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 interjections.
Myanmar Language & Grammar Overview
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.
Burmese verbs ကြိယာ | kri1-ya2 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:
- ပြုခြင်း | pyu1 chin3 - action (does/do)
- ဖြစ်ခြင်း | pfyit chin3 - occurrence (be/is/are/am)
- ရှိခြင်း | shi1 chin3 - 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:
ကျွန်တော် | kja1-nau2 - I (pronoun, male term)
ဆရာဝန် | hsa1-ya2-woon2 - doctor (noun)
ပါ | ba2 - ending polite word. (particle)
ကျွန်တော်ဆရာဝန်ပါ။ | kja1-nau2 hsa1-ya2-woon2 ba2 -- 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 ဝိဘတ် | wi1-but (postpositional markers) and ပစ္စည်း | pyit-si3 (particles). 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
သွား | thwa3 - to go (verb)
တော့ | dau1 - about to (particle for emphasis)
မယ် | meare2 - will (postpositional marker to show tense)
နော် | nau2 - ending word. (particle for feeling tone)
သိ | thi1 - to know (verb)
ပြီ | byi2 - has reached certain condition (postpositional marker)
လား | la3 - question ending word (particle)
သူ | thu2 - he (pronoun)
မှန် | hmun2 - right; correct (adjective)
တယ် | deare2 - affirmative ending word (postpositional marker, not a verb in Burmese grammar.)
In the last example, the ending word IS NOT a verb, but it modifies the adjective into the word
မှန် တယ် |
hmun2 deare2, which is considered as a verb
of pfyit-chin3-pya1 kri1-ya2 (verb clause that shows occurrence) type.
Although တယ် |
deare2 seems to correspond with the verb "is", it cannot be used consistently as "is" in some other sentence
hote deare2 -- Yes!
It must be stressed that Burmese equivalent of "be/is/are/am" like တယ် | 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 ပါ | 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 pronouns နာမ်စား | nun2-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..
- Referential pronouns -- "this","that", "above-mentioned", etc..
- Question Words -- "what", "who", "where" in reference to the noun.
- Quantitative Pronouns -- "one person", "three cups", "four items", "some", "few", "all", "half", etc..
Burmese Adjectives နာမဝိသေသန | na2-ma1 wi1-thay2-tha1-na1 are classified into four groups:
- 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 Adverbs ကြိယာဝိသေသန | kri1-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 နာမ် | "nun2" : four by construction, and four by meaning:
- Combination; Compound |
ပေါင်းစပ်နာမ် | poun3-sut nun2
E.g., စာအုပ်ဆိုင် | sa2-oat hsine2 (book + shop) -- bookshop.
It is possible to combine words other than nouns. E.g., စားသောက်ဆိုင် | sa3 + thout + hsine2 = eat+drink+shop = restaurant.
- Original; Innate |
ပင်ကိုနာမ် | pin2-ko2 nun2
E.g., ခွေး | khway3 -- dog.
- Qualitative |
ဂုဏ်ရည်ပြနာမ် | gome2-yay2-pya1 nun2
E.g., ထူးချွန်မှု | 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 hmu1.
- Verb Modifications |
ကြိယာနာမ် | kri1-ya2 nun2
E.g., ကူညီမှု | ku2-nyi2-hmu1 -- help. 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 |
တစ်ဦးဆိုင်နာမ် | ta1-u3-hsine2 nun2
E.g., Yangon, Shwedagon, Aung San.
- Common Terms |
အများဆိုင်နာမ် | a-mya3-hsine2 nun2
E.g., dog, city, cow, book
- Psychological; Abstract |
စိတ္တဇနာမ် | sate-ta1-za1 nun2
E.g., courage, love, faith
- Conglomeration |
အစုပြနာမ် | a-su1-pya1 nun2
E.g., အစည်းအရုံး | 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 words ဗဟုဝုစ် | ba1-hu1-woot in most cases simply add a suffix word တွေ | dway2 to the noun in the colloquial language and များ | mya3 in the literary form. Those suffix words are classified as particles.
