Learn Myanmar Language in conversational and literary form. Learn to speak and read Burmese.
The Free Online Colloquial Burmese (Myanmar language) lessons include Burmese script, MP3 audio, PDF files and
easy Burmese grammar study materials with color-coded parts of speech:
nouns, pronouns, verbs,
adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions,
particles, postpositional markers, and
Naing Tinnyuntpu is no stranger to systematic and efficient approach. He came from manufacturing
environment with Bachelor's and Master's degree in Industrial Engineering (USA). His contributions to semiconductor
industry include Administrative Quality Best Practices
during his working years as a process engineer with Hewlett-Packard in Singapore. Born and raised in Yangon, he has lived in 6 countries and exposed to
different cultures and knowledgeable in unrelated areas. This includes self-taught programming languages.
Currently, he is contributing to Tourism in Myanmar by making his online Burmese lessons freely available and accessible to all.
Scholars have long noted the similarities between the Burmese Language and
Tibetan language. For example, Tibetan consonants such as
ka, kha, ga, nga, cha, ja, nya, ta, tha, da, na, pa, pha, ba, ma, wa, zha, za, ya, ra, la, sha,
sa, ha, etc. sound remarkably similar to the Burmese consonants. The origin of the Burmese script,
Pyu, and Mon Script of ancient
Myanmar and Tibet alphabet can be traced back to Brahmi script of ancient India,
which was first seen in 500 BCE and spread throughout India by 300 CE in the reign of King Ashoka. The Tibetan-Burmese
language classification is a branch of the Sino-Tibetan family of languages spoken from Tibet to the Malay Peninsula,
and also referred to as Tibeto-Burman Languages.
Burmese spoken language is different from the literary form. Myanmar literary language
has more expressive power compared to bland spoken words, but the sequence in the sentence structure basically remains the same.
do not change tense like in English. Instead, verb-suffix words are appended to show the past tense, present tense, and future tense.
Burmese Verbs are categorized by three types of sentence constructions and also by the following three characteristics:
pyu1chin3 - action (does/do)
pfyitchin3 - occurrence (be/is/are/am)
shi1chin3 - presence (is at/has/have)
Similarly, the same verb words are used for both plural and singular forms to say: "He does something" and "They do something."
It is possible to construct Burmese sentences without a verb. Example:
kja1-nau2 - I (pronoun, male term) hsa1-ya2-woon2 - doctor (noun) ba2 - ending polite word. (particle)
-- I am a doctor.
Note: The last word ba2 in the above sentence is not a verb. It is
classified as a particle in Myanmar grammar.
Myanmar grammar has a number of suffixes and ending words called wi1-but
(postpositional markers) and
Those suffix and ending words are placed after a noun or a pronoun to show subject or object, and after a verb to show tense or mood.
Sometimes, they can modify the adjective into verb.
The basic word order of the Burmese Language does NOT NECESSARILY fall into subject-object-verb
format. Just like in English, you can either say: "The boy kicks the ball,"
(where "the boy" is the subject, "kick" the verb and "ball" the object) or "The ball was kicked by the boy."
It deploys various ending words which have no English equivalent.
Together with particles, those postpositional markers, also used as ending words, play an important part of the Myanmar language
thwa3 - to go (verb) dau1 - about to (particle for emphasis) meare2 - will (postpositional marker to show tense) nau2 - ending word. (particle for feeling tone)
thwa3dau1meare2nau2 -- I am about to go!
thi1 - to know (verb) byi2 - has reached certain condition (postpositional marker) la3 - question ending word (particle)
thi1byi2la3 -- Do you know now?
thu2 - he (pronoun) hmun2 - right; correct (adjective) deare2 - affirmative ending word (postpositional marker,
not a verb in Burmese grammar.)
-- He is right!
In the last example, the ending word IS NOT a verb, but it modifies the adjective into the word
hmun2deare2, which is considered as a verb
of pfyit-chin3-pya1 kri1-ya2 (verb clause that shows occurrence) type.
Although deare2 seems to correspond with the
verb "is", it cannot be used consistently as "is" in some other sentence constructions.
hotedeare2 -- Yes!
It must be stressed that Burmese equivalent of "be/is/are/am" like deare2
are not verbs but post-positional markers, and they form verb clauses only in combination with verbs such as "go", "eat", "come", or
adjectives such as "white", "wrong", "hungry".
