Lesson 19: Making new friends in Myanmar
A boarding school or house in Burmese is called bau2-da2 hsoun2 where the first word is the English loaned word "boarder", and hsoun2 means a hostel, dormitory or a hall. Those in the same boarding house become buddies and they call one another bau2-da2. So, the word bau2-da2 has evolved to mean buddy even if you don't go to the same boarding school. You will hear this usage by the younger generation of Burmese people in this short clip.
A boarding school or house in Burmese is called ဘော်ဒါဆောင် | bau2-da2 hsoun2 where the first word is the English loaned word "boarder", and ဆောင် | hsoun2 means a hostel or a hall. Those in the same boarding house become buddies and they call one another ဘော်ဒါ | bau2-da2. So, the word ဘော်ဒါ | bau2-da2 has evolved to mean buddy even if you don't go to the same boarding school. You will hear this usage by the younger generation of Burmese people in this short clip. ဂူဂူး | Gugu and Star International Dance Group. [40 seconds]Posted by Naing Tinnyuntpu on Saturday, May 28, 2016
Myanmar's neighboring country Thailand is known as "the land of smiles". Burmese people are not much different when it comes to natural friendliness. Myanmar people are also straight forward and open. Strangers help each others without expecting anything in return. You can address to anyone in the street with the terms such as "young brother", "elder brother", "aunty", "uncle", "big sister", and so on. (Please refer to lesson 4 on how to say "you" in Burmese.)
If you are obviously a foreigner from the way you look or dress, people will be curious where you came from. We will start with some likely phrases that they will ask you when you meet new people in Myanmar.
Where are you from?
beare2 ga1 la2 leare3 — "Where are you from?" (Where + from + come + ?)
ba2 nine2-ngan2-dtha3 leare3 — "What nationality are you?" (What + nationality + ?)
beare2 nine2-ngan2 ga1 la2 leare3 — "From which nation did you come from?" (Where + nation + from + come + ?)
beare2 tine3-pyi2 ga1 la2 leare3 — "From which country did you come from?" (Where + country + from + come + ?)
You can use nine2-ngan2 and tine3-pyi2 interchangeably when asking the question: "Where are you from?". When answering that question, the word pyi2, which is the short for tine3-pyi2 (country) is added to a few exceptional countries
xxxx pyi2 — names of exceptional countries
ga1 — from
ba2 — polite tone
ja1-pan2 pyi2 ga1 ba2 — I am from Japan.
ta1-yoat pyi2 ga1 ba2 — I am from China.
ka1-la1-byi2 ga1 ba2 — I am from India.
myan2-ma2 pyi2 ga1 ba2 — I am from Myanmar.
pyin2-thit pyi2 ga1 ba2 — I am from France.
For the rest, just omit Pyi2. For example,
sin2-ga1-pu2 ga1 ba2 — I am from Singapore.
a-may2-yi3-ka3 ga1 ba2 — I am from the USA.
ka1-nay2-da2 ga1 ba2 — I am from Canada.
ja2-ma1-ni2 ga1 ba2 — I am from Germany.
For a few countries that Burmese have been in touch with for centuries like China, India, France, and Thailand, there are already Burmese words for those countries.
yo3-da1-ya3 ga1 ba2 — I am from Thailand.
Some of the old words from the past generations are no longer in use, including Bi1-lut derived from the Hindi word wilayat for England, Yau3-ma1 for Rome (Italy), and Khau3-ma1 for Greece.
Names of countries in Burmese pronunciations are given in this page.
Take another note that there is no "you" in the above sentences as it is understood that the conversation is about "you" or "he" or "she" right there at that moment. The speaker could be either directly talking to you, or asking that question about you through the translator.
It appears that some Westerners who translate Burmese into English try so hard to include the word "you" in sentences such as kha1-mya3 (used by male speaker) and shin2 (used by female speaker).
Can you speak xxxx ?
In3-ga1-late — English
za1-ga3 — speech; language; word
pyau3 — to speak, to tell, to say
tut — able to
dtha1-la3 — ?
In3-ga1-late za1-ga3 pyau3 tut dtha1-la3 — Can you speak English?
The ending particle word dtha1-la3 is almost the same as la3. The extra tha1 in Burmese spoken language appears to come from the ending word dthi2 in the written language, which is the affirmation word. So, tha1-la3 probably expects the answer "yes" more than la3.
ba1-ma2 za1-ga3 pyau3 tut la3 — Can you speak Burmese?
neare3 neare3 — a little
pyau3 — speak, tell, say
tut — able to
deare2 — affirmation.
neare3 neare3 pyau3 tut deare2 — Yes, I can speak a little.
What's your name?
It will come to you as a shock, but your name is also not a central importance in the first meeting (unless you are a foreigner) as people can still address to each other as "brother" and "sister", or simply omit it. In the formal business meetings, it's more likely that the third person will introduce your name and the name of the person that you just met, so you will never have to use the phrase "What's your name?" For the Burmese people, it is more likely that people will get to know each others' names through the acquaintance than directly asking "What's your name?"
