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Colloquial Cambodian: A Complete Language Course (Colloquial Series) Audio Cassette – 23 Mar 1995

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Audio Cassette, 23 Mar 1995
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Product details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Routledge; Bk&Cassett edition (23 Mar. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415100089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415100083
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.9 x 5.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,169,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 20 April 2000
Format: Audio Cassette
But why, oh why, did the text not get proof read. There are many spelling errors in the exercises. It is easier to learn something correctly first time than have to unlearn and then relearn correctly. Having said that, though the approach is useful - with some interesting material and generally the choice of vocabulary and the explanatory notes are good. The pace is easy and the style light. I liked the introduction of the script at an early stage - given the fairly poor transliteration system (but, OK, I know there is no easy solution) it should have been used more extensively. The tapes are good and they are clear. I would recommend this as a reasonable text to use for someone starting out and with a couple of weeks to spare. It will help anyone get their feet. However, keep an open mind about the grammar as it is presented - it is good for the pieces in the text, but should not be taken as a full grammatical analysis. For anybody with more than a tiny smattering of Khmer, this is not the book.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 25 reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
a good beginning book and tape 23 July 2001
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Audio CD
This is a good starting point for someone who doesn't know any Cambodian. It is certainly the most affordable course and the easiest to obtain. From the very first lesson, you get real sentences with real content instead of just formulas- Hello, Good morning, how are you?- which is where so many language courses start. So from the opening bell you can get a sense of how the language works and how sentences are put together. The grammatical explanations are good, although some of them could be more detailed.
Another feather in the author's cap is that the material on the tapes really does follow the book. The speakers are quite easy to follow and one can get into the flow of the language very quickly. I suppose you could buy the book without the tapes, but would you feel very confident saying a words like "t'ngai" or "g'baal" for instance? In a lot of language courses (including some in the "Colloquial's" series) the material on the tapes does not coordinate well with the printed text. This one does.
The major minus in this book is its system of transcription. Given the choice between trying to represent Cambodian phonemes accurately (especially the vowels) and approximating what is now a very unphonetic system of writing, the author has come up with system that does a poor job of both. I really believe that he should have used Huffman's system which is much more precise in representing phonemes that differ only very slightly to a Westerner's ear. It would certainly help someone who also wants to consult Huffman's text. The author makes no bones about the fact that he wants to wean the learner away from transcription, and he succeeds, but mostly because his system is too inaccurate to be any help. He does introduce the writing system gradually and there are illustrations in the book showing how the letters are handwritten- which is another feature not every language book has when there is a writing system different from our own.
So- I'll give it four stars. I'd give five stars to a future edition if the author found a better solution to his transcription problems.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Four star CD, Two star book, but still useful 18 Jan. 2001
By Eric Schiller - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Let's start with the positive. The CD is great. The material is practical, the pronunciations are clear, and listening to it will definitely help any student of the Khmer language. Now for the book. Although Smyth does sort of apologize for his system of transcribing the spoken language, no justification can be made for this perverse, ugly, and misleading representation of Khmer. Smyth claims that use of phonetic symbols would require too much sophistication on the part of the average user, and I agree that the level of phonetic detail would be difficult. Besides, no two linguists use the same system (mea culpa, here). However, Smyth commits a crime against the language by splitting single syllable words into two, breaking up sounds and creating a written form that looks totally alien. The real reason for the mess is an attempt to match the spoken language to the written form. This is very hard, since the written form of the language represents the spoken language hundreds of years ago. Put simply, Khmer used to have a "b" and a "p". It lost that distinction, so that the difference "moved" to the following vowel. baa and paa become paa and pie (PEE-EH). His solution is to write "bp" and "p", but in the modern language they are the same sound. In trying to avoid the historical complexity of the writing system, a monstrous alphabetic stew is created. He writes the letter "r" at the end of words, but that's just because of the writing system. It is never pronounced in Cambodian Khmer (some dialects in Thailand have it). In sum, he tried a new solution to an old problem, and failed. It is just too much of misrepresentation, and makes learning difficult. The material is otherwise good, though the grammatical sketch is a bit too westernized. It would be easier to tell the truth: there are no parts of speech in Khmer and most words can be used as noun, adjective, or verb. There are inconsistencies. Smyth correctly notes that pronouns are often omitted (in subject position) but then keeps using them, so the colloquial language becomes a bit stilted. As Smyth rightly notes, if you learn the complex Khmer script you can forget about the transcription. I'll go further. If you learn the script, this is a very useful book. If not, it is too misleading about how Khmer works. The approach taken by Huffman in his books from the 1970s is better, as is Im Proum's course if you can find it. If you can't get to those, you will find this introduction does just as good a job if you get past the transcription and learn the writing system. Good luck!
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
good language book 28 Nov. 1999
By Al Kihano - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Tha roman-alphabet renderings of the Khmer words is misleading, but for most aspects of the course only good things can be said. The exercises are well-chosen and paced in a way that makes learning Khmer about as painless as it can be, which is still pretty painful.
This book supposes no prior knowledge of Khmer. The other Khmer book I have seen, by Huffman, is very technical and seems to suppose a level of training in structural linguistics and phonetics that is beyond what most people have.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A quick look at the language that may draw you more inside. 24 Jan. 2001
By Richard Arant - Published on
Format: Audio Cassette
This package is probably as good as it gets for a broadbrush presentation of Khmer. Those with several languages behind them realize that for most people it takes two thousand hours or so of study to develop a working foundation in most languages. Khmer may seem intimidating in the initial stages, but it really is an achievable goal for those who have a deep interest in the country and its people. Try "Colloquial Cambodian" on for size, and if you become infected with the Cambodia bug you can always order the full Foreign Service Institute course and pursue Khmer to the hilt. A new language gives you a new life, a new identity. A good investment! Even if you just master the material presented in Colloquial Cambodian, you'll come away with more than many official Americans assigned to the country in recent years did.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Not for linguists but still a good book 23 Jan. 2002
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Audio Cassette
This Khmer course is the only one I know of currently available which comes with audio tapes. Huffman's older coursebook(s) is (are) much more rigorous, but the tapes for that course can be obtained from Yale only for a very hefty price, so for an introduction to Khmer this will have to serve for most people.
The book is written for the "lay person", anyone who might want to learn Khmer. That has its ups and downs. I am a linguist, and I found myself having to transcribe the pronunciations myself because the author's attempts at mimicking them with English spelling -- while systematic to a large degree -- end up being irritating and insufficiently informative to anyone with linguistic training (for example the register differences on vowels and the effects these may have on voice quality are not indicated). However, this may be the best compromise for readers who have no clue about transcriptional conventions. Otherwise, the book is excellent at promoting conversation and listening skills, and adequate, although hardly authoritative, on matters of elementary grammar. (I have to confess that the English language narrator on the tapes sometimes sounds as if he is addressing small children, but I suppose some learners may find that reassurring.)
The Cambodian alphabet, which is really very baroque, is introduced gradually, at a sensible pace. The dialogues are I think realistic, and some of them stress the extraordinary trauma most Cambodians experienced in the 1970s, which, while depressing, is an important reality in understanding Cambodia today.
For the money, this is really an excellent course for most learners. For linguists a better course could be devised, but it's clear that the market for such a course is probably very limited.
I hope that this book will encourage more people to learn and appreciate Khmer, an unusual and beautiful language and monument to an ancient and fascinating culture.
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