Similarly, ending particle words such as ba2
when combined with nouns like "doctor", "man", "Buddhist", become equivalent to English "be/is/are/am" something or someone.
In some other sentence constructions, they cannot be translated as English "be/is/are/am", and this can be confusing to non-native learners of Myanmar grammar.
As for pronounsnun2-za3,
there are many ways to say you and I in Burmese. Wrong choice of the pronoun "you" and "I" will offend people.
Family terms like "brother", "sister", "son", and "daughter" are commonly used among strangers to address to each others. There are four
types of Burmese Pronouns:
Personal Pronouns -- "I", "You", "He", "She", "It", etc..
Qualitative -- words that describe the quality of the noun. E.g.,
"rich" man, "far away" place.
Referential -- words that make reference to or point to something. E.g., "this" road, "that" road, "other" methods.
Numbers -- words that describe "how many" of something, "what position" in the ordered list, and
unspecified numbers. E.g., "ten" people, "21st." birthday, "some" people.
Question Words -- words that ask for "how many", "how", "which", "how much", and "what" with
clearly stated noun in the question. Without the noun, the same question words are classified as pronouns. E.g.,
"What kind of food do you like?" as opposed to "What kind do you like?"
Burmese Adverbskri1-ya2 wi1-thay2-tha1-na1
are classified into five groups:
"How" part of human actions -- gestures, manner, facial expressions, and behavior. E.g.,
"arrogantly", "sluggishly", "truthfully", "respectfully".
Conditions of things and situations -- E.g., "in disarray", "in disorder", "definitely".
"When" part of action words -- E.g., "early", "often", "immediately".
Interrogative adverbs -- "when", "how".
Words that show extent, size or magnitude -- "few", "many", "very".
There are eight ways to categorize Burmese Nouns "nun2" :
four by construction, and four by meaning:
Combination; Compound | poun3-sut nun2
E.g., sa2-oat hsine2 (book + shop)
It is possible to combine words other than nouns. E.g.,
(sa3 + thout + hsine2)
= (eat+drink+shop) = restaurant.
Original; Innate | pin2-ko2 nun2
Qualitative | gome2-yay2-pya1 nun2
E.g., htu3-choon2 hmu1 -- the quality of being outstanding.
This word is formed by the verb htu3-choon2 meaning "be outstanding" modified into a noun by the suffix particle
Verb Modifications | kri1-ya2 nun2
The particle hmu1 modifies the verb
ku2-nyi2 (to help) into a noun "help". This is unlike English where "help" can be
either a verb or a noun.
Individual Names | ta1-u3-hsine2 nun2
E.g., Yangon, Shwedagon, Aung San.
Common Terms | a-mya3-hsine2 nun2
E.g., dog, city, cow, book
Psychological; Abstract | sate-ta1-za1 nun2
E.g., courage, love, faith
Conglomeration | a-su1-pya1 nun2
E.g., a-si3-a-yone3 -- union, league.
Unlike in English where most people will have to look up the dictionary for the plural of "octopus", Burmese plural
in most cases simply add a suffix word dway2
to the noun in the colloquial language and
in the literary form. Those suffix words are classified as particles.
Burmese language has several conjunctions known as thun2-bun2-da1
Those conjunctions in colloquial forms are slightly different from their literary counterparts. Conjunctions in Myanmar Language are more often used in
literary forms with long sentences. Examples:
hlyin2 -- if (literary)
hso2 yin2 -- if (colloquial)
dtho1-ma1-hote -- or else (literary)
hto1-joun1 -- therefore (literary)
dtho1-ya2-dwin2 -- however (literary)
hto1-pyin2 -- moreover (literary)
yan2 -- in order to; so as to (literary)
pfo1 -- for (colloquial)
dtha1-keare1-tho1 -- as if (literary)
leare3 -- also (colloquial/literary))
la1-goun3 -- as well (literary)
neare1 -- with (colloquial)
hnin1 -- with (literary)
dtha2-ma1-ka1 -- not only... but also (literary)
yway1 -- and; while; because (literary)
a-beare2-joun1-hso2-dthau2 -- the reason is that (literary)
dthau3-joun1 -- due to the fact that (literary)
lo1 -- because (colloquial)
say2-ga2-mu2 -- nevertheless (literary)
Do you just want to look up a list of Burmese words in table format?