Burmese language has several conjunctions known as သမ္ဗန္ဓ |
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:
- လျှင် | hlyin2
-- if (literary)
- ဆိုရင် | hso2-yin2 -- if (colloquial)
- သို့မဟုတ် | dtho1-ma1-hote -- or else (literary)
- ထို့ကြောင့် | hto1-joun1 -- therefore (literary)
- သို့ရာတွင် | dtho1-ya2-dwin2 -- however (literary)
- ထို့ပြင် | hto1-pyin2 -- moreover (literary)
- ရန် | yan2 -- in order to; so as to (literary)
- ဖို့ | pfo1 -- for (colloquial)
- သကဲ့သို့ | dtha1-keare1-tho1 -- as if (literary)
- လည်း | leare3 -- also (both)
- လည်းကောင်း | la1-goun3 -- as well (literary)
- နဲ့ | neare1 -- with (colloquial)
- နှင့် | hnin1 -- with (literary)
- သာမက | dtha2-ma1-ka1 -- not only... but also (literary)
- ၍ | yway1 -- and; while; because (literary)
- အဘယ်ကြောင့်ဆိုသော် | a-beare2-joun1-hso2-dthau2 -- the reason is that (literary)
- သောကြောင့် | dthau3-joun1 -- due to the fact that (literary)
- လို့ | lo1 -- because (colloquial)
- စေကာမူ | say2-ga2-mu2 -- nevertheless (literary)
Do you just want to look up a list of Burmese words in table format?
Common English Nouns in Burmese
Common English Verbs in Burmese
Common English Adjectives in Burmese
List of Superlative terms
English prepositions in Burmese
Action words for daily activities
Common Burmese Adverbs
List of Numerical Classifiers
Restaurant Menu Items
List of drinks & beverages
List of fruits
List of Meat & Fresh Seafood
List of Vegetables
List of Seeds & Nuts
List of Cooking Ingredients
List of Countries around the World
List of Family Relationships
List of Symptoms, Diseases & Illnesses
List of Human Anatomy
List of Sports & Games
List of Occupations & Job titles
List of Businesss & Industries
List of Shops & Work Places
Consider the three stress levels in Burmese:
မ | Ma1 = sounds like "Ma" in "Malaysia"
မာ | Ma2 = "ma" as in "diploma"
မား | Ma3 = higher pitch of "Ma" as in "Mother"
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 , which means "the main road" in Mandarin Chinese.
Ma3 = Higher pitch level and close to Pinyin 1st or 2nd tone as in , which means "to bother" in Mandarin Chinese.
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 ရှင် | shin2 to a higher pitch ရှင်း | shin3 within a fraction of a second.
Further clarifications to "a1"(31 Dec 2013)
When the Burmese character မ | "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 မလေးရှား | "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 မနီလာ | 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" is spelled with the 33rd Burmese Character အ | (Ah1), followed by the third character ဂ | (Ga1) and the word တိ | "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 အဂတိ | 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 ကပါ | "Kah1 ba2" (please dance) and differentiate it from ကမ္ဘာ | "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".
Zawgyi font is the most popular font in Myanmar. It is the choice of font for an estimated 11 million facebook users in the country with 54.8 million population in the year 2017. Unicode is mistakenly identified by some as a type of font. Unicode is the International Standard used in the World Wide Web and supported by major operating systems including those used in the mobile phones. Currently, many Burmese font types are available that meet Unicode Standard.
Zawgyi, unfortunately, does not meet either Unicode Standard or that of W3C, which defines the standards for the World Wide Web. In earlier days before the Internet usage became widespread in Myanmar, Zawgyi font in stand-alone PC's had no issue. However, as
the World is connected through the Internet, it is less desirable choice of font for coding professional websites. Nevertheless, it can still be used for Personal Computers, and it still remains the choice of font for Myanmar people. For more technical information, refer to this Wikipedia page.
Burmese font used to code pages in this website is Unicode-compliant.
DOWNLOAD UNICODE-COMPLIANT BURMESE FONT
DOWNLOAD ZAWGYI FONT AND KEYBOARD FOR PC USE
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 | မြန်မာဘာသာစကား အပြောအဆို သင်ခန်းစာများ - နိဒါန်း
“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 —
Learn the official language of over 53 million people of Myanmar — The Land of the Fast and the Strong — the most generous country in the World for the FOURTH CONSECUTIVE YEARS IN 2017. English is widely understood in Myanmar in establishments that have regular contact with foreigners, such as hotels and airports. To communicate at a deeper level, to mingle with the crowd, and to develop warmer relationships without the help of an interpreter, knowing some Burmese is a definite plus. And when it comes to the written part, Burmese is the language for virtually all of over 11 million Facebook users in Myanmar to exchange views, ideas and information; to share precious memories of yesterday and today; to express happiness and sorrow of the "now" moment; and to sing the song of hope for the dawns of many tomorrows to come. This is the language of love, the language of hate, and the language of a colorful spectrum of human emotions to brag, to lament and to vent frustrations online among Burmese people.
