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.
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Unlike English or Mandarin Chinese speakers, people in Yangon don't often use North, East, South, West to tell directions.
For example, If I tell the taxi driver to go to the 46th Street in downtown Yangon, the driver will ask,
(top of the street ?) or out lun3la3
(down the street?), where a-pau2,
meaning "on top" refers to North and out
meaning "under" refers to the South.
On the other hand, people in Mandalay speak of the left side of the body as myout (North),
and right side of the body as toun2 (south). So, when the doctor asks the patient which side hurts,
the patient will reply either "North" or "South".
So far, we have been building up on the basic Burmese sentence constructions and learning
some Burmese culture along the way. You will not be speaking true Burmese if you attempt to
make a direct translation from an another language using a dictionary.
Deep inside each of us, there are universal human feelings, emotions, wants, needs, likes and dislikes.
Those primary direct experiences from the within seem to exist even if we don't use any words to
describe them. We use language to code and decode those fundamentals so that we can communicate
with the others. After coding those "inner feelings" into words, however, the direct translation of words
into an another language using a dictionary doesn't always fully capture the original "inner experiences"
that we would like to articulate. Why?
Maybe that's because our usage of the words depends on how we see the world, our attitudes, how we relate
to each other, our way of life and daily activities, the weather and the environment, what we consider as appropriate
or inappropriate, important or not important; and they are different from culture to culture.
When a neighbor greets me: beare2leare3
-- Go where? (where + ?), I doubt that
he is really interested in where I am going, just like when you say "How are you?", you say it without thinking
too deeply about the state of well-being of the other person.
But, there is something more fundamental -- that "inner feeling" and "intention" behind that greeting. Here, you want
to express your friendliness, and also to some degree you feel awkward if you don't say something that the society expects
you to say. Since this is the case, the two greetings are equivalent in terms of "inner feelings".
That is why I have been using two translations side by side: "inner feeling" as well as direct translation word
by word so that you can grasp both the overall feeling tone and meaning of each word in the sentence.
So, now beare2leare3 -- Where to? This interesting
video clip suggests some exciting places to go -- places so fun-filled and thrilling that had the late Michael Jackson, the king of pop known about those places, he would have brought his throne over to
Myanmar and taken the front row. The phrase starts with the name of the place and ends with thwa3meare2 -- will go. Another word you will recognize is the word "hote" meaning
"yes", but in this case, it is used as a question: "Isn't it?"
So, now ဘယ်လဲ | beare2 leare3 -- Where to? This interesting video clip suggests some exciting places to go -- places so fun-filled and thrilling that had the late Michael Jackson, the king of pop known about those places, he would have brought his throne over to Myanmar and took the front row. The phrase starts with the name of the place and ends with သွားမယ် | thwa3 meare2 -- will go. Another word you will recognize is the word ဟုတ် | "hote" meaning "yes", but in this case, it is used as a question: "Isn't it?"
Helay | ဟဲလေး | heare3 lay3 [50 seconds]
teare1-teare1 -- straight (adverb) as opposed to
teare1 - straight (adjective)
teare1-teare1hma2 -- (It's) located straight ahead.
(straight + postpositional marker)
teare1-teare1thwa3 -- Go straight ahead. (straight + go)
a-shay1hma2 -- (It's) in front. (front + postpositional marker)
a-shay1toe3 -- Move forward. (front + inch forward)
At the back
a-nouthma2 -- (It's) at the back (back + postpositional marker)
a-nouthsoat -- Move back; reverse the car (back + retreat)
hsoat, hsoat, hsoat -- Parking attendant telling the driver
it's OK to reverse. (retreat + retreat + retreat)
teare1-teare1hsoat -- Parking attendant telling the driver to
back up straight.
ho3! -- Parking attendant telling the driver to stop.
(Derived from either the English word: "halt" or Hindi word "Hoe".)
