Khmer language

Austroasiatic language of Cambodia

Khmer is the official language of Cambodia. It is spoken by the Khmer people, who live in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and many other countries. Its script was the base for the Thai script, although Thai does not use subscript consonants.

Pronunciationpʰiːəsaː kʰmaːe
Native toCambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, USA, France, Australia
Native speakers
16 million (2007)[1]
1 million L2 speakers[2]
Khmer script (abugida)
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1km
ISO 639-2khm
ISO 639-3Either:
khm – Central Khmer
kxm – Northern Khmer

One thing that makes it particularly difficult for many foreigners to learn is that Khmer words are not separated in a sentence and the sounds are quite hard for foreigners to replicate. But still each word in the sentence can be distinguished. Also, there is not much material on Khmer, although this situation is changing.



The Khmer script is based on an ancient Indian alphabet. It is written from left to right. There are 35 consonants, some of which can be written under other consonants (2 consonants are not used anymore). Vowels are combined with the consonants to make a sound. For example, the "t" sound ត​ can be combined with the "-ah" sound ​ា to make the word តា (tah, which means grandfather).

The Khmer writing script also has its own special way of writing numbers. The Khmer numerals are ០១២៣៤៥៦៧៨៩.



The language has a subject-verb-object order, just like English.

Pronouns change based on who you are speaking to. For example, if you are not a monk and you are speaking to a monk, you would call him "ព្រះតេជព្រះគុណ".




"I don't want it"


"Do you want to go to Siem Reap?"


  1. Nationalencyklopedin "Världens 100 största språk 2007" The World's 100 Largest Languages in 2007
  2. Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Entry for Khmer