes it easier to remember and pick up the new words and structures that you hear.

Understanding the stories from different perspectives and answering the questions also helps train you to think in Khmer.

To better understand how they work, let’s look at the first Mini-Story in the series, called “Mike Is A Cook”.

The story is first told in the third person, telling us about Mike:

Mike gets up at 6:00am every morning. ម៉ៃក្រោកពីគេងនៅម៉ោង០៦.០០ព្រឹកជារៀងរាល់ព្រឹក។
He makes breakfast and drinks a coffee. គាត់ចំអិនអាហារពេលព្រឹក និងផឹកកាហ្វេ១កែវ។
He drives to work in his car. គាត់បើកឡានទៅធ្វើការ។
His work starts at 7:30am. ការងាររបស់គាត់ចាប់ផ្តើមនៅម៉ោង៧.៣០នាទីព្រឹក។
Mike is a cook at a restaurant. ម៉ៃជាចុងភៅនៅភោជនីយដ្ឋាន។
He makes food for hungry customers. គាត់ចំអិនអាហារអោយអតិថិជនដែលឃ្លានបាយ។
The customers are from many countries. អតិថិជនមកពីប្រទេសជាច្រើនផ្សេងៗគ្នា។
They speak many different languages. ពូកគេនិយាយភាសាជាច្រើនខុសៗគ្នា។
Mike can meet many friendly people. ម៉ៃអាចជួបមនុស្សរួសរាយរាក់ទាក់ជាច្រើននាក់។
Mike is happy when he talks to the customers. ម៉ៃសប្បាយចិត្តនៅពេលគាត់និយាយាជាមួយអតិថិជនទាំងនោះ។

Next, we get to hear the same story told again, but this time in the first-person perspective, with Mike himself telling the story:

I get up at 6:00am every morning. ខ្ញុំក្រោកពីគេងនៅម៉ោង០៦.០០ព្រឹក ជារៀងរាល់ព្រឹក។
I make breakfast and drink a coffee. ខ្ញុំចំអិនអាហារពេលព្រឹក និងផឹកកាហ្វេ១កែវ។
I drive to work in my car. ខ្ញុំបើកឡានទៅធ្វើការ។
My work starts at 7:30am. ការងាររបស់ខ្ញុំចាប់ផ្តើមនៅម៉ោង៧.៣០នាទីព្រឹក។
I am a cook at a restaurant. ខ្ញុំជាចុងភៅ នៅភោជនីយដ្ឋាន។
I make food for hungry customers. ខ្ញុំចំអិនអាហារអោយអតិថិជនដែលឃ្លានបាយ។
The customers are from many different countries. អតិថិជនមកពីប្រទេសជាច្រើនផ្សេងៗគ្នា។
They speak many different languages. ពួកគេនិយាយភាសាជាច្រើនខុសៗគ្នា។
I can meet many friendly people. ខ្ញុំអាចជួបមនុស្សរួសរាយរាក់ទាក់ជាច្រើននាក់។
I am happy when I talk to the customers. ខ្ញុំសប្បាយចិត្តនៅពេលខ្ញុំនិយាយជាមួយអតិថិជនទាំងនោះ។

Finally, we hear the story again, but this time, each sentence of the story is followed by a question, with the answer given right after:

Questions: សំណួរៈ
1) Mike wakes up at 6:00am every morning. ១) ម៉ៃក្រោកពីគេងនៅម៉ោង០៦.០០ព្រឹក ជារៀងរាល់ព្រឹក។
Does Mike wake up early? តើម៉ៃភ្ញាក់ដឹងខ្លួនពីព្រលឹមឬ?
Yes, Mike wakes up at 6:00am every morning. បាទ ម៉ៃភ្ញាក់នៅម៉ោង០៦.០០ព្រឹក ជារៀងរាល់ព្រឹក។
2) Mike drinks a coffee. ២) ម៉ៃផឹកកាហ្វេ០១កែវ។
Does Mike drink a tea? តើម៉ៃផឹកតែឬ?
No, Mike does not drink a tea, he drinks a coffee. ទេ ម៉ៃអត់ផឹកតែទេ គាត់ផឹកកាហ្វេ។
3) Mike drives his car to work. ៣) ម៉ៃបើកឡានទៅធ្វើការ។
Does Mike drive his car to work? តើម៉ៃបើកឡានទៅធ្វើការឬ?
Yes, Mike drives his car to work. បាទ ម៉ៃបើកឡានទៅធ្វើការ។
4) Mike’s work starts at 7:30am. ៤) ការងាររបស់ម៉ៃចាប់ផ្តើមនៅម៉ោង៧.៣០នាទីព្រឹក។
Does Mike’s work start at 7:00am? តើការងាររបស់ម៉ៃចាប់ផ្តើមនៅម៉ោង៧.០០ព្រឹកឬ?
No, Mike’s work does not start at 7:00am. ទេ ការងាររបស់ម៉ៃមិនមែនចាប់ផ្តើមនៅម៉ោង៧.០០ព្រឹកទេ
It starts at 7:30am. វាចាប់ផ្តើមនៅម៉ោង០៧.៣០នាទីព្រឹក។
5) Mike is a cook at a restaurant. ៥) ម៉ៃជាចុងភៅនៅភោជនីយដ្ឋាន។
Is Mike a cook? តើម៉ៃជាចុងភៅឬ?
Yes, Mike is a cook at a restaurant. បាទ ម៉ៃជាចុងភៅនៅភោជនីយដ្ឋាន។
6) The customers are from many different countries. ៦) អតិថិជនមកពីប្រទេសជាច្រើនផ្សេងៗគ្នា។
Are the customers from one country? តើអតិថិជនទាំងអស់មកពីប្រទេសតែមួយឬ?
No, the customers are not from one country. ទេ អតិថិជនទាំងអស់មិនមែនមកពីប្រទេសតែមួយទេ។
They are from many different countries. ពួកគេមកពីប្រទេសជាច្រើនផ្សេងៗគ្នា
7) The customers are friendly. ៧) អតិថិជនទាំងអស់នោះរួសរាយរាក់ទាក់។
Are the customers friendly? តើអតិថិជនទាំងអស់នោះរួសរាក់ទាក់?
Yes, the customers are friendly. បាទ អតិថិជនទាំងអស់នោះរួសរាយរាក់ទាក់។
8) Mike feels happy when he talks to the customers. ៨) ម៉ៃមានអារម្មណ៍សប្បាយចិត្តនៅពេលគាត់និយាយជាមួយអតិថិជនទាំងអស់នោះ។
Does Mike feel happy when he talks to the customers? តើម៉ៃមានអារម្មណ៍សប្បាយចិត្តឬ នៅពេលគាត់និយាយជាមួយអតិថិជនទាំងអស់នោះ?
Yes, Mike feels happy when he talks to the customers. បាទ ម៉ៃមានអារម្មណ៍សប្បាយចិត្តនៅពេលគាត់និយាយជាមួយអតិថិជនទាំងអស់នោះ

All of the Mini-Stories follow this basic structure of the story told twice from different perspectives followed by a series of questions, but the higher levels add more variations.

For example, instead of just first-person then third-person, the first two stories might be told with a different pair of perspectives, such as third person singular, then third person plural, where another character is included.

Questions go from simple yes/no questions in the first level to questions asking who, what, when, where, and why.

In later stories they also can shift perspective, for example by putting the story in the past or in the future.

To pick up words and structures in a language and use them naturally, you need to hear them many times and often in different contexts.

The different perspectives and many questions provide a lot of repetition to help you achieve this, and they train you to think in Khmer.

Using the Mini-Stories to learn Khmer

The LingQ Approach

The LingQ website and app are built around listening to materials in the language you’re learning with transcripts that you can study by highlighting and saving words to learn what they mean and review them.

The approach advocates spending a lot of time listening repeatedly to interesting content in the language you’re learning on your smartphone or MP3 player, and spending some time on the site reviewing the transcripts and learning new words to gain better understanding of what you’re listening to.

The idea is by becoming familiar with the language, its patterns, and how words are used through listening a lot first, you will gradually be able to speak more and more without a lot of effort.

The freemium site covers and includes content for many languages, but like most Southeast Asian languages, Khmer is not among them yet.

You can replicate the LingQ approach somewhat using the transcripts of the Mini-Stories in Google Sheets.

For example by using Chrome’s Google Translate plugin, you can highlight an word or phrase you don’t know in Khmer and get an English translation.

By repeatedly listening to the recordings while looking up unknown words in between, the meaning of what one is listening to should become clearer and clearer over time.

It’s probably possible to start as a complete beginner with this approach and these kinds of recordings and gain a good comprehension of them, however, many total newbies to Khmer who don’t know a related language may find this daunting, especially having to deal with the Khmer script.

For these beginning learners, it may be advisable to start with simpler listening materials and other exposure to become more familiar with the language first.

Compatibility with the ALG approach

While using the Mini-Stories as part of learning Khmer can be compatible with the Automatic Language Growth approach that was used by LINK (Language Institute of Natural Khmer—unrelated to LingQ although the acronym is pronounced the same way), there are some aspects of the ALG approach that should be noted.

Both the ALG approach and LingQ’s approach put great emphasis on learning through comprehensible input by listening to the language one is learning in a way that’s both highly interesting and understandable.

While the LingQ approach encourages using translation to learn new words, ALG advocates picking up words through context, especially real-life experience and meaningful happenings, for picking up words, and wants learners to avoid entirely the use of translation in their language acquisition.

