Introduction to Burmese 2015 Archives
Once closed to the outside world, Myanmar is now a popular tourist destination with over 3 million tourist arrivals in 2014 and US$1.14 billion earning by tourism in the same year. While International Monetary Fund (IMF) had predicted the GDP growth of 7.8% for FY2014-2015, Asian Development Bank (ADB) projected 8.2% growth for FY2015-2016.
Foreign direct investment grew to US$8 billion in 2014-2015 fiscal year. We are not only talking about the usual Chinese firms in gas and oil sector alone, or Ivanhoe of Canada in mining. Gone are the days when we don't hear public announcements or see big headline news about investments made in this country. A few knew that "Myanmar Beer" had started as a joint venture between Singapore's F&N and Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEHL) back in 1995 when companies from Europe and America kept their distance. You just don't want to end up like HSBC with $1.9 billion fine. [The 1995 Free Burma Act by Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called for economic and trade sanctions on Burma as well as on countries that trade with that country. Executive Order 13047 signed by the U.S. President Clinton took effect on May 21, 1997 banning most New U.S. investment in economic development of resources in Burma. As of 2015, most of the sanctions have been lifted. See details from U.S. Department of the treasury.]
The investors now include familiar U.S. brand names such as Pepsi (PEP), Coca Cola (KO), KFC & Pizza Hut under Yum! Brands (YUM), Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (KKD), and Norwegian telecommunication company Telenor. And yes, it's safe for Heineken and Carlsberg to set up breweries, and Ford, GM, Jaguar, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz to open show rooms in Yangon. Not enough cash in local currency Kyat? No problem. Send money through Western Union from abroad, or withdraw from ATM using Visa and Master Cards at affiliated banks. Myanmar was so cut-off and left behind that we don't even know how to spell and translate all the new names and terms into Burmese. On the other hand, knowing the Burmese language and insider knowledge about this country gained from visiting (not just what you read from some politically-biased negative reports) has advantages for increasing numbers of international business managers and professionals in smaller companies, diplomats, as well as tourists to get ahead of the others.
The advantage is not a one-way street. Those in Myanmar service and retail sectors from taxi drivers in Yangon to souvenir sellers in Inle Lake
benefit from increase in arrivals of international visitors. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary workers affected by politics and suffered under
the Western economic sanctions have gained back their livelihoods. Whether it's Hilton, Marriott, and Novotel opening hotels, or Toyota providing
service centers, more job opportunities are created. The Coca-Cola Company (NYSE: KO) alone has planned for
job creation of 22,000
across the value chain over the five years span. How about those in advertising business? They are certainly not whining and complaining.
Coca Cola has a Burmese tagline:
ain2 go2 weare2 thwa3 lite ba2 -- Buy me and take me back to your home where,
ain2 -- house; home (noun)
go2 -- to (colloquial postpositional marker indicating destination)
weare2 thwa3 -- buy and go (verb + verb)
lite -- verb suffix word used as a command or to urge (particle)
ba2 -- polite suggestion (particle)
Telenor came up with the line:
ah3-lone3 yeare1 teare2-li2-nau3 -- Everyone's Telenor where,
ah3-lone3 -- everyone; all (pronoun)
yeare1 -- 's (colloquial postpositional marker indicating possession)
teare2-li2-nau3 -- Telenor (noun)
If one contemplates on Saya San Rebellion during the Great Depression to every major public unrests (not counting ethnic and religious conflicts) after the independence, one realizes that there is a common root cause. A phrase by James Carville and Bill Clinton can be appropriately translated into Burmese:
sa3-woot-nay2-yay3 -- means for sustenance (eat + wear + live + particle to change verb into noun: "affair")(noun)
kwa1 -- excited tone (particle)
nga1-tone3 -- dull; stupid person; dummy; pinhead (slang) (noun)
yah1 -- emphasis: "It's like this, don't you know?" (particle)
sa3-woot-nay2-yay3 kwa1 nga1-tone3 yah1 -- It's the economy, stupid!
Still in its fragile stage of democracy, Myanmar (#144) is ranked above Malaysia (#147) and Singapore (#153) in 2015 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters without Borders.
So, are you ready to learn some Burmese? Are you ready to visit Myanmar? Yes, I use both "Myanmar" and "Burmese" relating to the language for practical reasons. Both are likely search terms on the Internet. There was a time of confusion as to what to call the people of "Burma" after it was renamed as "Myanmar". Some in ASEAN countries used the term "Myanmarese", but it did not catch on to become a popular usage. A little was known by the outside world about this country in self-isolation until mass demonstrations a year earlier. It took several more years, perhaps two decades, for some to accept the name "Myanmar".
Today, Myanmar is the word for the name of the country used by the top US News media including USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, The Washington Post and CNN.com, On the other hand, "Burmese" (adjective) is the word in the English language meaning "of or relating to Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) or its people, language, culture, python or cat." It's up to Oxford, Cambridge, Merriam-Webster, Collins, or American Heritage Dictionary to define it. After all, we have yet to change the word in3-ga1-late (meaning English) in the Burmese language dictionary published by the Myanmar Language Commission with in3-ga1-lish. Although it is true that language is always evolving, we will all end up confused if we start changing the word "Chinese" in English with "Zhong-Wen" and "Japanese" with "Nippon". Why change the word "Burmese" in English language only? Shouldn't we also change "Birmanisch" in German, "Birman" in French, "Birmano" in Italian and Spanish, "Birmaans" in Dutch, and "Burmesisk" in Norwegian to "Myanmar", just to give some examples.