Here is a comparison between Burmese Tones Vs. Mandarin Chinese Pinyin Tones. Consider the three stress levels in Burmese:
Ma1 = sounds like "Ma" in "Malaysia" Ma2 = "ma" as in "diploma" Ma3 = higher pitch of "Ma" as in
For those who are familiar with Mandarin Chinese, close counterparts in Pinyin tones are:
Ma1 = Pinyin 4th tone.
Ma2 = sounds like Pinyin 3rd tone as in "ma3 lu", which means
"the main road" in Mandarin Chinese.
Ma3 = Higher pitch level and close to Pinyin 1st or 2nd tone as in "Ma2 fan", which
means "to bother" in Mandarin Chinese.
Further clarifications to "a1"
(31 Dec 2013)
If you pay close attention to news-readers on the radio, you will note that some ending words in burmese
sentences are spoken not exactly in a flat monotone, but stressed from a lower to a higher level somewhat like
the Pinyin 2nd tone. For example: the ending word spoken by female radio news announcers almost always shift from
shin2 to a higher pitch shin3 within a fraction of a second.
When the Burmese character "Ma1" is used as a stand-alone character, it sounds like "Mah1"
("Mark" with silent "rk".) It is clear enough when this vowel is used at the end of the word (or sentence) , or shown as a stand-alone character.
However, when "Ma1" appears in the beginning, or in the middle of words, it will in most cases (but not all) sound like
a short "Ma1" as in "Malaysia", not "Mah-laysia".
In written Burmese language, there is no way to differentiate full "Mah1" sound and short
"Ma1". Even Burmese people will have to look at the context to determine whether the word
Ma1 Ni2 La2 should be pronounced
Manila (city in the Philippines), or a girl's name Mah1 Ni2 La2 (Ms. Nilar).
To give an another example, the word "favoritism" (noun) is spelled with the 33rd Burmese Character (Ah1), followed by the
third character (Ga1) and the word "Ti1". A Burmese child who has not learned this word
wouldn't know whether to pronounce this as Ah1 Gah1 Ti1 or Aga1 Ti1, or
Agati1,or the correct pronunciation, which could be better expressed in romanization as
Ah1 ga1-ti1 with full Ah1 and short ga1.
It could also be expressed as Ah1 gati1, but there is still a possibility of mispronouncing the middle syllable
as "gut" instead of the correct short "ga1".
I now see this as an opportunity to further enhance the romanization by adding "h" to the vowel "a1" when appropriate. This way, I can better express
the word "Kah1ba2" (please dance) and differentiate it from
"Ka1 ba2" (the World).
Also note that ending words such as suggestion "ba2" would sound smoother if you can slightly extend and prolong it to "ba3".
Was it a creation of the military government or did they just revert back to the original word? Read all about it from historical and linguistic point of view and politics behind it.
INTRODUCTION TO BURMESE (MYANMAR) LANGUAGE
Oh, the same to you. Thank you!
“I use Burma very often because I am used to using it. But it does not mean that I require other people to do that as well.”
“And I'll make an effort to say Myanmar from time to time so you all feel comfortable.”
— Aung San Suu Kyi, Foreign Minister and State Counselor on April 22, 2016 to the foreign diplomatic corps —
Hi, my name is Naing Tinnyuntpu. This website offering free online burmese lessons has expanded and improved through the years.
It has started out just for fun without any audio or script, but now it includes more serious grammar materials. I wish you good luck and have fun.
Cool song in the background by Myanmar singer Jenny. Lyrics by Si Thu [986KB]
You can leave your comments, feedbacks, and suggestions down the page. As a result of one suggestion,
Learn Myanmar Script on this website now appears consistently among the best on Google,
Everyday Spoken Burmese (PDF) is for those seriously learning to understand and speak
Burmese in a short time. It covers the most fundamental building blocks of the colloquial Myanmar Language. 92 pages, 444 KB. Released: 2017-05-02.
Over 400 MP3 audio files are available online with seven pages of Lesson 62.
Forget the myth that Burmese is hard to learn. Watch former Canadian Ambassador Mark McDowell, currently the Head of International IDEA's Myanmar Office introduces himself in Burmese. He will also
show you how to wear Longyi the right way.
Lesson 1: Tones in Burmese Language
Burmese language has 3 tones. The first tone is best described as a short utterance, while the second tone is neutral
without stress in it. The third tone in Burmese has a kind of prolong lingering stress to it. It's almost as if you need more
air from the lungs and more energy from the throat to get the third tone out.
Reference table for Burmese 1,2,3 Tone System using the character "ka1" is available for
download. This is a summary
version of Myanmar Script Learning Guide in lesson 33.