A series of political and economic reforms started in 2011 has resulted in Myanmar emerging as the fastest growing economy in Asia. (According to Nikkei Asian Review, the World Bank on January 10, 2017 has revised the growth figure under Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi leadership, but it is still a decent showing at an estimated 6.5 percent and only slightly lagged behind behind the Philippines, Laos and Cambodia.) The name "Myanmar" is not a creation by the military government back in 1989. The Kingdom of "Mien" 緬 was well-recorded by the Chinese, and mentioned by the 13th century romance writer Rustichello da Pisa in The Travels of Marco Polo (Il Milione in Italian) to describe the Mongol invasion of ancient Bagan.
“... one of the finest sights in the world; so exquisitely finished are they, so splendid and costly.”
( Marco Polo's description of Bagan temples)
To a Westerner, spoken Burmese sounds somewhat like Korean. Grammatically, the structure of Burmese language is simple, easy to learn, and quite similar to Mandarin Chinese. While Mandarin Chinese has 4 tones, Burmese is quite happy with just 3. Unlike English, there are no complicated tenses and verb structures to worry about. The only major challenge in learning Burmese language will be to get the right "stress" or "tone" when speaking to a native speaker, and perhaps confusion with words which sound similar, but have different meanings according to the context in which they are spoken.
Hi, my name is Naing Tinnyuntpu | နိုင်တင်ညွန့်ပု | nine2-tin2-nyoon1-pu1. 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, Yahoo!, bing, AOL, Ask, LYCOS, Yandex, and Norton Safe Search.
Burmese for more serious learners
Gone are the days when most people learning Burmese just wanted to pick up a phrase or two for a short visit to Myanmar. Now, there are more serious learners who must interact with local people on the regular basis. They are not only embassy staff, but more and more of business managers, those with International Non-governmental Organizations (INGO's), those non-native speakers in Myanmar with business visa, which was almost unheard of a decade ago, and students at UFL in Yangon. A visit to FRC section of immigration office in Yangon Pansodan Road will give you some ideas on how many folds of increase in foreigners there has been since 2011. If you are one of them, the following two picks will help you.
Myanmar Script Learning Guide PDF (Rev. F) is further improved with larger font-size and new design. It now comes with more than 740 MP3 Audio recordings in seven pages of FREE ONLINE AUDIO SUPPORT. 104 pages, 650 KB (Updated: 2017-10-30)
Everyday Spoken Burmese PDF (Rev. B) 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. 102 pages, 466 KB. Revised: 2017-10-11. Over 400 MP3 audio files are available online with eight pages of Lesson 62.
Who says Burmese is hard to learn?
Forget the myth that Burmese is hard to learn. U.S. government Foreign Service Institute (FSI) that trains diplomats says Burmese is an easier language to learn than Mongolian, Thai, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Japanese. 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.
Burmese 1,2,3 Tone System with Script
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 in "artist".
I will be using Burmese 1,2,3 Tone System to describe those 3 tones as...
အ | Ah1
အာ | Ah2
အား | Ah3
စ | Sa1
စါ | Sa2
စါး | Sa3
က | Ka1
ကာ | Ka2
ကား | 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.
အ | Ah1 -- stupid
အာ | Ah2 -- verbally picking up a fight
အား | Ah3 -- have free time
စ | Sa1 -- to start
စါ | Sa2 -- letter
စါး | Sa3 -- to eat
က | Ka1 -- to dance
ကာ | Ka2 -- to shield
ကား | Ka3 -- to exaggerate
The first tone will be like "de" sound in "deep". A good example of second tone will be "de" as in "demote". The third tone has more stress to it, such as "dee" in "deer".
ဒိ | De1
ဒီ | De2
ဒီး | De3
I have to use "e" instead of "i" in this case, because "Di" will sound like "Dianna".
