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Speaking like the Locals do: Basic Cambodian Phrases for Beginners

basic Cambodian phrases guide

Susadei! Our Top Basic Cambodian Phrases for Practical Use

It won’t take long to learn these basic Cambodian phrases, thank us later.

From Angkor Wat to the Andaman Sea, you’ll need some basic Cambodian phrases to see you through your trip. Our quick start to Cambodian will get you feeling more integrated into the culture and bring you a shedload of smiles from the locals. Furthermore, don’t forget that the local language is known as Khmer. So without further ado:

Cambodian Greetings and Politeness 

Being polite in a foreign country is a surefire way to get people to see the friendly side of you. By making a small effort the returns could be bountiful:

Chom Reap Sour (chom-reap-sore) – Hello (formal)

The people of Cambodia are well known for their respect and politeness to each other, if you’re meeting someone for the first time, speaking to an elder or person in a position of authority this is the greeting to use.

Susadei (Soos-a-day) – Hello (informal)

The more informal version of hello, use this with friends that you’ve made and people you’re meeting in the bar.

 Chom Reap Lear (chom-reep-lear) – Good bye (formal)

As with above but at the end of a meeting or conversation with someone in a position of respect.

Lee hi (lee-hi) – Good bye (informal)

Funnily enough Cambodians don’t really use Good bye at the end of conversations. In fact, once information has been passed during phone calls they simply hang up. No need for small talk here.

Bah (bah) / Yes (male) – Jah (chaa)/ Yes (female) – Ot Teh (ot-tei)/ No

The straight forward yes and no. Using the no will certainly help in avoiding pushy taxis.

Arkun (Ar-koon) – Thank you

This is the classic and most useful phrase you’ll need within your trip to Cambodia. Thank you costs nothing and always produces a smile. 

basic Cambodian phrases

Asking for direction in Khmer

Whether you’re attempting to find your way around a city, some ruins or in a tuk tuk that’s rapidly speeding past where you want to stop!

Chop (chop) / Stop

Very handy when in a taxi or tuk tuk. Get a som in there before hand (please) and you’ll be polite too!

Tini (tinny) – here

Can be used by itself or combined with the above.

Helpful Khmer Phrases for Ordering Food

Chhnang (ch-nang) – Delicious

Don’t hold back on this one. The local Cambodians simply adore eating and if they’re not eating they’re talking about eating and complimenting the hosts food. A quick Chhang will show your appreciation for sure.

Som ket loy (som-ket-loy) – The bill please

Handy at the end of the restaurant. Don’t feel obliged to use the som as Cambodians actually rarely use please, you won’t be considered impolite.

Counting to 10 in Khmer

Get yourself used to numbers, after all you want to get used to ordering rounds of beers right?

Moi, bee, bai, boum, bram, bram moi, bram bee, bram boum, dop – 1-10

Basic phrases in Khmer, a start

This won’t have you holding extensive conversations with the locals, but they’ll appreciate the effort. They also won’t hold back in helping you out with your pronunciation if you’re not nailing it…

If you liked this guide, you’ll love our Thai language lessons!

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