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Currently, he is contributing to Tourism in Myanmar by making his online Burmese lessons freely available and accessible to all.
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Ordinal numbers are usually used up to the third. For example, to describe the
floor levels in buildings, the first, second, and third are used. After the third, people usually
say lay htut instead
of za1-doat-hta1 htut. In school books, the 9th grade is
called na1-wa1-ma1 dun3 meaning 9th grade, but in conversation, people usually
say ko3-dun3 which means grade 9.
Burmese word for zero is thone2-nya1.
In upper Myanmar, temperature in celsius could drop below zero at night in cool seasons. thone2-nya1 out means
a-pu2 chain2 means temperature. You can say
a-pu2 chain2 thone2-nya1 out shi1 deare2 to mean the temperature is sub-zero.
If you want to be more precise, you can use a-hnoat| minus figures.
means minus 2. a-pu2 chain2 a-hnoat hnit shi1 deare2 means the
temperature is minus 2(-2°C).
Minus 2 in this case is the a-nain1-zone3 | the lowest
a-myin1-zone3 | the highest
temperature in the same region could reach above 95°F.
Decimal numbers are expressed digit by digit after point | dut-tha1-ma1.
The word dut-tha1-ma1 also refers to the ordinal number tenth.
Try to think in terms of piles | pone2 of items to remember the
fractional numbers | a-pine3 ga1-nun3.
Suppose you have four piles | lay3-pone2 of sugar, and you offer me
3 piles | thone3-pone2 out of 4, you are giving me
lay3-pone2 thone3-pone2, or
What about proportions? If you divide a big pile into 15 piles, and give 5 people in the ratios of 5:4:3:2:1, the first person gets
5 piles and the last person only gets 1 pile. In Burmese, the ratio is called
So, hnit a-cho3 tit
is 2 is to 1, 2 to 1 ratio, or (2:1).
You can use the above pone2 word to describe any fractional numbers. However, if you have two
pone2 and given away one pone2, it is better to use the word
ta1-wet, which means half | (½).
means exactly half the amount.
means almost half.
refers to over the half amount.
If you don't know the exact numbers, you can give approximate |
khan1-hmun3-chay2 numbers. When you say,
it means approximately 1,000 or 1000 plus-minus 10
(1000±10), which could go either way.
When you say the average life expectancy of male population is 65 in this town, you are referring to
which is the mean mu (μ)
in normal bell-curve distribution.
When I start using strange Greek alphabets like α, β confidence levels,
Χ Chi-Square distributions, arrival rate λ and so on, I am using
a branch of mathematics known as kain3 ga1-nun3 | Statistics.
If I try to solve simultaneous equations with not so strange alphabets like 3X + 4Y + 5Z= 0, I need the knowledge of
et-kha1-ya2 thin2 cha2, where et-kha1-ya2 means
alphabet, and thin2-cha2 means math.
So, Burmese word for Algebra is et-kha1-ya2 thin2-cha2.
There is no Burmese word for Calculus though.
How about this? 1+1 = 10. Illogical? That's the logic behind the digital world, and ni3-pyin2-nya2,
Information Technology (IT).
If the probability of rain within 24 hours is 60%, you say
where ya2-khine2-hnome3 means percentage.
Suppose the quality level of your production reaches six sigma (6σ), the defective
level is very low, and you have achieved almost zero defect. In previous decades, customers were quite happy with
quality level based on the sampling plan, but that is not good enough in this day of tough competition.
You can use the word ya2-khine2-hnome3 pyay1 to refer to 100%.
This term is usually used to indicate the support that politicians hope to get from the people.
pyay1 means "filled up" or "full amount".
So, those are the basic a-poun3 | plus (+),
a-hnote | minus (-),
a-hmyout | multiplication (×)
and a-sa3 | division (÷)
of thin2-cha2 | mathematics
Measure Words in Burmese
What are the measure words? When you say "a glass of water", or
"a cup of tea", "glass" and "cup" are measure words, also known as
numerical classifiers. Burmese, just like the Chinese,
has several of those measure words for different types of nouns (objects, concepts, people,
and animals, etc.) that do not have English equivalents.
