How can you connect with your Khmer-speaking customers? The best way is to speak their native language, of course. The problem is you can’t speak, read or understand Khmer. In that case, it may be the right time to learn the language. If not, you can always hire Khmer translation services for your needs.
Cambodia is a country with nearly 17 million people located in Southeast Asia. It is neighbors with countries such as Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Its citizens call themselves Cambodians, and the country’s official language is Khmer. It is the language of the Khmer people, one of the largest ethnic groups in Cambodia. Khmer is Cambodia’s official language spoken by almost 90% of the population.
It is used in the government, education (all levels), and the media, including everyday communication. It is second only to the Vietnamese language out of all commonly spoken Austroasiatic language. Like other languages, Khmer is heavily influenced by other languages. Sanskrit and Pali are among the languages that have had a huge impact on the development of the Khmer language.
History of the Khmer Language
There are other languages spoken in Cambodia, but most people speak Khmer. It’s to the point that people think of it as the Cambodian language itself. The history of the Khmer language is spread among five main periods, though only the last four are considered to be the most distinctive.
These linguistic periods are:
There were few words and phrases recorded during this period due to it being mainly spoken language than written language. This was around the 14th to the 18th centuries when so much exchanging and borrowing of languages happened with other countries.
Pre-Angkorian Old Khmer
This period was during the 7th to the 8th century when old Khmer dominated the Khmer Empire. The language then was largely influenced by Sanskrit. The Pre-Angkorian Old Khmer was also considered the oldest attested stage of the language.
Angkorian Old Khmer
The Angkor period began in the 9th until the 15th century. This period during the Khmer language’s life was when surrounding countries severely influenced it. It was the second stage of the Old Khmer period until the empire weakened.
This was during the 16th to the 18th century when the Khmer language experienced numerous changes as a result of Thai and Lao influences. It was a period of transition when the language changed phonology, lexicon, and morphology.
Modern Khmer was the language spoken in the 1800s and is essentially the same as today even after 200 years. It was when Cambodia was about to fall into French colonialism, resulting in French as the then language of the intellectual class and that of higher education.
The current Khmer language has undergone massive changes for many centuries. It was due to becoming standardized as the language for official and government matters. Because of these changes, the older Khmer language is quite hard to understand even by people who are fluent or are native Khmer speakers.
The knowledge of how the language developed is vital information that helps translators. With it, experts can ensure they provide Khmer translation that is accurate and not literal transliteration. This means converting your text into Khmer results in a natural translation that your audience will easily understand.
Varieties of the Khmer Language
Besides the difference between the Khmer language from various linguistic periods, there are also varieties of the Khmer language. Different regions in Cambodia and Khmer-speaking neighboring countries differ slightly from each other. The existing varieties/dialects of Khmer are:
- Standard Khmer – It is also known as Central Khmer, which the people in central Cambodia spoke. This variety is also used as the language of instruction.
- Khmer khe – This is the dialect spoken in northern Cambodia, specifically in Stung Treng Province.
- Phnom Penh Khmer – This dialect is the language used in Phnom Penh and neighboring areas.
- Western Khmer – It is the Khmer variety spoken in western Cambodia. They also speak this dialect in eastern Thailand.
- Northern Khmer – This variety of Khmer is the language by some people in northeast Thailand.
- Southern Khmer – This is the dialect that some people use in southwest Vietnam.
The Standard Khmer is the variety spoken by the intellectual class, especially in bigger cities such as Phnom Penh. Being more common, it is mutually intelligible with other varieties of the language. However, not all dialects of Khmer are mutually intelligible, especially Northern Khmer, which has separated from Standard Khmer centuries ago.
The Khmer Alphabet
The alphabet of the Khmer language originated from ancient India’s Brahmi script. Khmer descended from this script through the Pallava script used both in South East Asia and southern India around the 5th to 6th centuries. The Khmer alphabet is also quite similar to the Lao and Thai alphabet because it also developed from these alphabets.
