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Monday, January 28, 2008


Khmer Strine

People in nonEnglish-speaking countries who study English and then visit Australia must get quite a shock. They probably think they are going to be able to understand us. When an Australian says something to them like, 'Jagoda da footy onna weegen mite?' they probably don't know that they are being asked, 'Did you go to the football on the weekend my friend?'

Here in Asia I don't speak Strine, as we call our local English. No one would understand me. I speak slowly and enunciate each word clearly. And sometimes to keep it simple I talk Asian English.

Now that I have been studying Khmer regularly for three months you might expect that I could communicate with the nonEnglish-speaking Khmers. In fact I can have some pleasant conversations with anyone who is prepared to speak Khmer the way I speak English here, ie slowly and clearly. But many Khmers speak Khmer the way we Australians speak English. I've picked up some of it. For example, the word for house is pataya but it is commonly pronounced taya.

I still have trouble when I ask the price of something and someone says 'mbai roi'. Bai roi means three hundred. Eight hundred is pram bai roi. But often the word pram is shortened to a hardly discernible 'm'. But if I offer them 300 reil, they soon set me straight.

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