Lesson 12: Learn to say, "I earn $ 123,456,789 a second!"
Many Burmese people seem to be fascinated with nun2-but | numbers.
Even in this modern day with scientific knowledge, it is not unusual for
Myanmar people to consult astrologers and choose the most auspicious dates for important personal occasions and business undertakings.
Some have even developed their own "system" to predict the winning lottery numbers!!
Here's a tip to prevent you from the culture shock. In a recent edition of the Lonely Planet's Myanmar
Travel, one of the authors noted that Myanmar people tend to exaggerate with numbers. Perhaps, this is the culture where
losing credibility is deemed not so important as in some other parts of the world. To be fair, let's face it. You will always find
people who like to brag a little.
ADDED NOTE: This article was first written sometime back in late 2011 or early 2012. As for bragging people in Yangon,
it still stands correct (at least for some), as mentioned in one of Burmese Proverbs and Traditional Sayings.
kjwa3 means to brag.
de2 -- this koun2 -- reference to a guy or an animal nga1-kjwa3 -- braggart beare3 -- affirmation ending word
de2koun2nga1-kjwa3beare3 -- What a braggart!
If you look at it from the positive angle, this is freedom like nowhere else in the world. You are free to exaggerate all you want
(about yourself, that is) -- regardless of what you say is true or not. That's why the spoken language is called
in a sense means to exaggerate. The tradition probably goes back to generations -- long before "spin-doctors" came onto the stage of American
In any case, earning 123,456,789 dollars a second is a bit too much -- just a tiny bit too much. How about 123,456 kyats a month? We will
learn to say 1,2,3 up to 99,999,999 in Burmese. In case you don't know, "9" was considered a lucky number by a late well-known Burmese
individual. In those days, Burma had strange currency denominations such as 45 kyats and 90 kyats, which had the digits all add up
to number 9.
Reference Tables for Burmese Numerals
First, let's start with the very basic from 1 to 9.
Numbers from 1 to 9
To say 1,2,3 in the multiple of 10's such as 10,20,30, etc., the general format is to add the
word hseare2 after 1,2,3. However, there are slight changes in the pronunciations
of 1,2 and 7 in the spoken language.
NOTE: the word hseare2
may sound like zeare2
for 30, 40, 50 and 90. In general, if you have trailing zero's after, 3,4,5 and 9, people soften the consonant when spoken.
10X Numbers from 10 to 90
To say 1,2,3 in the multiple of 100's such as 100, 200, 300, etc., the general format is to add the
after 1,2,3. Note the similarities with the 10's in the pronunciation of 1,2 and 7.
100X Numbers from 100 to 900
To say 1,2,3 in the multiple of 1000's such as 1000, 2000, 3000, etc., the general format is to add the
1000X Numbers from 1,000 to 9,000
Just remember the four zero's word in Burmese. It is called thoun3.
Note that it is pronounced in the 3rd tone. Don't confuse this word with the thousand,
which is in the second tone.
If you are used to expressing those numbers in terms of thousands in your language, you will need to re-adjust the learning. Try to
see 2,0000 figure instead of 20,000.
can be soften to dthoun3
for 30,000, 40,000, 50,000, and 90,000.
10,000X Numbers from 10,000 to 90,000
The higher numbers are expressed in thain3. Remember, it has
five trailing zero's. It is used as a base for even higher numbers in the multiple of
10, 100, and 1000 to that base.
Place the word thain3 after the numbers from 1 to 19. ta1-thain3 means, 1,00000
= 100,000 = one hundred thousand in English.
hseare2-dthain3 means 10X the thain3 = 10,00000
= 1,000,000 = one million in English.
Place the word thain3 before the numbers from 20 onwards. For example,
means 20X the thain3 = 20,00000 = 2,000,000 = 2 million in English.
thain3 ta1-toun2 means 1000X the thain3 = 1000,00000 = 100,000,000. One thousand
thain3 is one hundred million.
If you have numbers with 3,4,5,9, and 10 in front the zero, you may hear people soften the words to
sound like dthain3.