More examples of 3 tones with the Vowel "E" or "I":
စိ | Si1 -- sounds like "seat" without "t" ending. -- to scrutinize.
စီ | Si2 -- normal stress or tone as in "si" of the word "seduce". Yes, it does sound a bit like Spanish "si" - not "sy" as in "cyber". -- to arrange and organize objects.
စီး | Si3 -- pronounced as "see". -- to ride a vehicle.
ပိ | Pi1 -- try saying "Pete" with silent "t". -- to be trapped under (something).
ပီ | Pi2 -- stress normally as in "Pe" of "Peru", -- be able to pronounce correctly.
ပီး | Pi3 -- pronounced just like "pee" or "pea"). This is close enough to ပြီး | Pyi3 -- to finish.
အိ | E1 -- as in
"eat" with silent "t".
အီ | E2 -- as in "Egyptian".
အီး | E3 -- as in "e-commerce".
First tone example: a short "u" sound as in "Youth" with silent "th"; a short "u" sound in "amused".
Second tone example: Neutral tone of "u" as in "University".
Third tone example: stressed "u" which sounds like "ew" in "New", or as New Yorkers would say "Noo" in "New York".
Another third tone example would be a stressed "u" sound in "user".
ယု | Yu1 -- tender care as in ယုယ | yu1-yah1
ယူ | Yu2 -- to take something.
ရူး | Yu3 -- crazy, mentally disturbed.
More examples of 3 tones with the Vowel "U":
ကု | Ku1 -- as in "uncouth" with silent "th". -- to treat a patient.
ကူ | Ku2 -- stress normally as in "Kuwait". -- to help.
ကူး | Ku3 -- sounds like "Cool" with silent "l". -- to swim.
ပု | 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.
ပူ | Pu2 -- as in "pu" sound of "pudding". -- hot.
ပူး | Pu3 -- sounds like "pool" without "l" ending. -- to be joined.
The first tone will be like "Colt" without the "lt" ending sound.
The second tone sounds like the first "co" of "Coca Cola".
The third tone example: try saying "cold" without "ld" ending.
ကို့ (ကိုယ့်) | Ko1
ကို (ကိုယ်) | Ko2
ကိုး | Ko3
Due to eccentricity of English language, I will use "OE" or "OH" instead of the vowel "O" for the consonants "d" and "t" as follow:
ဒို့ | Doh1
ဒို | Doh2
ဒိုး | Doe3
တို့ | Toh1 - to touch lightly.
တို | Toh2 - short as opposed to long.
တိုး | Toe3 - push and shove.
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 "d".
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!
အော့ | Au1 -- to throw up in disgust as in အော့အန် | au1-un2
အော် | Au2 -- to shout.
အော | Au3 -- deep voice.
More examples of tones with the Vowel "Au":
ပေါ့ | Pau1 -- try saying "pulse" without "lse" ending. -- light in weight.
ပေါ် | Pau2 -- somewhere in between "pulse" and "Paul". How about "Pauline"? -- exposed, or "politician".
ပေါ | Pau3 -- sounds like "Paul" without "l" sound. -- abundant.
Next, a set of 3 tones with Vowel "Un" or "An":
The first tone example: "aun" as in "aunt".
the second tone example: Normal stress of "un" in "understanding".
The third tone example: the word "un" stressed as in "under".
အံ့ | Un1 -- to be amazed as in အံ့ဩ | un1-au3.
အန် | Un2 -- to throw up.
အမ်း | Un3 -- to return change as in အကြွေအမ်း | a-kjway2-un3.
More examples with the Vowel "Un":
လန့် | Lun1 -- sounds like "lunt" in "blunt". -- fearful.
လန် | Lun2 -- somewhat between "lunt" and "London" as in luncheon -- to fall out from the place due to an abrupt force, such as when the roof being blown away by the strong wind.
လမ်း | Lun3 -- stressed "Lun" in "London" -- road, street, path.
For some words, it seems more natural to use "An" rather than "Un":
ခန့် | khan1 -- sounds like British "can't"--not American "can't" -- Grand as in ခန့်ညား | khan1-nya3.
ခံ | khan2 -- unstressed "can" as in "canoe" -- to collect water.
ခန်း | 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".
အင့် | In1 : "ink" with silent "k"
အင် | In2 : "In" as in "Indiana".
