A Guide To Khmer Translation

Caitlin Nicholson

Guide to Khmer

Cambodia is a nation located in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by Thailand to the northwest, Laos to the northeast, Vietnam to the east, and the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest.

Khmer language (Cambodian) is the official language of Cambodia and the language of the Khmer people. Khmer is a member of the Austroasiatic language family, like Vietnamese. There are about 16 million native speakers worldwide.

Written Khmer

Khmer is written using Khmer script – an abugida (alphasyllabic) writing system. This means that letters are made by combining a consonant sound with a vowel sound. Sentences are written with no spaces between words. There are more letters in Khmer than any other alphabet. There are 33 consonants and 23 vowels that can change the consonants, along with 12 additional independent vowels. This makes learning to write Khmer very challenging.

Spoken Khmer

There are many dialects of Khmer language. Most of the Khmer people speak Central Khmer. Central Khmer is what is taught in schools and used in the media. Phnom Penh Khmer is the dialect that is spoken in Cambodia’s capital – Phnom Penh. Another dialect of Khmer spoken in Cambodia is Khmer Khe, spoken in the northeast province of Cambodia know as Steung Treng. Outside of Cambodia, Northern Khmer is spoken in Northeast Thailand while Southern Khmer is spoken by Khmer people living in Vietnam. Western Khmer is spoken by Khmer people that live in the Cardamom Mountain border region of Western Cambodia and East Central Thailand.

Khmer Language

In 2015, the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Cambodian Ministry of Education launched a campaign to promote literacy in Cambodia. According to a 2008 census, the literacy rate in Cambodia was about 77.6% among people ages 15 and over.

According to United States Census data, there are over 300,000 people of Cambodian descent living in the United States. The top five states (in terms of concentration) are Rhode Island, California, Washington, California, and Minnesota. There is a significant population of Cambodian Americans living in Lowell, Massachusetts, where over 13% of the population is of Cambodian descent.

Whether you are looking to have a document translated from Khmer into English, or if you are looking for an English to Khmer translation, it is important to work with a qualified translator who is a native speaker of the target language.

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