Khmer is syllabic, where every consonant comes in two forms. One of the Khmer alphabet’s most distinct features is it does not have spaces in between words. The spaces instead end a clause or a sentence, thus serving as the period in the English language. Many Khmer words also have more than one spelling due to standardization.
Khmer can be Romanized in various ways, which is why a Khmer translation can be complicated. If you have no prior knowledge of the language, simply using online translators might not result to correct transliteration. It is best to hire a native or professional translator who can convert your texts into correct translations.
Is it Hard to Learn Khmer?
Khmer is a Category II language, which means it has significant cultural and linguistic differences from the English language. Learning this language can take more time, making it one of the more difficult languages to learn along with Estonian, Tamil, or Vietnamese. It goes to say it is considerably harder to learn for English speakers.
If you wish to learn Khmer, you cannot use the grammar/pronunciation approach. Instead, your focus must be on listening and speaking because Khmer seems like it does not have grammar. It does have one, although it is quite basic and so is easier to learn. Another important aspect of the language is the limited describers and indicators.
For instance, Khmer does not use numbers directly. There is no use of one, two, or three when indicating amounts or numbers. The language instead uses word equivalents such as “all,” “some,” or “few.” Even the gender is not specific, instead opting to use word equivalents such as “female” because the language does not have a word for “girl.”
This shows that translating into Khmer or vice versa will be tough for beginners or mere translator tools. If you need an accurate translation in smooth, natural delivery, someone who can understand the nuance of the language is ideal. An expert translator who is a native speaker or someone who has learned the language is your best choice.
What Can a Khmer Translation Service Offer?
You will find hundreds, if not thousands, of firms offering online translation. But even with that number, it is difficult to find a reliable translation company. But if you do find one, you can take advantage of accurate translation of texts from English to Khmer and vice versa. It’s a good thing Bunny Studio’s translation services can help you with this.
Translation of Documents
Learning Khmer takes some time, so in the meantime, you can enlist the help of Khmer translators. Bunny Studio’s translators can help you convert documents into Khmer or a Khmer document into other languages. This translation service works for various industries such as legal, medicine, education, and more.
The advantage of Bunny Studio is we have various Khmer translators specializing in a specific industry. That means there is someone you can consult in translating legal documents necessary for immigration applications. There are also medically-trained translators, educators, and others that are familiar with various project.
Localization for Marketing Campaigns
There are plenty of advantages to localizing your marketing content. While English is a universally recognized language, many people still don’t understand it. If you plan to start a business in Cambodia, it’s a big help to translate your marketing materials into the local language.
By doing this, your audience can understand you better. It means you can convey your message correctly without the risk of misinterpretation. Of course, a big aspect of this is choosing a reliable translator. It has to be someone who understands the uniqueness of Khmer and speaks the language fluently.
Interpretation with Proper Terminology
One of the biggest pitfalls when translating using online tools is the use of proper terminology. Online translator tools are often unable to provide an exact interpretation of a document or text appropriate to the topic or industry. A human translator can help with this, which is what the specialized translators in Bunny Studio do.
They can help you convert a document, email, print, or any other text into Khmer with the right legal, medical or business terminologies. Thanks to fluent Khmer translators, you can rest assured to receive a properly translated project. This means less trouble on your part since you no longer have to spend time correcting the translation.
Subtitling for Audios and Videos
Bunny Studio translation does not only convert documents into Khmer. We also provide Khmer subtitling to audios and videos. If you aim to make it easier for your Cambodian audience to understand your videos without changing the audio, then you can simply add Khmer subtitles.
You can send us your videos and let our translators create a subtitle for them. We can even directly encode the subtitles with help from our video editors. Besides adding a Khmer subtitle, you can have it dubbed into Khmer. Not only will you be able to get the attention of your audience this way, but also ensure they understand you.
Bunny Studio Khmer Translation at Your Service
There is a great demand right now for Khmer translation, thanks to the rapidly expanding global client base. It will do you well to hire translation services not only for business, but education, immigration, and other needs. Bunny Studio’s attention to detail and competitive rates can help you both in certified and unofficial translations.