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Lesson 17: Making and Answering Phone Calls in Myanmar

One cheap way to make long distance phone calls in Myanmar is to go to the Internet Cafe. Many of Internet shops known as Public Access Centers (PAC) offer Voice Over Internet Protocol phone calls through the Internet. If you must make frequent calls for several minutes at a time, this definitely makes more sense than using International Direct Dialing (IDD) phone calls from your hotel, or from the house that you are renting, or worse, from the house of your host that you are staying, because he will end up with astronomical phone bills! This is very practical way for many foreign businessmen in Yangon who call back to their office or home in their countries.

August 2015 Update: SIM cards for mobile phones are now cheaply available. One alternative is to just bring your smart phone or a tablet with a slot for SIM card. You can then use Internet (VIBER, SKYPE, Facebook, etc..) for long distance calls. However, there are still bandwidth problems and slow connections at the peak usage hours. With cheap SIM cards, you can also make local calls, provided that your mobile service provider does not use SIM-lock to prevent changing service providers. Another option for local calls is just buy an inexpensive phone with SIM Card. Top-up cards with PINs are available everywhere.

February 2016 Update: Myanmar will remember the bygone days of Inernet Shops described in this lesson. Most of them are now out of business as mobile phone penetration and Internet access from the smartphones have reached a high level.

I want to make a phone call

First, let's recall the phrase chin2 deare2 used in Lesson 7.

xxxx chin2 deare2 means "I want to xxxx" where you substitute "xxxx" with the activity that you want to do.

So, in this case, you substitute xxxx with the verb "pfone3 khau2", which means "making a phone call".

Making a phone call in Burmese

pfone3 khau2 chin2 deare2 -- I want to make a phone call. (phone + to call + "I want to")

It's better to tell the shop attendant where you want to call right away.

YYYY go2 pfone3 khau2 chin2 deare2 -- I want to make a phone call to YYYY. (YYYY + to + phone + call + "I want to")

where YYYY will be the country that you would like to call. Otherwise, the attendant will ask you where you want to call:

beare2 go2 khau2 chin2 leare3 -- Where do you want to make the call? (where + to + call + want + ?)

Myanmar Grammar Notes: The word "go2" is a postpositional marker in the above sentence, which makes "the place being called = YYYY" the object of the sentence.

The word "go2" in this context approximately mean "to". It can be omitted in the above question like this:

beare2 khau2 chin2 leare3

You might want to ask how much it costs a minute to make the call.

ta1 ma1-nit beare2 lout leare3 -- How much a minute? (1 + minute + 'how much?')

Let's hear how your request will sound like:

Sin2-ga1-pu2 go2 pfone3 khau2 chin2 deare2 -- I want to make a call to Singapore.

ta1 ma1-nit beare2 lout leare3 -- How much a minute?

Myanmar Grammar Notes: ta1 ma1-nit refers to the noun pfone3-khau2-kha1 -- "fee for the phone call" without mentioning it. Therefore, it is a pronoun. "1 minute" indirectly refers to the noun "phone fee". "1 minute" of what is not made clear.

It will be an adjective in "pfone3-khau2-kha1 ta1 ma1-nit" -- "1 minute of phone fee". Similarly, the question word beare2 lout can be either pronoun or adjective depending on whether the noun in the question is explicitly stated or not.


Burmese people pick up the phone and answer the call just like English, but with slightly different pronunciation.

ka1-lin2.. ka1-lin2.. ka1-lin2 -- Ring.. Ring... Ring tone in Burmese just like in the comics."

ha2 lo3 -- Hello!

Ring Ring

Ring ... Ring in Burmese is ကလင် ကလင် | ka1-lin2 ka1-lin2 [27 Seconds]

Posted by Naing Tinnyuntpu on Friday, May 6, 2016
ထွန်းရတီ | Htun Yati and Jade Dragon Dancer Group

There is an another way to pick up the phone and answer the call:

a-main1 shi1 ba2 -- How may I help you? (Order + be present + suggestion = May I have your order?)

It's the phrase used in businesses and in government offices. There is a longer version spoken by the male professionals:

a-main1 shi1 ba2 kha1-mya2 -- How may I help you? (Order + be present + suggestion + ending word used by the male person)

The female version of this phrase will be:

a-main1 shi1 ba2 shin2

Please also refer to Lesson 4 on different phrases used by male and female.