Myanmar Grammar Notes: Myanmar-English dictionary by the Myanmar Language Commission defines
ho3! as an interjection. However, it should be noted that it can also be a single word command similar to
thwa3 - Go! In colloquial Burmese, people often use it as a
verb. For example, very common phrase ho3-hta3 is used to tell the driver to stop there and
not to release the brakes.
a-pau2hma2 -- (It's) up there. (up + postpositional marker)
-- (It's) at the uppermost level. (up + extreme position + postpositional marker)
-- (It's) upstairs. (up + floor or level used as a numerical classifier + postpositional marker)
-- (It's) on the top floor. (up + extreme position + floor or level used as a numerical classifier + postpositional
-- (It's) on the top shelf. (up + extreme position + "shelf" used as a numerical classifier + postpositional marker)
za1-bweare3pau2 hma2 --
(It's) on the table. (table + short form of "a-pau2" used as
a postpositional marker equivalent to the preposition "on" + postpositional marker "at")
-- (It's) on the road. (road + on + postpositional marker "at")
-- (It's) in the tree. (tree + on + postpositional marker "at")
a-pau2tet -- Go up! (up + climb)
-- Climb the mountain. (mountain + up + climb)
thit-pin2tet -- Climb the tree. (tree + climb)
-- Go inside the car! (car + on top + climb) No, it doesn't mean go up the roof of
the car! In the old days, people used to go up the cart pulled by two bullocks; there is no "inside" of the cart to speak of.
tetome3 -- Bus ticket conductor saying people are
still going up (or) telling people to go up.
It's hard to say whether he is talking to himself, to the passengers, or to the driver.
(climb + "do this action first")
-- (You / We) need to go upstairs. (up + floor or level + climb + obtain + going to)
a-pau2htuttetja1zo1 -- Let's go upstairs.
(up + floor or level + climb + let's)
Note: Extreme position is spelled "hsone3". For some words, it is pronounced "zone3".
outhma2 -- (It's) down there. (down + postpositional marker)
-- (It's) at the lowest level. (down + extreme position + postpositional marker)
-- go down as in "I am going downstairs." (down + go down / alight from vehicle + going to)
-- (You) need to go down. (down + go down + obtain + going to)
hsin3meare2 -- go down as in
"I am going down from the bus." (go down + going to)
hsin3dau1 -- Bus ticket conductor telling people to
get down. (go down + about time)
hsin3dome3 -- Bus ticket conductor telling the driver people are
still going down.(go down + still in the action)
Why doubling and repeating words? Probably because of the noise level in the busy city center, words need to be repeated to be heard.
In comparison, in Bahasa Malaysia or Indonesia, words are repeated to make them plural. For example,
"Orang, orang" for people
where "orang" stands for a single man in Malay/Indonesian language. In Mandarin Chinese, words are sometimes
doubled up for different reasons.
"Ke3 yi.. Ke3 yi" to stress from "can" to a more enthusiastic "Of course, you can.."
The middle way
a-leare2hma2 -- in the middle. (middle + postpositional marker)
-- on the 2nd level of 3 storey building. (middle + floor or level + postpositional marker)
-- in the backyard. ( backyard where you grow vegetables
or raise livestocks + inside + postpositional marker)
hma2 is a Burmese counterpart of the postpositional marker "Zai4" in Mandarin Chinese.
English equivalent words are the prepositions "at", "in", "on", etc.. hteare3 from the word
a-hteare3 meaning "inside" is used as suffix to nouns. It is a postpositional marker in Burmese grammar
North, East, South, West
a-shay1 -- East. (same meaning as "the front")
a-nout -- West. (same meaning as "the back")
toun2 -- South.
myout -- North.
A Tourist Story
hsa1-ya2 -- Sir beare2 -- where thwa3 -- go ma1leare3 -- ? ( spoken form of "hma2" meaning "at" + ?)
-- Where are you going, Sir?
hsu3-lay2 -- Sule Pagoda lite -- to come along ma1la3 -- ? ( spoken form of "hma2" meaning "at" + ?)
