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Khmer (Cambodian) Language At Cornell
Language Information Courses Other Resources

Temple of Taprom, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Language Contact Person: Hannah Phan
Phone: 255-0642
Office: 301 Rockefeller
Khmer (Cambodian)
Khmer is a language in the Austroasiatic language family, one of the six major language families found in Southeast Asia. Khmer is the national language of Cambodia and groups of Khmer speakers could be found also in neighboring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam.

Khmer culture is one of the oldest and best known culture of Asia. The Angkorean Empire marks the height of Khmer culture where the kings built exquisite monumental stone temples considered one of the major wonders of the world.

The Khmer (Cambodian) Language At Cornell
The Department of Asian Studies offers beginning, intermediate and advanced level Khmer. The curriculum emphasizes the four basic skills on reading, writing, listening comprehension, and speaking. It follows the performance-based interactive pedagogical philosophy. In addition, students can enroll in a directed studies course that can be designed to meet the interest of individual students who plan to conduct field research in Cambodia.

Khmer 1121-1122
The elementary course will give thorough grounding in language skills including broadly two sections, grammar (reading, writing, listening) and speaking. Grammar section introduces students to Khmer alphabet, vowels, combination of alphabet and vowels that create words, the context each word is used and meant, vocabulary build-up, and basic sentence structure. The grammar section is reinforced by weekly homework assignments, in-class word-games of different kinds, and basic sentence construction in the class so students can understand words and use them in the correct context. Speaking section, on the other hand, actively engages students in simple conversation; it is a need-based approach. Students are encouraged to pick a topic of their choice that could best meet their interests and future needs. Scenario is created for such conversation to occur, and vocabulary is identified and explained. Students will decide to what extent they want to have each section covered. Emphasis varies from semester to semester. In some semesters, students put more emphasis on speaking skills or conversation, and the class is designed accordingly. However, the basic requirement of grammar section is not compromised.

Khmer 2201-2202
The intermediate course is a continuation of the elementary courses, and it is designed to help students to master their language skills reading, writing, listening and speaking. It is a need and asset-based teaching/learning transaction. Students are involved in every process of the transaction. An organizational meeting provides an opportunity for students to provide inputs to the planning of the course over the semester they register. Students’ needs and interests are identified, and the identified needs and interests are considered in the process of determining course curriculum, basically the contents and methods of teaching and learning. Experiences, skills and creativity of students are used in the conduct of the class. Students are encouraged to take turn leading class section, especially conversation section using their own experiences, skills and creativity. The intermediate course has two broad sections, grammar and conversation. The grammar section helps students to master their skills in reading and writing. Students will do in-class reading, and discuss the reading through question-answer among them with instructor’s facilitation. Students are gradually exposed to new vocabulary and their use in culturally appropriate context. The grammar section builds foundation for conversation. With words and context they are used, students could make conversation of their interest. Conversation is not, however, limited to practicing words or phrases that are learned in the grammar section. Students can create situation or scenarios games where each has role to play in conversation section. The two sections of the course are mutually reinforcing, and students will greatly benefit from their participation in this intermediate Khmer class.

Cornell Area Program Affiliation: Southeast Asia Program
  • Travel scholarship
    Undergraduates who are taking Khmer (like other Asian languages) and are interested in visiting Cambodia can apply for travel scholarships from the Department of Asian Studies. For detailed information, please contact Erin Knuutila, our department undergraduate coordinator; her telephone number:(607) 255 5095 and her e-mail:

Last edited by HPhan on Mon Jul 11 2016 at 03:31 PM.