The goal of ALG is to have learners of any age, starting from scratch, come as close as possible to native-like abilities in their second language, being able to use it practically as well as if it were their first language.

ALG argues that using abilities gained with maturity to study and think about language interfere with this, and explains why adult language learners tend to do worse than children.

In this view, using translation to understand and learn a language would produce a different and less native-like representation of language than learning through context.

It should be said that LingQ’s use of translation is about understanding the overall meaning of interesting texts, rather than focusing on memorizing individual words.

It thus has common ground with the ALG approach in the idea that words should be learned through hearing and understanding the word in context many times.

The difficulty in applying the ALG approach of learning a language from the start without looking up or translating words is that, as with most languages, very little material or teaching exists in Khmer that is interesting for adult learners while providing enough context to pick up the language.

LINK provided teaching like this, however, it closed in 2016.

One compromise in learning using the Mini-Stories could be to become familiar with the stories by reading them first in English (or the various translations if they exist in one’s native language), and then later listening to them in Khmer.

This would boost one’s comprehension of the stories while avoiding the use of direct translation.

Research finds that we generally remember the meaning of what we read and hear, while most details like the exact wording are discarded from memory.

That suggests such an approach of more indirect use of translation might largely avoid the problems that ALG seeks to avoid of prematurely making connections with words in one’s native language.

Using the Mini-Stories to teach English in Cambodia

If you are teaching English in Cambodia, your students may find the English versions of the Mini-Stories useful.

You can find them on LingQ.com and download them (registration required):

As with learners in many countries, many Cambodian students may have studied English academically and therefore know a lot of vocabulary and grammar but struggle to naturally understand and speak the language.

Listening to materials like the Mini-Stories, with their use of variation and repetition, and especially their use of questions and answers, can be helpful in training these learners to think in English.

Limitations

This set of Mini-Stories, while not being tied to any specific country’s culture, contain a lot of content that’s based in experiences in Western or developed countries, and as such it’s not really reflective of everyday life for most Cambodians.

This may actually be beneficial for many foreign learners who may find the content more familiar than content originating in Cambodia, and thus comprehend more, but it would be good to have further content like this that also reflects everyday life and situations in Cambodia

Although not in the format as the Mini-Stories, a lot of listening content discussing life in Cambodia this is available from Aakanee.com, which I introduced in a previous post.

Contribute

It would be helpful to have more recordings for these stories so that learners can hear different speakers of Khmer and different styles of speaking—for example, male and female, young and old, fast and slow, soft and cute or loud and exaggerated, and so on.

Hearing a language spoken by multiple speakers is very helpful for acquiring the language, especially when the sounds of the language are very different from one’s own, as is the case with Khmer for speakers of Western languages.

If you are interested in contributing or sharing recordings or other material like this, please get in touch.

Free Khmer Language Learning Materials

If you’re learning Khmer and looking for resources to help you pick up the Cambodian language, you must check out the site aakanee.com.

This site contains a large and growing collection of resources for picking up Khmer and other languages, namely Thai and Isaan, through listening to and understanding content in the language.

For Khmer learners, the site features a collection of nearly 30 hours of audio by two Khmer speakers giving detailed descriptions of illustrations about everyday life in Southeast Asia (the site’s name, Aakanee, means “southeastern” in Khmer, as in អាស៊ី​អា​គ្នេ​យ៏, the term for Southeast Asia).

If you’re at an intermediate level or even are a beginner who knows some vocabulary, you should be able to follow the recordings while looking at the corresponding pictures and pick up language from them.

The speakers talk about the pictures in great detail and also give additional commentary on life and customs in Cambodia relating to the illustrations.

The site also has a collection audio recordings of Khmer speakers talking about different topics and telling stories about their lives.

Even more advanced learners will probably be able to pick up a lot of new vocabulary from the recordings on this site.

There are also transcripts of many of the recordings, and even a growing dictionary and corpus.

For complete beginners who want to pick up Khmer through comprehensible input without other study, the audio materials are likely to be too advanced to pick up language from efficiently at their level.

They might instead have a tutor describe pictures they like with simpler language and record these descriptions. They can have their Khmer tutor point to what they are talking about in the picture so they know what they are talking about.

Besides the illustrations, there are collections of images of everyday vocabulary and communication situations in Khmer. So far these don’t have accompanying recordings, but they could also be used with a tutor or any Khmer speaker who can provide descriptions.

The site was inspired in part by the Automatic Language Growth (ALG) approach, which was used by LINK (Language Institute of Natural Khmer) to teach Khmer in Phnom Penh until it closed down in 2016, and the AUA Thai Program, which has been teaching Thai in Bangkok with the method since the mid-1980s.