Revision: B Revised Date: 2015-01-01 File Size: 108 KB Number of Pages: 4
I used "blue" color code to indicate the vowel sound and "red" as tone. For simplicity, consonant modification symbols in "green" are
not used as in lesson 33. Yellow background indicates the base for a particular vowel from which the tones
can be changed. Since this is only a summary reference, variations in spelling are not shown.
Consider the sound of the
first "a" in "America". That's the first tone. Compare this
to "Ar" in
"Argentina". That's the example of the second tone. When you scream with pain
as in "Arghhhhhhh...." you put lots of stress to it. It is like "Ar" without
the "r" sound in "Artist". That's the third tone.
So, there you go. The first set of 3 tones with the Vowel "A" are...
Ah -- sounds like "Art" with silent "rt" ending. Ar -- "Argentina" with silent "r". Aah -- "ar" sound without "r" ending
I will be using Burmese 1,2,3 Tone System to describe those 3 tones as ...
Ah1 Ah2 Ah3
Sa1 Sa2 Sa3
Ka1 Ka2 Ka3
and so on.
And yes, just a small "stress" or "tone" difference and you will have words with completely different meanings.
Here is just to give you examples on how meanings of certain words could change with just a slight difference in tone.
Ku3 -- sounds like "Cool" with silent "l"
-- to swim.
Pu1 -- pronounced like "poof" without "f" ending.
-- short in stature. From my personal experience, the last syllable of
my last name is often mispronounced by the Americans as "pu3" in the third tone, instead of the
correct "pu1", which I find it quite amusing :-) Mandarin Chinese speakers will have no problem as it is
equivalent to the 4th tone in Pinyin.
That's a tough one to give examples. Try saying "Scott". The first tone is "ott"
in "Scott" without ending "tt" sound; it is
closer to British pronunciation of "o" rather than what an American would
pronounce, i.e., "Scutt". It sounds like "odd" with silent
Au1 : "Au" sound in "Auction". Au2 : "Au" as in "Australia". Au3 : "Au" sound of the word "August".
It should be noted that Burmese doesn't have closing sounds of the words. Just like "s" in French is silent
in "Paris" and pronounced "Pa-ree",
Burmese doesn't have any closing sounds you would
expect in English. No "ch", "sh", "s", "r", "f" "l", "m", "n" ending consonants-- none. How would you go
about saying words with silent ending? Simple. Those ending consonants always need some kind of tongue play and or closing of the lips.
Don't move your tongue and don't close your lips, and you will be speaking perfect Burmese!
khan3 -- stressed to the level of the word
"cun" in "cunning".
-- dried up.
I choose the "An" variant of "un" only because some words are already associated in English
with certain pronunciations. Well, English is just like that. I will never understand why "P-U-T" is pronounced "Poot", but "B-U-T" is "But".
In1 : "ink" with silent "k" In2 : "In" as in "Indiana". In3 : "In" as in "Innate"
Hsin1 -- sounds like "sink" without "k" ending.
-- to stack up.
Hsin2 -- normal stress of "sin" in "sincerely".
Hsin3 -- just like "sin" in "sinful".
-- to go down.
What's the difference between "Hsin3" and "Sin3"? "Hsin3" has more hissing sound. Mandarin Chinese speakers will be able to detect
the difference. If you can't, just say "Sin3".
Ay1 Ay2 Ay3
First tone example: sounds like "maize" without "ze" ending.
Second tone example: "May" as in "May I ?" without stressing
Third tone example: "may" stressed like in "amazing".
You may ask why don't I just drop the middle "e" and shorten those as
mare1 mare2 mare3
The reason why I didn't was because I couldn't use it consistently for words starting with the vowel "a" that sounds like "air", so
I came up with this "eare" coding to associate the word with the burmese sound group below.
Eare1 -- as in "Edward". Eare2 -- as in "Editor". Eare3 -- as in "Elephant".
Ain1 Ain2 Ain3
First tone example: "laint" as in "complaint" where "t"
ain't included in the ending sound.
second tone example: somewhere between "laint" and "lane" such
as in "flamboyant".
third tone example: fully stressed "lane".
Those words with single tones are categories by themselves. Those have English equivalent sound groups. I will refer
to those groups as (c1, c2, c3, ..., c8). Since they can be expressed by English spellings without ambiguity,
I will leave out the numbering.