Higher Numbers from 100,000 to 100,000,000
100,000 = 1,00000
1,000,000 = 10,00000
1,500,000 = 15,00000
1,800,000 = 18,00000
2,000,000 = 20,00000
4,000,000 = 40,00000
10,000,000 = 100,00000
100,000,000 = 1000,00000
So, how would you say 654321 in Burmese? Here is a formula. You always start with the highest multiple of 10X.
The above number has 6 digits (with the place for 5 trailing zeros), so start with thain3.
It is pretty much straight forward as shown below:
There is one small detail. The word "hseare2", which is used for 10X as in 10, 20, 30 .... 80, 90
is pronounced in the first tone as hseare1 when it is followed by a single digit number
from 1 to 9 such as in the above example.
Numbers between 10 and 100 with non-zero last digit
thone3-zeare1 -- 30 + lay3-- 4
chout-hseare1 -- 60 + shit-- 8
ko3-zeare1 -- 90 + ko3 -- 9
34 - 68 - 99 ( ၃၄ ၊ ၆၈ ၊ ၉၉ ။ )
OK, quiz time! How would you then say "11"?
That was a trick question. No, it's not
ta1-hseare1 -- 10 + tit -- 1
In spoken Burmese, just omit ta1 in ta1-hseare1 (10 +) for numbers from
11 to 19 like examples below:
hseare1 -- 10 + tit -- 1
hseare1 -- 10 + nga3 -- 5
hseare1 -- 10 + ko3 -- 9
11 - 15 - 19 ( ၁၁ ၊ ၁၅ ၊ ၁၉ ။ )
Numbers from 11-19
Millions and Billions
thun3 is the word for "million". chout-thun3 means six million.
However, in the business world, you will hear people speak in terms of thain3 figure with
5 zero's instead. Six million is sixty thain3, or thain3 chout-hseare2.
And, people usually round up the big numbers so you don't need to worry about saying the smaller numbers that follow
the thain3 number such as htoun2 and ya2.
Present Myanmar government uses the term bi2-la1-yan2 "Billion" to announce the budget and expenses.
This bi2-la1-yan2 is the American usage of billion equivalent to one thousand million. I need to clarify
this because the British billion is a million million, and Americans call this a trillion.
The Burmese language newspaper "The Mirror" uses the term bi2-la1-yan2-na2 for billionaire.
A million million or a trillion is a difficult concept to visualize. Let's see how many zero's behind it.
1,000,000 = 1 million
10,000,000 = 10 million
100,000,000 = 100 million
1,000,000,000 = a billion (1,000 million)
10,000,000,000 = 10 billion
100,000,000,000 = 100 billion
1,000,000,000,000 = a trillion (1,000 billion)
The Burmese language uses the English loaned word Trillion as hta1-ri2-li2-yan2. For example,
for the fiscal year 2015-2016, Myanmar government tax revenue is estimated to be 6.387 hta1-ri2-li2-yan2 Kyat.
There is one other common usage that you should know.
khweare3 means half.
In terms of math, there is an additional half value to the multiplier. For example,
nga3 dthoun3 khweare3 means 55000. Let's do some math:
nga3 means 5
thoun3 means you need to multiply by 10000. ( 5 * 10000 = 50000)
khweare3 refers to the half of whatever multiplier you use, in this case,
(1/2 * 10000= 5000).
Add this 5000 to 50000. (50000+5000= 55000)
So, khweare3 is the same as "half" in English when you say "A million and
Another example on "half" numbers
chout thain3 khweare3 means 6,50000.
thain3 means you need to multiply by 1,00000. ( 6 * 1,00000 = 6,00000)
khweare3 refers to the half of the multiplier you use; in this case,
(1/2 * 1,00000= 50000).
Add this 50000 to 6,00000. (6,00000 + 50000 = 6,50000)
A Review of numbers big and small
Selected Numbers from 1 to 6 Million
Now it's about time to exaggerate a little
So, finally, you should be able to say that you earn 123,456 kyats (a second, a minute, or whatever exaggeration you