Siripen Ungsitipoonporn,

Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia, Mahidol University, Thailand




Development of Northern Khmer Primer using Thai alphabet:

Opportunities and Challenges


The Northern Khmer language spoken in Thailand is an unwritten language. Elderly Northern Khmer speakers in some areas have realized that their language is in decline, so they are undertaking a project for the development and learning management of Northern Khmer in order to maintain local language and improve learning Thai at formal primary schools. The teachers, who are also Khmer speakers, together with linguists from Mahidol University have developed a local language curriculum (Northern Khmer) which will be taught to grade 4 students as part of a subject in the formal education system.

In creating the Northern Khmer curriculum, many components are incorporated into the teaching materials such as orthography development, literature production, and reading and writing materials for teaching language acquisition. A primer, an alphabet-teaching book, is one component of literature production. In the case of Northern Khmer the Thai alphabet is used because the children are already familiar with Thai orthography. However, the development of the Northern Khmer primer has not been easy because the Northern Khmer language is full of vowels and clusters, more so than the Thai language. So, the most difficult task is how to select and arrange the alphabet, from easy to difficult, for each lesson of Northern Khmer primer.

The purpose of this paper is to report on the opportunities and challenges faced in creating the Northern Khmer primer based on the Thai alphabet and also to discuss some problems during the context production of each lesson because Thai orthography does not cover the entire Khmer vowel system.