Closing in on two years in this country, I relish more than ever my daily encounters with Cambodians and the chance to practice my atrocious grasp of the language.
It is one thing to try to speak and understand Khmer with waiters and gym trainers who are bilingual to greater or lesser degrees. They seem to enjoy my struggles with pronunciation — you try to articulate as one sound the diphthong “ng” and the triphthong “pdt.”
It is quite another thing to climb the Mount Everest of fathoming a normal rush of words that I know yet fail miserably to hear when they are strung together in speech.
I long ago gave up trying to read or, horrors, write the language. But words and some grammar are beginning to sink in and I now can engage in the most rudimentary of short conversations such as ordering food in a restaurant.
The big problem with learning Khmer where I usually range is that almost everyone seems to speak enough English that I am not called upon to use the local language. Moreover, they usually don’t expect me to speak Khmer and I don’t always expect them to speak English, inevitably causing confusion. Still, I persist stubbornly.
In the last several weeks, I finally have become emboldened to Continue reading