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Language battles: 中文 vs ភាសាខ្មែរ

I’ve been studying Khmer – the ninth language I’ve studied in a classroom. These days both English and Chinese grammar feel natural to me – neither is awkward. But Khmer falls so in between that I get confused. The feeling that I’m mixing two individually comfortable but different grammars gets me all turned around!

Okay tones

Of the three tonal languages I’ve studied Mandarin has the easiest tones to learn. What most English speakers don’t realise is that we also use tones every day! We use a rising tone to turn a statement into a question. One of the best examples I can think of to explain is the word “okay”.

Behind and before

To learn language well means going beyond translating English thoughts into Chinese, instead expressing myself in wholly Chinese thoughts – to see the world through that lens. To not be chained to “front” as “future” and “behind” as “past”.

How do you 怎么?

怎么 [zěnme] is a great word because it is so useful. I love that something simple on the surface contains great subtlety, and learning to communicate implied messages simply and fluently – like a Chinese – not spelling it out – like a westerner.