I sat in the front seat of our tuk tuk reading a text message from our Khmer church planter about needing money to buy paint for the church. Now I needed to reply to her with a question: “How much?” It was such a simple task, but fear tugged at me. I was tired, and my insides were churning from a stomach bug. I could just type the reply in English, but I really wanted to exercise my Khmer. So how should I spell the words? I switched my keyboard to Khmer. I committed.
I knew what the question sounded like—Thlai bponman. The problem was the first letter. Which t was it? There are several t sounds in Khmer that determine which sound the vowel makes and whether the consonant is aspirated. My phone has autocomplete, so if I could figure out the first letters, it would suggest the rest. I made the plunge and took my best guess. The right word popped up! I started to get excited. I had something to show for two and a half months of study! I typed the next word and hit send.
Then came the doubts. What if I had mistakenly asked her, “How many cows?” I waited. Then the response came back: “200$.”
I was thrilled! We had communicated in written Khmer! She sent several more messages, and I replied to them as well.
Khmer is one of the most challenging languages to learn, but it is essential to doing ministry and business here in Cambodia. Each day is a baby step. I praise God for His blessing in helping me learn how to type in Khmer!