The Value of Trying to Learn a Not-So Dying Language

Have questions or resources regarding Khmer Culture? This forum is all about the Kingdom of Cambodia's culture. Khmer language, Cambodian weddings, French influence, Cambodian architecture, Cambodian politics, Khmer customs, etc? This is the place. Living in Cambodia can cause you to experience a whole new level of culture shock, so feel free to talk about all things related to the Khmer people, and their traditions. And if you want something in Khmer script translated into English, you will probably find what you need.
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The Value of Trying to Learn a Not-So Dying Language

Postby FreeSocrates! » Sat Jun 07, 2014 11:41 am

I’m not fluent, nor am I expert. I maybe know 200 words (not counting numbers) and 30 phrases. Anyways I think I’ve learned alot from this experience so here are 13 reasons to learn a “Not-So Dying Language”:

1) It gives you something to do that doesn’t include drinking (though it can also include drinking).

2) I believe you understand a culture more, by understanding the language. I always sensed on those short rides to and from Phnom Penh from the Airport that Khmers just "perceived the world differently". As I learn more and more, I realize how true this really is. The very way they perceive the world is completely different to Western Consciousness. It's like learning to drive a different type of vehicle only you’re doing it inside your head and with your ears and mouth.

3) Making and hearing sounds that you've never made before is a very difficult thing to do, but it humbles you somewhat. You learn the word and then you think you know it, then you practice it 50 times and then try to say it to a local and realize you were missing just a tiny nuance in the sound. The range of sounds that you are capable of making and hearing expand.

4) You can talk to locals (or at least attempt it). Seems obvious, but they very much appreciate your efforts. In fact I'd go as far to say that you get more respect because of it. It takes a bit of gusto to learn a foreign language and then go out and attempt to interact with it. You know you’re going to fail, because it's the only way to learn.

5) The comedic side effects of getting everything wrong. It always makes for some interesting conversations. Cambodians will laugh, help you and appreciate all your efforts at even attempting it.

6) For me it's always been fun to learn new things. In fact I'm generally not happy unless I'm learning something new.

7) It's cheap. For as little as $5 an hour (one on one with a teacher) you can start learning. Get a group of people together and it’s even cheaper.

8 - You can pick up some basics fast. After a few hours of learning words, I was able to, however crudely – direct a Tuk Tuk or Moto Dop back to my home, using only Khmer.

9) It could be a starting point for learning other languages. Everyone tells me that Thai is 50% the same language as Khmer, so if the day ever comes that I decide to trade in my shirt for a bus ticket to Pattaya I will have a head start on Thai too. I still can’t roll my ‘r’s but if I ever sounds like these, the sound making skills are definitely transferable to other languages.

10) Since starting to learn Khmer, I realized how much fun it is to learn a new language, and even if I don't ever fully learn Khmer (I don't really have a time table of how long I'll be here), it will hopefully get me into the rhythm of learning other languages if I ever move to another country.

11) It keeps me from getting drunk every night. And when I do get drunk I get to bump into locals the next day and hear them say, “You speak Khmer so good last night!" And then I pretend like it was merely the effects of the alcohol and that I don't in fact know any Khmer.

“I dunno Khmer, only when I drink can I speak it”.

12) You don’t need to know that much for locals to be like “You speak Khmer so good!”

13) I don’t think it will ever fully die out. Since the French first came here and tried to unsuccessfully Romanize the alphabet, (like they did successfully in Vietnam), and probably before this Khmers have always been a multilingual bunch. There are people in border towns on all sides of the Country that are fluent and know Lao, Thai or Vietnamese.
The cedar roasted asparagus has good chew. I don't know how to enjoy it, so I'll Instagram it instead.
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Re: The Value of Trying to Learn a Not-So Dying Language

Postby OrangeDragon » Sat Jun 07, 2014 12:04 pm

You don’t need to know that much for locals to be like “You speak Khmer so good!”
I think this has a lot to do with just getting the pronunciation right on the few words you DO know. That's what seems to please them the most, lol.

