The official communication of Cambodia is Khmer, which is a language from the Austroasiatic family of languages found in Mainland Southeast Asia. From the 16 million speakers of the language, the majority speak a version known as Central Khmer. The capital Phnom Penh and the area of Khmer Khe in Stung Treng province speak a dialect that is different from Central Khmer. The language also has minority status in the neighbouring countries of Vietnam and Thailand. The Khmer language, when written, looks similar to Arabic or Hebrew with a distinctive Asian flair.

13 million Khmer language speakers live in Cambodia which makes up approximately 82 percent of the total population of the country. Although overwhelming numbers of Cambodian citizens speak the Khmer language, or regional variations of it, there are still minority languages within the nation including Chinese, English, French, Vietnamese, and other indigenous languages. Since 1993, English has become the fastest growing language in the country and has been introduced to the educational sector of Cambodian society as well as the street signs which display English and Khmer. English has replaced French as the official diplomatic language of the country as well as appearing on postage stamps and currency since 2002.

Thank you in Khmer is pronounced as aww-koon (similar to racoon) and is a useful one-word phrase to learn if visiting this country. Although the language looks complicated regarding characters and pronunciation, the phonetic presentation of the language becomes more comfortable with a small amount of practice. Tourism is a huge part of the Cambodian economy, and many locals working within this industry will have a firm grasp on English.

Minority languages in Cambodia include English and French, which are both educational languages in the country as well as Cham, Vietnamese, Tumpoon, Lao, Jarai, Yue Chinese, Teochew Chinese, and many other indigenous languages only found in rural areas. American Sign Language is also recognized as an official means of communication in the country. Although English is still considered a minority language in the country, it is slowly creeping into many areas of Cambodian society and institutions.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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