May I speak to ...

ha2 lo3, May2-Lin3 shi1 ba2 la3 -- Hello, is Mei-Ling there? (Hello + a person named Mei Ling + present + soften polite tone + ?)

The person who answers the phone calls out Mei Ling's name...

May2-Lin3 yay2 -- Hey, Mei Ling..
May2-Lin3 shi1 la3 byo1? -- Mei-Ling, are you there? (Mei-Ling + present + ? + ending word used in announcements usually with a loud voice)

May2-Lin3 ma1-shi1 ba2 bu3 -- Sorry, Mei Ling's not here! (Mei-Ling + negative + present + soften tone + negative ending)

a-pyin2 -- outside (noun)
htwet-- to exit; to go out of bound (verb)
thwa3 -- (particle to show past tense)
ba2 -- soften tone (particle)
deare2 -- affirmation (postpositional marker)

a-pyin2 htwet thwa3 ba2 deare2 -- She went out.

May2-Lin3 -- A Chinese girl's name which also sounds like Burmese girl's name (noun)
pyan2 -- to return (particle)
ma1 -- not (particle)
la2 -- to come (verb)
thay3 -- yet (particle)
ba2 -- soften tone (particle)
bu3 -- negative ending (particle)

May2-Lin3 pyan2 ma1 la2 thay3 ba2 bu3 -- Mei Ling hasn't come back yet!

May2-Lin3 -- Mei Ling (noun)
yay2-cho3 -- to take a bath (verb)
nay2 -- ongoing activity (particle)
ba2 -- soften tone (particle)
deare2 -- affirmation (postpositional marker)

May2-Lin3 yay2-cho3 nay2 ba2 deare2 -- Mei Ling is taking a bath.

You can substitute yay2-cho3 with any other activities. Please refer to lesson 7 for Burmese verbs. Now, it's the caller's turn to say something:

kate-sa1 -- issue or matter; business
ma1 -- not
shi1-- to be present
ba2 -- soften tone
bu3 -- negative ending

kate-sa1 ma1-shi1 ba2 bu3 -- No problem.

kha1-na1 nay2 -- in a short while
pyan2 -- to return
khau2 -- call
meare2 -- will do

kha1-na1 nay2 pyan2 khau2 meare2 -- I will call back later.

Take note that the word nay2 can have different meanings depending on the context. If you recall in lesson 2, nay2 koun3 la3 means "how are you?" nay2 also refers to the sun. The word nay2 deare2 is equivalent to the present participle [...ing] in English. For example, yay2-cho3 nay2 deare2 means he/she is or I am taking a bath. yay2-cho3 nay2 ba2 deare2 is more polite form of the same meaning.

Yes, she is in

What if the person is in?

hote-keare1 -- Yes,

shi1 ba2 deare2 -- She's in. (present + soften tone + affirmation)

kha1-na1 soun1 ba2-ome3 -- Please wait a while. (awhile + wait + suggestion with soften tone)

kine2 hta3 ba2 -- Please hold on. (hold + has/have taken possession of + suggestion)

There is a phone call for you

And, how would you say there is a phone call for you?

pfone3 -- phone
la2 -- to come
nay2 -- ongoing activity; present participle [..ing]
deare2 -- affirmation

pfone3 la2 nay2 deare2 -- There is a phone call for you.

Wrong number!

nga3-tit-tit-nga3-hnit-chout ba2 la3 -- Is that 511-526 ? (511526 + soften tone + ?)

pfone3 -- phone
hma3 -- mistake
nay2 -- ongoing activity; present participle [..ing]
ba2 -- soften tone
deare2 -- affirmation

pfone3 hma3 nay2 ba2 deare2 --- You've got the wrong Number!

"Wait... wait.. please don't hang up yet.. What's your name? Can you make this the right number?"

Sounds too desperate, isn't it? Cartoonist Jim Davis came up with that line (or something like that) for the character Jon, the owner of Garfield the cat.

ka1-lin2.. ka1-lin2.. ka1-lin2

What's that? The phone is ringing. Got to go now!