အင်း | In3 : "In" as in "Innate"
ဆင့် | Hsin1 -- sounds like "sink" without "k" ending. -- to stack up.
ဆင် | Hsin2 -- normal stress of "sin" in "sincerely". -- elephant.
ဆင်း | 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".
အေ့ | Ay1
အေ | Ay2
အေး | Ay3
First tone example: sounds like "maize" without "ze" ending.
Second tone example: "May" as in "May I ?" without stressing on "may".
Third tone example: "may" stressed like in "amazing".
မေ့ | may1 -- "maize" without "ze" sound. -- forgotten.
မေ | may2 -- "may" as in "May I?" -- prefix used in front of some female names.
မေး | may3 -- stressed like in "amazing". -- to question.
The closest one can get to the first tone is "self" without "lf" ending. Another example would be
"wealth" without "lth" ending.
Second tone sounds like "Sal" in "Salary" without "l" ending, or "pal" without "l" ending in "maple".
The third tone will be like "sell" without double "l" ending. It belongs to "Wear", "tear", "pear" sound group.
ဆယ့် | hseare1
ဆယ် | hseare2
ဆဲ | hseare3
More examples on tones with the Vowel "Eare":
မဲ့ | meare1 -- sounds like "mad" without "d" ending. -- to put on an unhappy face.
မယ် | meare2 -- not so much stress on "mare" like in "marry-making" -- indication of intention.
မည်း | meare3 -- stressed like "mare" in "nightmare" -- black in color.
You may ask why don't I just drop the middle "e" and shorten those as
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.
ဧည့် | Eare1 -- as in "Edward".
အယ် | Eare2 -- as in "Editor".
အဲ | Eare3 -- as in "Elephant".
အိန့် (အိမ့်) | Ain1
အိန် (အိမ်) | Ain2
အိန်း (အိမ်း) | 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".
လိမ့် | lain1 -- to roll.
လိမ် | lain2 -- to lie.
လိမ်း | lain3 -- apply or rub on the skin or hair.
အုန့် (အုမ့်) (အုံ့) | Ome1
အုန် (အုမ်) (အုံ) | Ome2
အုန်း (အုမ်း) (အုံး) | Ome3
First tone examples: "on't" sounds as in won't, don't.
Second tone example: "Om" with silent "m" in "Romania".
Third tone example: Fully stressed "Om" with silent "m" in "Rome".
တုံ့ | tone1 -- to retaliate as in တုံ့ပြန် | tone1-pyan2.
တုန် | tone2 -- shivering, rattling, vibrating.
တုံး | tone3 -- to chop.
I will use the "m" variant for some words like "gome2". With "n" it will sound like "gone".
To romanize this vowel, I have no choice but to use "m" variant because with "n", it becomes number "one".
အိုင့် | Ine1
အိုင် | Ine2
အိုင်း | Ine3
First tone example: "kind" without "d" ending.
Second tone example: the closest is unstressed "mine" in "minute". I am referring to the word "mine-nute" as in "minutely small", not the hour and "min-it" with the same spelling.
The third tone example: "tine" sound in "tiny", or simply "mine".
ကိုင့် | kine1 as in "kind"
ကိုင် | kine2 as in "kinetic"
ကိုင်း | kine3 that rhymes with "pine"
အွန့် (အွမ့်) | Oon1
အွန် (အွမ်) | Oon2
အွန်း (အွမ်း) | Oon3
First tone example: "doont" sound in "couldn't".
Second tone example: "Kung" sound in "Kung Fu", or "mun" in "monetary" or "monastery".
Third tone example: "Coon" as in "Cocoon".
တွန့် | toon1 -- similar to "doont" sound in "couldn't". -- wrinkles of the skin.
တွန် | toon2 -- the same stress level as "mun" in "monastery". -- crow of the cock.
တွန်း | toon3 -- as in "cartoon". -- to push.
အောင့် | Oun1
အောင် | Oun2
အောင်း | Oun3
First tone example: ကောင့် | koun1 - "Count" without ending "t".
Second tone example: ကောင် | Oun1 - "Coun as in "Counter-strike".
Third tone example: ကောင်း | Oun1 - "Coun" as in "Counseling".
စောင့် | soun1 - to wait.
စောင် | soun2 - blanket.
စောင်း | soun3 - harp.
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.
