Well hi there!
This week I have gone back to my native tongue to choose the word of the week! So, here it is:
Part of speech: verb
Definition (2nd of 3): become adjusted to new conditions.
Now, this word has come to describe much of my time this last week in Cambodia. As I learn more about my community, the culture, and the language, it is more and more important that I can adjust to the new, and take it for the journey that it is. Adapting is what makes life interesting, and I write this from my phone as I am in Siem Reap this week for a workshop rather than in Phnom Penh. Sometimes we plan adaptation, sometimes it happens naturally. Either way, I think it is always important to reflect on the adapting and what it means for you!
Hello word nerds,
This week we have another Khmer word, even though I still do not actually know the alphabet! So, our word this week is:
Part of Speech: Verb.
Definition: To learn.
Now, you may be saying, Ashley, if you don’t know the alphabet, how can you know that is what it says? Well, luckily I have an awesome community around me and they are willing to help me learn Khmer and give me hints along the way. I just arrived at my site placement on Monday and I already feel like I am learning more and more. That learning is what spurred ree-ehn to be my word of the week. This next year is going to be full of learning, so I am happy to have willing brothers and sisters to help me as I go!
Today’s post continues to honor the newest language to break into my vocabulary, Khmer. Though I have only been studying two weeks or so, my cohort of YAGMs and I cannot help but laugh at some of the strange questions that arise in class. So, here are some musings you might appreciate as we learn Khmer.
How to know if something is past, present or future.
- There are no real tenses in Khmer. Everything is said in present tense, but there are a couple key words that are used just for the purpose of suggesting time. Yesterday and tomorrow are givens, but there is also one word for past, future, and present progressive.
- Where does the word go?
- What if I used to do something and I don’t do it anymore?
- What if the majority of my sentences are usually in a perfect tense?
- None of those words actually matter because they are almost exclusively used for writing only, if at all. So, in this case, listen and hope for the best that you’re thinking in the right tense.
Similarities between “to keep,” “water,” and “table.”
- One particularly long day of vocab was broken up by the discovery of the words “to keep,” (dtoh) “water,” (dtuk) and “table” (dtohk). Our instructor thought the easiest way to differentiate these was to give us the sentence: “Keep the water on the table.” Or “dtoh the dtuk on the dtohk.”
- What if I accidentally buy furniture instead of a refreshing beverage?
- Did I just learn my first Khmer tongue twister?
- Wait, there is no word for “the” either, so these words are basically consecutive?
- Though this is a fun sentence to say, the likelihood of using all three of these words in one sentence is fairly low, so I suppose context will be easiest for deciphering these words.
Properly saying “I am wearing ____.”
- Our instructor taught us words for clothing, so naturally we want to know how we say “to wear.” It turns out Khmer is a little harder. One word works for neck to waist, and feet. Another word works for waist to ankles. This put our minds into a bit of disarray.
- What if I am wearing a sweatshirt tied around my waist?
- What if I am wearing a belt? Is it different for normal belt on my pants vs. a fashion belt around my waist?
- What about hats? Or scarves? Or things not worn from the neck down?
- The next day our instructor returned to explain that there was a word that could be used for wearing anything. All ambiguity of what word to use quickly vanished after that point.
Differences between “to scare” and “vegetables.”
- When we learned the word for “vegetables” early in our lessons, it quickly stuck in our minds: Bohn lai. As the middle of our second week of lessons rolled around, we learned a new word, the verb “to scare.” Or, in Khmer, bohn laih. These words sounded very similar to us, and rightfully so.
- Why can’t I tell the difference between these words?
- If I accidentally say “I vegetable someone” will the person imagine me throwing tomatoes and onions at a stage as a result of a poor performance?
- Does this have anything to do with children being afraid of Veggie Tales?
- We realized that in most sentences, “to scare” and “vegetables” are not interchangeable. And eventually we will learn the subtle difference.
The importance of “water” as a base word.
- It turns out, water is the base word for many other things: tea, milk, and ice being the main words. For example: ice literally translates to “water frozen.” Another fun one is the word for Jetski which is literally “water motorcycle.”
- Why have I never realized that there is water in so many things?
- Am I saying “water” wrong and consequently saying many other words wrong?
- Why doesn’t “watermelon” fall into this pattern?
- It is best to start from the foundation. Start with saying water and work up to the many variations. Plus, it might be surprising when I know a word I thought I didn’t because it is based on water.
Hopefully these silly stories brightened your day a bit and gave you an insight into the beginnings of learning Khmer. I’m sure this is only the beginning.
In case you were wondering, that was me saying “hi” in Khmer! Now, I may not be able to ready anything else at the moment, but I just read that word. This also means that I read my first word in Khmer today! What a perfect way to celebrate my return to Word of the Week Wednesdays and this blog. I am so excited for my journey in Cambodia this next year and for all the ways I will learn about myself, the people, and the language. I think this makes for an excellent opportunity to continue the purpose of this blog: Shedding Light on the Wonders of Words. Although I may still be in a dark tunnel as far as Khmer is concerned, progress is evident! Now, without any more waiting, here is our word of the week:
I transliterate this Sou S’dai. You might have noticed that the word above is the same as the word at the top of this page. To that I say, nothing gets past you! Since this word is the first I read in Khmer, it seemed perfectly fitting for this circumstance. I also do not want to incorrectly put a word on here in script, and I do not know enough yet to write in script. It has only been two weeks, I have time!
The word Sou S’dai means “hi” and is a normal greeting if you’re walking through the market, seeing neighbors in the alley, or ordering at a restaurant. As we continue to learn, I am sure this word will lead to many conversations where I learn something new!