Here again, some Western translators of Burmese (Myanmar) Language seem to think this question as an important phrase, complete with the use of the word "you". If you must ask the name of the person you just met, just omit the word "you".
nun2-meare2 beare2-lo2 khau2 leare3 — What's your name?
There is no "you" in the above sentence. Here's the break-down:
nun2-meare2 — name (noun)
beare2-lo2 — how (adverb)
khau2 — call (verb)
leare3 — ? (particle)
Is it rude to be asking someone's name in the first meeting? No, it's not. You can go ahead and ask if you need it for the next meeting. Since you are a foreigner, you cannot rely on acquaintances, friends and family to know someone new.
Let me give some examples on how Burmese people ask someone's name. I go to a place to pick up a package. I knock on the door, and someone comes out to the door.
I say: "I am here to pick up the package."
And, the person will say something like this:
bu3 — negative ending
beare2-dthu2 leare3 ma1-thi1 bu3 — Don't know who? Who could that be?
Or, like this:
beare2-dthu2 ba2 leare3 — Your name, please... (who + soften tone + ?)
Another example. If I go to a place or on the phone telling someone I want to speak with so and so. The likely response will be something like this:
beare2-dthu2 — who
lo1 — particle used in making a report that someone has said "such and such".
pyau3 — say or tell
ya1 — can be done; possible; available; to gain something
ma1-leare3 — ?
beare2-dthu2 lo1 pyau3 ya1 ma1-leare3
This question is roughly equivalent to "Who should I tell him is here?" (or) "Who should I tell her is on the line?"
What race are you?
No, this is not a racist remark. This is a common question that Myanmar people will be interested. You can just answer by the country that you come from. If you would like to further clarify it, you can say things like
au2 sa1-tray3 lya3 ga1 ba1-ma2 ba2 — I am a Burmese from Australia.(Australia + from + Burmese + soft polite tone)
This is also the question that you can ask to people that you meet in Myanmar. The main ethnical groups in Myanmar are Kachin, Kayin, Chin, Shan, Rakhine, Mon, Kayah, and Bamar (Burmese), not counting minor tribes like Wa, Palaung, Lisu, Salone and so on that add up to more than 100 distinct languages and dialects spoken in this country.
In Myanmar, those with Chinese and Indian racial background are also important groups who play a major role in the economy. They add to the rich flavor of multi-racial culture as well as cuisine in this country.
Myanmar people also tolerate inter-marriages among different racial, ethnical, and religious background. Myanmar has taken Nationwide census tha1-goun2 sa1-yin3 (meaning "midnight list") from March 30 to April 10 in 2014 with the help of international aids and expertise after it was last taken in 1983. Here are two websites for reference:
What's in a name?
There has been a lot of controversies and debates as to whether to use the word Burma or Myanmar for this country. Burma is the name known by the western world for several decades because that's how the British called this land as they colonized it for more than a hundred years. Some don't accept the change of the name of the country to Myanmar by the previous military government that they despise. Some argue that the name Myanmar is more representative and inclusive of the ethnic groups, while Burma represents only the main racial group known as "Bamar" who speaks Burmese. Does it really matter? A rose by any other name is still a rose.
Where do you live?
You can ask the local people you meet this question:
beare2 hma2 nay2 leare3 — Where do you live? (where + at + live + ?)
Where do you stay?
He or she may in turn ask you this:
beare2 hma2 teare3 leare3 — Where do you stay? (where + at + temporary visit + ?)
The word teare3 is used for a place where you temporary stay in your visit.
a-myo3 ain2 hma2 ba2 — At my relative's house. (relative + house + at + polite tone)
a-thi1 ain2 hma2 ba2 — At my acquaintance's house. (acquaintance + house + at + polite tone)
tha1-ngeare2-jin3 ain2 hma2 ba2 — At my friend's house. (friend + house + at + polite tone)
Thazin Garden Hotel hma2 ba2 — I am staying at Thazin Garden Hotel. (Thazin Garden Hotel + at + polite tone )
Inviting someone for a drink
It might be a good idea to invite your new Burmese friend something to eat, or go for a drink where you can have a small talk.
ta1-khu1-khu1 thwa3 sa3 ya1 oun2 — Let's go eat something. (something + go + eat + can be done + suggestion)
ta1-khu1-khu1 thwa3 thout ya1 oun2 — Let's go drink something. (something + go + drink + can be done + suggestion)
beare2 hsine2 koun3 leare3 — Which shop do you recommend? (which + shop + good + ?)
ni3 la3 — Is it nearby? (be near [verb] + ?)
way3 la3 — Is it far? (be far [verb] + ?)
ni3 dthau3 hsine2 [literary]
ni3 deare1 hsine2 [colloquial]
means shop that is near.
ni3 — be near (verb) +
deare1 — that which is (particle)
is equivalent to
ni3 deare1 — near (adjective)
ni3 deare1 hsine2 shi1 la3 — Is there a shop nearby?
