What Language Is Spoken In Cambodia?

An example of modern Khmer script at the Cambodian Embassy in Berlin
An example of modern Khmer script at the Cambodian Embassy in Berlin

Cambodia, a country of nearly 13 million people, is located in Southeast Asia. Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand are the neighboring countries of Cambodia. The people of the country are called Cambodians, and the Khmer language is the official language of Cambodia. The nation has only recently emerged free from the rule of the Khmer Rouge, a Maoist militant group, after a long civil war and is now a member of the ASEAN. The Khmer people form the largest ethnic group in the country

Official Language Of Cambodia

Cambodia has a single official language which is Khmer. It is spoken by nearly 90% of the country’s population. The language is used in government administration, imparting education at all levels, media, etc.

After the Vietnamese language, Khmer is also the second most widely spoken Austroasiatic language. Sanskrit and Pali, two languages that were born in ancient India and introduced in Cambodia during the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism, have significantly influenced the Khmer language. The regional dialects of Khmer have been influenced by Cham, Vietnamese, Thai, Lao, and other languages due to inter-cultural contacts and geographical proximity with the native speakers of these languages.

Foreign Languages Spoken In Cambodia


French is one of the important foreign languages spoken in the country. The language was at one time the official language in Indochina and today, a number of older Cambodians speak French. French is also used to impart education in some schools and universities in Cambodia, especially those that are funded by the French Government. Thus, Cambodia is a member of the La Francophonie, an organization of countries or regions where a significant portion of the population speaks French. Cambodian French is a French dialect that is spoken on certain occasions in Cambodia, especially in court environments.


Although French was the dominant foreign language in Cambodia for a long time, English replaced French since 1993. Currently, street signs in the country are usually bilingual, written in both the Khmer language as well as English. A large number of universities impart education in the English language, and a significant number of press publications are in English. The language has also replaced French in Cambodia’s stamps and currency. English is now used as the main foreign language in Cambodia’s diplomatic dealings with other countries.

Minority Languages Of Cambodia

The languages spoken by the ethnic minorities in Cambodia include-

Cham (formerly the language that was spoken in the Kingdom of Champa in Vietnam) that is spoken by the Cham people living in Cambodia.

Vietnamese, the language that is spoken by the Vietnamese immigrants to Cambodia

Tumpoon that is spoken by the Tampuan people who are indigenous inhabitants of the mountains in Cambodia’s Ratanakiri Province.

Other minority languages are Lao, Yue Chinese, Jarai, and Mon-Khmer languages.

What Language Is Spoken In Cambodia?

1Official languageKhmer
2Foreign LanguagesEnglish, French
3Minority LanguagesCham, Vietnamese, Tumpoon, Lao, Jarai, Yue Chinese, and many small Mon–Khmer languages.
4Sign languagesAmerican Sign Language

More in Society