(c1) cake, jade, eight, paid, sake, bake. E.g., စိတ် | sate - mind
(c2) wet, set, mad, yet. E.g., စက် | set - machine
(c3) cook, put, look. E.g., ဝတ် | woot - wear clothes
(c4) out, south, mouse, doubt. E.g., သောက် | thout - to drink
(c5) sight, pipe, night, dice, like, wide, guide. E.g., ဗိုက် | bite - stomach
(c6) up, suck, duck, mud. E.g., ရပ် | yut - stop; stand up
(c7) oat, coat, goat, soak. E.g., ဟုတ် | hote - true; yes
(c8) it, pit, sit. E.g., ချစ် | chit - love
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 က ကာ ကား | 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 သံ | thun2 from the word အသံ | 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 သံ | thun2 groups as follow:
သက်သံ | thet-thun2
- 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
အ | ah1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အိ | e1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အု (ဥ) | u1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အေ့ | ay1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အော့ | au1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အင့် | in1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အောင့် | oun1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အိုင့် | ine1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အဉ့် | in1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အည့် | e1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အန့် | un1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အိန့် | ain1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အုန့် | ome1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အမ့် (အံ့) | un1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အိမ့် | ain1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အုမ့် (အုံ့) | ome1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အယ့် (အဲ့) | eare1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အို့ | o1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
တက်သံ | tet-thun2
- 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.
အာ | ah2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အီ (ဤ) | e2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အူ (ဦ) | u2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အေ (ဧ) | ay2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အော် (ဪ) | au2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အို | o2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အင် | in2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အောင် | oun2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အိုင် | ine2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အဉ် | in2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အည် | e2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အန် | un2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အိန် | ain2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အုန် | ome2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အမ် | un2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အိမ် | ain2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အုမ် (အုံ) | ome2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အယ် | eare2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
နိမ့်သံ | nain1-thun2
- 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
romnanization 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.
အား | ah3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အီး | e3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အူး (ဦး) | u3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အေး | ay3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အော (ဩ) | au3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အိုး | o3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အင်း | in3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အောင်း | oun3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အိုင်း | ine3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အဉ်း | in3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အည်း | e3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အန်း | un3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အိန်း | ain3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အုန်း | ome3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အမ်း | un3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အိမ်း | ain3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အုမ်း (အုံး) | ome3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အဲ | eare3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
တိုင်သံ | tine2-thun2
- 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.
အက် | et<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အောက် | out<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အိုက် | ike<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အစ် | it<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အတ် | ut<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အိတ် | ate<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အုတ် | oat<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အပ် | ut<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အိပ် | ate<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အုပ် | oat<<MP3 AUDIO>>
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:
အွမ့် (အွန့်) | oon1<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အွမ် (အွန်) | oon2<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အွမ်း (အွန်း) | oon3<<MP3 AUDIO>>
အွတ် (အွပ်) | oot<<MP3 AUDIO>>
Let's test out a few phrases with the tone system:
ဘယ်လောက်လဲ | beare2 lout leare3 -- How much?
ဘယ် | beare2 -- 2nd tone with the Vowel "Eare" such as "mare" tone in "marry-making". So, it has a normal stress like "bare" in "strawberry".
လောက် | lout -- belongs to single tone group (c4). It is clear enough, so not numbered.
လဲ | leare3 -- 3rd tone with the Vowel "Eare". Stressed like "mare" in "nightmare". Just replace "m" initial consonant sound with "l".
beare2 thwa3 chin2 leare3
-- Where do you want to go?
ဘယ် | beare2 -- 2nd tone with the Vowel "Eare" such as "bare" in "strawberry".
သွား | thwa3 -- 3rd tone with the Vowel "A", stressed like Ahhhhh...., so it would sound like tha-waahhhh".
ချင် | chin2 -- 2nd tone Vowel "In"; normal stress like "sin" in "sincerely". Just replace "s" with "ch" sound, i.e., "chin" in place of "sin".
လဲ | leare3 -- 3rd tone just like "mare" in "nightmare". Replace "m" with "l" and say it.
sa3 ja1 zo1 -- let's eat!
စါး | sa3 -- third tone with the Vowel "A"; fully stressed as Sahhhhh....
ကြ | ja1 -- first tone with the Vowel "A"; short tone like "ja" in "Japan".
စို့ | 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!!