hooked on phonics!

Warning: NERD ALERT. This post will contain academic references & phonetic terminology. We just completed our FIRST DAY of Khmer School, and I am totally geeked out. I LOVE TO LEARN!!

This day was a total and complete gift from God. This whole school thing is. Our first 5-week module was completely paid for by amazing, generous people, and we already have a start on funding for module two. So so so grateful!! (Like CRAZY grateful.)

As a reminder, we’ll go to school Monday through Friday from 8:30am to noon for five weeks. And do that 8 times. (there are breaks for Khmer & American holidays) We’ll finish in February 2016. (and it costs $1500/module)


I won’t go on and on about how excited I am to learn Khmer (and in such a logical, structured, doable fashion). But I’ll just share a tiny bit about how school works and some fun things I learned today.

Basically, we’re using the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) to learn how to pronounce all of the Khmer sounds (consonants & vowels) correctly. Many of the sounds are ones we already use in English. Some are very new (and difficult). Once we learn the correct pronunciations and vocabulary, we’ll move from speaking into reading/writing. We’ll switch out our phonetic spelling for Khmer script.

Easy peasy, right?

Our teachers today were English speakers, but once we get introductory stuff out of the way, our teachers will all be Khmer and will only speak Khmer to us in class.

Encouraging quote from today: “You are absolutely equipped to speak this language. You have the same mouth and face as these guys.” (teacher from UK gesturing to our Khmer teachers)

Less-than-encouraging quote from today: “English and Khmer are worlds apart. You’ll have to start all over.”

We learned all the parts of our mouth and lips and tongue and learned which sounds use which parts. Bilabial (lips), alveolar (the top of your mouth nearest your teeth), palatal (center roof of your mouth), velar (back roof of your mouth), glottal (throat). We learned about aspirated (you can feel your breath puff out) and un-aspirated consonants. We learned fun words like fricative and implosive. We learned how to put an “ng” sound at the beginning of words, not just the end.

We worked together as a family (there are 10 students in our class, 5 are us). I helped Nina trill her R’s, and she helped me work on a consonant I struggle with. “You’re kind of putting pressure into it. Just let it go.” Right. Got it.

After class & grocery shopping & lunch, we walked across the street to IBC (International Book Center) for school supplies (binders w/plastic sheet protectors and notebooks). Then we came home and studied!

Hopefully, we’ll be able to maintain our enthusiasm, and it will far outweigh our mental & physical exhaustion.

Thanks for praying for us! We’ll keep you updated on our progress and share some video once we can say something fun.

Any questions? And is anyone fluent/proficient in a second language? Which one? Let us know, so we can applaud and celebrate you!!

13 thoughts on “hooked on phonics!

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  3. Deborah

    When I try to teach History in Spanish with my Spanish-speaking kiddos, I’m at an automatic disadvantage, as I do NOT remember hardly ANYthing of my grammar, and so I end up talking to them about Ancient Egypt and Israel and Persia in the present tense. Nothing like being even more confused! 😛

    I’ve been SO thankful that every time I’ve NEEDED to use Spanish, both in and out of this country, God has provided enough memory and communication to be able to accomplish the necessary. 🙂

    One of the most fun moments was when in Russia, I, being unable to speak Russian, and the Russian guy, being unable to speak English, but we both realized we could stumble along in Spanish! I NEVER expected to use those years of study in *that* way, but what fun, and how thankful I was for the opportunity! 😀

    I continue in prayer for youall! <3

    1. Amy

      That EXACT same scenario happened to me in Taiwan. My Mandarin was non-existant, my co-worker’s English was much better, but not foolproof, but lo and behold, between the two of us we had both had enough Spanish to solve a problem more than once! 🙂 Who knew Spanish was the key to globalization, not English or Chinese?

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  5. Jen

    Wow– as someone with a degree in applied linguistics and ten years of experience teaching a second language, I’m super impressed! It sounds like a very well-designed program. Phonetics and the anatomy of the mouth is such a great place to start, but language programs rarely give it the time it deserves. I’m so jealous!

  6. Holly B.

    Just give yourself a lot of grace, friend. And a lot of breaks. Language school here in France was one of the most exhausting, draining, intense(but exciting) times of my life (and I already knew some French).

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