Publication Date

Spring 4-20-2020


College of Arts and Sciences


English; TESL


Khmer, English, phonetics, phonology, transfer, ESL


Applied Linguistics | Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Comparative and Historical Linguistics | Curriculum and Instruction | First and Second Language Acquisition | Language Description and Documentation | Phonetics and Phonology


This thesis develops an approach to English teaching for Khmer-speaking students that centers on Khmer phonetics and phonology. Cambodia has a strong demand for English instruction, but consistently underperforms next to other nations in terms of proficiency. A significant reason for Cambodia’s skill gap is the lack of research into linguistic hurdles Khmer speakers face when learning English. This paper aims to bridge Khmer and English with an understanding of the speech systems that both languages use before turning to the unique challenges Khmer speakers must overcome based on the tenets of L1 Transfer Theory. It closes by outlining strategies for English teachers to build the comprehensibility and confidence of their Khmer-speaking students.


This paper could not have been produced without the encouragement and academic rigor of the TESL program professors of Liberty University. Special thanks to Dr. Stephanie Blankenship, Professor Jared Barber, and (most of all) Dr. Jaeshil Kim.