Remember, there are no closing sounds in Burmese, so try saying those words without tongue play and keep your lips apart
for the ending parts of the words.
This section correlates Burmese 1,2,3 Tone System with the tone classification in some studies: Low, High, Creaky tones and & Glottal Stops.
Some consider "Glottal Stops" as the fourth tone while Burmese children are taught only three tone variations in school as in
ka1, ka2, ka3. "Tone" variations in Burmese as well as Chinese "Pinyin" always have the same vowel base.
That means, you cannot go ka1, ka2, ka3
and then go kut
as the fourth tone.
The suffix word thun2
from the word a-thun2
means voice, sound, or noise. Although some of those voices or sounds in the Burmese language can be made to go up and down using tone marks (while maintaining
the same vowel sound), some are just single tones and impossible to combine with tone change symbols. Official Burmese language by the Myanmar
Language Commission recognizes four sound or thun2 groups as follow:
- First tone: -
Ah1, E1, U1, Ay1, Au1, O1, In1, Oun1, Ine1, Un1, Ain1, Ome1, Eare1.
There are 18 of those with 23 different spellings, out of which 18 of those use tone change symbol
out myit, which looks like a dot (.) under the character. In total, there are only 13 distinct sounds
as represented by romanization with 1,2,3 tone system above. This group is identified as
Creaky Tone by some studies. Myanmar Language Commission defines this group as
- Second tone: -
Ah2, E2, U2, Ay2, Au2, O2, In2, Oun2, Ine2, Un2, Ain2, Ome2, Eare2.
There are 18 of those with 23 different spellings. In total, there are only 13 distinct sounds as represented by the romanization
with 1,2,3 tone system above. This group is identified as Low Tone by some studies.
Myanmar Language Commission defines this group as Rising tone.
- Third tone: -
Ah3, E3, U3, Ay3, Au3, O3, In3, Oun3, Ine3, Un3, Ain3, Ome3, Eare3.
There are 18 of those with 21 different spellings, out of which 18 of those use tone change symbol
wit-sa1-pout, which looks like a column(:). In total, there are only 13 distinct sounds as represented by
romanization with 1,2,3 tone system above. This group is identified as High Tone by some studies.
Myanmar Language Commission defines this group as Falling tone.
- Single tone Groups: -
Ate, Et, Out, Ike, Ut, Oat, It
There are 10 of those using the closing thut which looks like a small "c" over the second character when
spelled. In total, there are only 7 distinct sounds as represented by romanization with 1,2,3 tone system
above. This group is identified as
Ten Glottal Stops by Myanmar Language Commission.
Another thing to take note. The four thun2 groups: Check tones, Rising tones, Falling tones
& Glottal Stops in the official listing all add up to the total of 46 sounds with four missing sounds:
Let's test out a few phrases with the tone system:
beare2 -- 2nd tone with the Vowel "Eare" such as "mare"
tone in "marry-making". So, it has a normal stress like "bare"
lout -- belongs to single tone group (c4). It is clear enough, so not numbered.
leare3 -- 3rd tone with the Vowel "Eare". Stressed like "mare"
in "nightmare". Just replace "m" initial consonant sound
-- Where do you want to go?
beare2 -- 2nd tone with the Vowel "Eare" such as "bare"
thwa3 -- 3rd tone with the Vowel "A", stressed like Ahhhhh....,
so it would sound like tha-waahhhh".
chin2 -- 2nd tone Vowel "In"; normal stress like "sin"
in "sincerely". Just replace "s" with "ch"
sound, i.e., "chin" in place of "sin".
leare3 -- 3rd tone just like "mare" in "nightmare".
Replace "m" with "l" and say it.
sa3ja1zo1 -- let's eat!
sa3 -- third tone with the Vowel "A";
fully stressed as Sahhhhh....
ja1 -- first tone with the Vowel "A"; short tone
like "ja" in "Japan".
zo1 -- first tone with the Vowel "O"; a short tone
comparable to "colt" without "lt" sound. Replace "c"
with "z", i.e., "zolt" without "lt" ending.
To the beginner, it may all sound confusing at first, but the tones will get automatic and natural with practice. When I first learn
Mandarin Chinese, I initially had trouble remembering Pinyin tone system. I used to refer back to the tone and pronunciation table, and with
repetition, the tones become second-nature. I have included the tone reference table on the left column of every lessons for easy reference.
MP3 sound files and Burmese script are later additions to the original lessons. Happy learning Burmese!!