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.