My name is Mony. I am originally form Battambang. I have been a guide at Soksabike for four years. Soksabike is a social enterprise tour company in Battambang. I graduated from a university in Battambang in 2013. My major was Khmer literature and I focused on literature and history. I have shared what I learned with all the guests who come on tour with Soksabike. I want to share some information about learning Khmer with you too. I want you to try to speak some Khmer words on your trip. Feel free to practice the words with locals, we’re very friendly and it might end with you having more fun on your holiday.
I remember when I first started my English class. I sat in the class. I had no idea what that weird writing was. One of my classmates was able to read it. I ask myself, how come? It was only drawing for me. After I had started for a while, I got some of the spelling. I tried to speak but it was not with the correct pronunciation. It was K-english. K-english is English-Khmer pronunciation. You might not understand K-english even though you are native English speaker, but don’t worry with a lot of practice and by practicing with foreigners my English is now very good. So there is no reason to be afraid of learning and speaking any local languages when you are on holiday. My fellow tour guides and I have all gone through the process and would love to help you learn. It is not about right or wrong, it is about experiencing. It will be more fun with those mistakes and the connections you make with locals.
Now I will share some simple words and phrases that might be useful for you to use when you are in Cambodia.
Hello and Goodbye:
Cambodian people have a strong cultural heritage and some of this is represented in the language through greetings. They love what they have been practicing and keep passing these traditions on to new generations. For example, the way to greet each other is different depending on the ages and ranks of the people in the society. There are two words for Hello and there are two words for Goodbye.
We can say Hello and Goodbye in two ways, Su S’dey or Chumreap Su, Lea hey or Chumreap Lea.
Su S’dey is normally used between friends to say “hello” in Cambodia. When people say this word, they don’t do any gesture. It is used like Hello or Hi. Lea Hey is also used in this situation for saying goodbye. These words are not formal ways of greeting in Cambodia. When people visit someone’s house or meet people older than them, a teacher or an officer, they would never use the word Su S’dey. They would use the word Chumreap Su instead.
Chumreap Su is the formal word for Cambodian’s greeting. When people say this word, they always do hand-gestures at the same time. The hand gesture is called Som Peah. Som Peah is putting your left and right palms face to face together. The Som Peah is put higher and higher depending on ages and ranks of people when they say Chumreap Su. They put Som Peah on their chest for greeting to people who younger or their friend, and putting on the mouth for elder, on the nose for parents and master, in between their eyebrow for monk and the last one is on forehead for praying. Chumreap Lea is the formal way to say goodbye. It is used in the same situation as Chumreap Su.
Orkun / Thank you
We say Orkun for thank you. Sometimes, people say Orkun Jren to express to their feeling that they really thanks for that offering or helping. It also shows how it is important the offering is.
Soksaby / How are you?
Soksabay is a common greeting used before getting into the real conversation. Soksabay is the short cut of the sentence of “How Are You?” in Khmer. The real sentence is Teu Neak Soksaby Te? To be easier people say Soksabay? Soksabay has three different meanings. Soksabay means “How are you?”, “I’m fine”, and “have a good day with blessings.” So a common response to someone asking you “Soksabay” is “Soksabay”. When you are here, you might hear kids say hello to you using Soksabay. For this situation you can use Soksabay instead of the hello back to them. They will be appreciated that.