រៀនខ្មែរ // learning khmer // apprendre le khmer

23 August 2006

Ta Mok

I'm a bit perplexed by the fact that everyone seems to be calling Chhit Chœun, recently deceased without having been tried by the upcoming international Khmer Rouge leaders trial, by the alias “Ta” Mok.
Mok was already a long-time member of the KR Central Committee in 1975. Then, he was the main leader of the South-West zone of Democratic Kampuchea — the most ruthless zone of all according to historians, from where came the cadres that overthrew the East and North zones hierarchy during the late purges, because they were considered by the Centre too "nice" to their people (they were feeding them just enough not to die of starvation and extrem labor). Eventually, he was commander of the KR forces after 1979 until their final reddition. That man was second only to Pol Pot in terms of deliberate, and litterate, cruelty. If Duch was only Pol Pot's Eichmann, Mok probably was his Goering.
Now, “Ta” means grand-father in Khmer. The Cambodian culture is so oriented towards a respect of the clergy, the royalty and the elders (and more respect as you are more high-ranking, richer or older), that it obviously pervades Khmer vocabulary. Thus, “Ta” means grand-father in the strict sense, but this comes with an implicit tone of high respect. You say it to any old man, whether he is your actual grand-father or not, thus showing respect. Sihanouk, king-father of Cambodia, uses to say that his favourite honorary title is to be called by the petit peuple “Samdech Ta” : Sir Grand-Father.
I don't know from where this title came to Mok. Did his henchmen start calling him that when he reached old age ? But what I'm sure is that nobody in his right mind would want to give him — dead or alive — that kind of implicit and pregnant respect. As late as 1998, he still ordered to brutally kill innocent people as part of his fight for an agrarian slave-state in which he would be one of the reigning commanders.
I can resign myself to the fact that the mainstream press keeps calling him Ta Mok (along with perpetuating the lazy "close to two millions victims" anthem) : that's the way it works nowadays. But I'm perplexed that justice workers, NGO spokepersons and Cambodia-dwelling bloggers persist in giving him that title, grandpa.
Ben Kiernan, in his remarkable Pol Pot Regime essay — the reference if you're interested in the history of the Democratic Kampuchea, simply calls him Mok.
Shouldn't we all do the same ?

28 November 2005


Cambodian System of Writing is an english-speaking teaching manual for the Khmer language. It is now in the public domain, and can be freely downloaded.

06 November 2005


A few weeks ago, I wrote my first letter in Khmer, to thank someone from my step-family in Cambodia who bought and sent me a shirt from there. My (non-)fluency being what it is, the letter didn't mean anything to a native speaker (I guess it was what one call "pidgin" in English), but I asked a Khmer speaker to correct me. So here are extracts of the letter, but don't get fooled by the correctness of these complicated sentences ;).

ជូនចំពោះ បង... ជាទីនឹកលើក!
ខ្ងុំសុំអរគុណចំពោះអាវកត្រង់ដែសបងទាំងពីរ បានកាត់ផ្លើរទៅខ្ងុំ។ តម្រូវនឹងទម្រង់ត្រូវស្អាតណាសឥតខ្ចោះ។
ប្អូនទាំងពីរមានការនឹក នឹងមានអំណរគុណ ដល់បងទាំងពីរ ដែលបានទទួល ដ៏រាក់ទាក់ ប្អូនទាំងពីរនាឆ្នាំ ទៅដែលប្អូនទាំងពីរមកលេងនៅភ្នំពេញ។ បងទាំងពីរមានចិត្តសន្តានល្អ ដ៏ប្រពែល្អណាស់។
ប្អូនទាងពីរសុំសរសើរដល់ … ដែលបានប្រឡងជាប់ នឹងផ្លើរនូវការនឹកលើកដល់ស្រី…។
ខ្ងុំមានការសប្បាយក្នុងចិត្ត ដែលនឹងត្រូវបន្តការរៀនភាសាខ្មែរនាឆ្នាំទី៣។ តែដើម្បីសរសេរសំបុត្រនេះ ខ្ងុំសុំឲឪពុកជួយកែតម្រូវ។

ប្អូនទាំងពីរសុំអរគុណច្រើន នឹងជួបគ្នាគ្រោយទៀត!

19 September 2005


I'm trying to write a letter in Khmer. How would you say the 'Dear', as in 'Dear someone...', at the beginning of the letter ?

Later : I've found something in a book. It seems one uses a variation of :

ជូនចំពោះ+ someone +ជាទីនឹករលឹក
which means 'To + someone + whom I'm often thinking about'.
That will do.

14 August 2005



23 July 2005

Seen on a shop in Chinatown

ហាងមាស (shop + gold => jewelry)
មាសពេជ្រ (gold + diamond => jewels)

22 July 2005


Beth is Typing to learn Khmer. A must !

21 July 2005



17 July 2005

The Alphabets

ក ខ គ ឃ ង
ច ឆ ជ ឈ ញ
ដ ឋ ឌ ឍ ណ
ត ថ ទ ធ ន
ប ផ ព ភ ម
យ រ ល វ
ស ហ ឡ អ

ា ិ ី ឹ ឺ ុ ូ ួ
ើ ឿ ៀ េ ែ ៃ
ោ ៅ ុំ ំ ាំ
ះ ុះ េះ ោះ

So, that's 56 "regular" letters, making it one of the largest alphabets in the world (well, an "Abugida" actually, if you care for such nuances). Some claim THE largest.


Manuels d'apprentissage du khmer

Parler le Cambodgien, Comprendre le Cambodge Pierre-Régis Martin & Dy Dathsy, Parler le Cambodgien, Comprendre le Cambodge, ed. Régissy, ISBN 2-9514195-0-3.
Cette méthode francophone souvent citée et conseillée est le fruit de plusieurs années de notes prises par P.-R. Martin de Médecins du Monde. La partie apprentissage de la langue est assez succincte, efficace pour donner une idée du fonctionnement du khmer, mais pas réellement adaptée à une véritable ambition d'apprentissage du langage. En revanche, le lexique thématique qui occupe la plus grande partie de l'ouvrage est merveilleusement utile, et l'étude des usages et de la culture khmers contemporains est un must, très bien écrit et d'une vraie finesse d'analyse, à recommander aussi bien au khmérisant qu'au simple touriste.

CAPSEACAPSEA, Manuel de lecture.
Ce petit manuel édité par une ONG (japonaise, m'a-t-on dit) est avant tout destiné aux jeunes enfants en première année d'apprentissage, et il est intégralement en khmer. Cela étant dit, il est très bien fait, prenant chaque lettre une par une, associant consonnes et voyelles, avec des illustrations. Les caractères sont beau et dans une typographie suffisament grosse pour que les barangs n'aient pas à plisser les yeux. C'est le support idéal pour les premières étapes de l'apprentissage de l'écriture et de la lecture.

Manuel de Khmer vol.1KHIN Sok, Manuel de Khmer, volume 1, ed. YOU-FENG, Paris, ISBN 2-84279-068-5.
L'ouvrage du professeur KHIN Sok, maître de conférences à l'INALCO à Paris, réussit à être à la fois complet et sérieux dans son approche de la langue, et totalement accessible aux débutants. C'est un ouvrage qui hérite de tout le sérieux universitaire de son auteur, sans l'excès d'érudition que l'on aurait pu craindre. Des exemples/exercices concluent chaque chapitre. Indispensable au khmérisant déterminé.

15 July 2005


សួស្ដី ខ្ងុំរៀនភាសាខ្មែរ ។