Sule Pagoda, are you going?
Note: Sometimes taxi drivers may refuse to go to routes that are not profitable. If he takes the passenger to the remote part of
the Greater Yangon City, he may not find an another passenger on his way back to the busy part of the town.
So,"lite" is like saying, "That's where I am heading. Are you coming along?"
Alternatively, you can say,
"How much to Sule?"
Taxi driver after scratching his head:
thone3 htoun2 -- 3,000 beare3 -- only; just pay3 -- to give ba2 -- polite
thone3 htoun2beare3pay3ba2 -- Pay me only 3,000.
ha2... -- C'mon thone3 htoun2 -- 3,000 mya3 -- too much deare2 -- ending word.
ha2...thone3 htoun2mya3deare2 -- C'mon... 3,000 is too much.
hna1 htoun2 -- 2,000 loat -- to make or to do ba2 -- polite suggestion.
-- Please make it 2,000.
Taxi driver scratches his head again, thinks about it for a while, and gestures towards the back seat:
Tet, Tet..Alright, have a seat.. ( go up + go up )
The Toyota taxi (recently imported new model) is modified to run by Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).
After about 15 minutes drive, the taxi stops in front of the parking lot near Sule Pagoda.
The tourist had studied the map of down-town Yangon the night before, but now he is a bit confused as to
which road around the Sule Pagoda he should be heading. He decides to ask for direction with his recently-acquired
knowledge of Burmese language he learned from some Internet website.
People in Yangon must be very friendly. Someone approaches to him first even
before he asks for help. Let's see what this friendly Myanmar man has to say.
Friendly Myanmar Man :
hsa1-ya2-ji3, -- Big Master (master + big) dau2-la2 -- dollar leare3 -- to exchange ma1la3 -- ? ( spoken form of "hma2" meaning "at" + ?)
hsa1-ya2-ji3,dau2-la2leare3ma1la3 -- "Do you want to exchange dollar, big master?",
the man in traditional lone2 ji2 (sarong) asks the tourist.
The tourist has never heard of this kind of greeting before. He decides that he will exchange a conversation
with this friendly Burmese man.
Nearby street vendor quickly takes advantage of the fact that the tourist can speak a pretty good Burmese, with the
right tone and all.
Street Vendor :
a-khway2 -- tapes, VCD, DVD etc. dway2 -- plural kji1 -- to watch ba2 ome3 -- polite suggestion
a-khway2dway2kji1ba2 ome3 -- "Won't you watch movies?"
The street vendor helds up a transparent plastic VCD cover
with interesting color print inside.
ta1-khway2 -- one tape (one + tape) nga3 ya2 -- 500 ba2 -- polite ending word.
ta1-khway2nga3 ya2ba2 -- "500 kyat each", he says in a salesman pitch.
ma1 -- not weare2 -- buy thay3 -- yet to be; not yet bu3 -- negative ending
-- Not buying this time!
The Adventure of the tourist continues in lesson 6.
June 2012 update: You will be seeing less and less of street-vendors in downtown yangon. Commercial banks have now replaced the
illegal money exchangers of the past. You can use ATM to withdraw local currency in Kyats if you have foreign-issued credit
or debit cards with Visa and MasterCard Networks.
The new civilian government has started to clean up the congested side-walks in the streets of downtown Yangon.
New shops and buildings are slowly replacing the old. You will now see luxury vehicles on the road after import permits were issued in
March 2014 update: The above photo with Sule Pagoda in the background was added.
May 2015 update: This photo of United Amara Bank ATM machine at Bargayar Street, Myaynigone, Yangon.
January 2016 update: Street vendors are back due to lack of enforcement. Expect traffic jams in day time.
January 2017 update: On January 16, 2017 a new bus system with new numbers were introduced in Yangon. See the routes with
all the bus stops and detailed maps at www.yangonbus.com.