I also speak khmer much better when drinking... I think because I'm less inhibited about making a mistake so I'm more likely to try words I'd usually not have the confidence yet to try.
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Re: The Value of Trying to Learn a Not-So Dying Language

Postby Barang_doa_slae » Sat Jun 07, 2014 1:45 pm

I agree with most points being made by OP but can't help to say that for a Canadian, he very much sounds like an American :lol:
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Re: The Value of Trying to Learn a Not-So Dying Language

Postby OrangeDragon » Sat Jun 07, 2014 1:53 pm

Barang_doa_slae wrote:I agree with most points being made by OP but can't help to say that for a Canadian, he very much sounds like an American :lol:
They're really the same thing... ;-)

51st state.
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Re: The Value of Trying to Learn a Not-So Dying Language

Postby FreeSocrates! » Sat Jun 07, 2014 1:58 pm

Canada is the place where Hollywood goes when they need a backdrop for a nice suburban neighborhood.

:shock:
The cedar roasted asparagus has good chew. I don't know how to enjoy it, so I'll Instagram it instead.
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Re: The Value of Trying to Learn a Not-So Dying Language

Postby StroppyChops » Sat Jun 07, 2014 1:59 pm

Good post, FS! +100 Internets.
Bodge: This ain't Kansas, and the neighbours ate Toto!
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Re: The Value of Trying to Learn a Not-So Dying Language

Postby OrangeDragon » Sat Jun 07, 2014 2:01 pm

FreeSocrates! wrote:Canada is the place where Hollywood goes when they need a backdrop for a nice suburban neighborhood.

:shock:
just like new zealand is where they do when they need one that looks like a medieval world full of hobbits.
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Re: The Value of Trying to Learn a Not-So Dying Language

Postby FreeSocrates! » Sat Jun 07, 2014 2:05 pm

OrangeDragon wrote:I think this has a lot to do with just getting the pronunciation right on the few words you DO know. That's what seems to please them the most, lol.
So true.
StroppyChops wrote:Good post, FS! +100 Internets.
Thanks Chief. I dunno but you seem like a Chief, not a "dude" or a "man". :beer3:
OrangeDragon wrote:just like new zealand is where they do when they need one that looks like a medieval world full of hobbits.
LMAO!
The cedar roasted asparagus has good chew. I don't know how to enjoy it, so I'll Instagram it instead.
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Re: The Value of Trying to Learn a Not-So Dying Language

Postby StroppyChops » Sat Jun 07, 2014 2:07 pm

FreeSocrates! wrote:
StroppyChops wrote:Good post, FS! +100 Internets.
Thanks Chief. I dunno but you seem like a Chief, not a "dude" or a "man". :beer3: !
LOL! Anything but 'bahs'
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Re: The Value of Trying to Learn a Not-So Dying Language

Postby Bitte_Kein_Lexus » Sat Jun 07, 2014 2:21 pm

Nice thread. I agree with all your points (except the drinking part). #2 is especially true I think. Culture and language are so closely linked that I doubt one could talk of culture without language. #3 is also true. Some sounds are just so foreign to westerners. I don't think it's possible to not have an accent. #7 is also true. I've learned Spanish, German and Russian and they were all obviously expensive compared to Khmer. I've thought about learning Vietnamese or Chinese while here, just because costs are so much lower, but I simply don't have the time or motivation anymore, lol. Still, knowing one could learn basic Chinese or Viet for dirt cheap is nice. I've always loved languages though. It's cool to learn the intricacies of languages and their uniqueness. It's also very true that each language has some things that simply can't be translated. There's also tons of scientific literature on the benefits of learning a language (the connections it makes in your brain and so on).

As for #13, I don't think the French really tried hard to romanize Khmer. Vietnamese used adapted Chinese characters prior to the arrival of the misssionaries who developed it and the French who enforced it, but it seems romanization really helped promote litteracy. Meanwhile, the French didn't introduce romanization in Cambodia until the 40s and the Japanese invasion quickly put an end to that. I don't know about Vietnamese, but Khmer is pretty difficult to romanize accurately so the French might have had it on the back-burner priority-wise because Khmer script was fairly good compared to using Chinese characters for Vietnamese. Not only in terms of pronunciation, but also the time it takes to master. Maybe some history experts could chime in (Lucky Lucan doesn't post here unfortunately).
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