If you are already in the restaurant or in an eating place, or can see one nearby, drop thwa3 (to go) from the phrase.
ta1-khu1-khu1 sa3 ya1 oun2 — Let's eat something. (something + eat + can be done + suggestion)
ta1-khu1-khu1 thout ya1 oun2 — Let's drink something. (something + drink + can be done + suggestion)
ba2 sa3 ma1-leare3 — What do you want to eat? (what + eat + will + ?)
ba2 thout ma1-leare3 — What do you want to drink? (what + drink + will + ?)
You can say the same thing to more than one person. Just add the plural word ja1
ba2 sa3 ja1 ma1-leare3 — What do you guys want to eat? (what + eat + plural + will + ?)
ba2 thout ja1 ma1-leare3 — What do you guys want to drink? (what + drink + plural + will + ?)
ta1-khu1-khu1 sa3 ja1 ya1 oun2 — Let's eat something. (something + eat + plural + can be done + suggestion)
ta1-khu1-khu1 thout ja1 ya1 oun2 — Let's drink something. (something + drink + plural + can be done + suggestion)
bite hsa2 deare2 — I am hungry! (stomach + be hungry + affirmative ending)
hta1-min3 hsa2 deare2 — I am hungry! (rice + be hungry + affirmative ending)
yay2 ngut deare2 — I am thirsty! (water + be thirsty + affirmative ending)
Small friendly talks over the lunch
I have already covered how to order food or drink in Lesson 15. As you sit down around the restaurant table waiting for the food to come, you can make small talks with your new Burmese acquaintance. It's a good idea to ask his or her name now if you haven't done so already, because we will include the name in some of the phrases. Although Burmese sentences can be formed without the word "you" or names as mentioned above, including the name of the person in the conversation of personal nature put more warmth to it.
What's your religion?
xxxx boat-da1 ba2-dtha2 la3 — XXXX, are you a Buddhist? (Name + Buddhist + ?)
xxxx kha1-rit-yan2 la3 — XXXX, are you a Christian? (Name + Christian + ?)
xxxx mu2-sa1-lin2 la3 — XXXX, are you a Muslim? (Name + Muslim + ?)
Here, you should address yourself as kja1-nau2 for "I" if you are a man and kja1-ma1 if you are a lady as discussed in Lesson 4.
If the person is the same religion as you are, you can say,
kja1-nau2 leare3 boat-da1-ba2-dtha2 lay2 — I am also a Buddhist! (I[male] + also + Buddhist + exactly!)
Or else, you can say,
kja1-ma1 ga1 dau1 kha1-rit-yan2 ba2 — As for me, I am a Christian. (I[female] + "as for xxxx" + Christian + polite ending word)
To that question, I usually answer like this:
kja1-nau2 — I (male)
ga1 dau1 — as for
ba2 leare3 — what
ma1-thi1 — don't know ( not + to know )
ba2 bu3 — negative polite ending
kja1-nau2 ga1 dau1 ba2 leare3 ma1-thi1 ba2 bu3
As for me, I don't know what.
That's probably a better response if your religion is different, or if you are a free thinker. However, if you are really religious, and your religion prohibits you to do or eat certain things, it's best to come up with a straight answer.
Are you married?
xxxx ain2-doun2 shi1 byi2 la3 — XXXX, are you married? (Name + marriage + exist/have/available + already + ?)
If he or she asks you first, you can say,
shi1 deare2 — Yes. (exist/present/have/available + affirmation)
ma1-shi1 thay3 bu3 — No, not yet. (negative + exist/present/have/available + not yet + negative ending)
The follow-up phrases could be...
xxxx gau3 ain2-doun2 shi1 byi2 la3
What about you, XXXX ? Are you married?"
(Name + also + marriage + exist/have/available + already + ?)
au2.. koun3 deare2 — Oh, good! (Oh, good + affirmation)
kha1-lay3 — baby, child
beare2 hna1-yout — how many (how many + measure word for people)
shi1 — exist/have/available
byi2 leare3 — has reach what level, number, or state?
kha1-lay3 beare2 hna1-yout shi1
How many children do you have?
kha1-lay3 dway2 — children; kids
kji3 — big; grown up
byi2 la3 — has reached certain condition or state or not?
kha1-lay3 dway2 kji3 byi2 la3
Have the kids grown up already?
Review the word "byi2-la3"
The question word byi2 la3 has been explained in lesson2.
shin3-pya1 pyi3 byi2 hote la3
Explained already? Is that right?
(explain + finish + "done" + yes + ?)
hote deare2 — Yes (yes + affirmation)
shin3-pya1 pyi3 byi2 — explained it already! (explain + finish + ending word to indicate "done")
hote deare2, shin3-pya1 pyi3 byi2
Yes, I have explained it already.
We will continue our small talks when we visit a Burmese family. As for now...
kja1-nau1 — me; my (male)
go2 — to; postpositional marker that makes kja1-nau1 object
khwin1-pyu1 — be excused
ba2 ome3— polite suggestion
kja1-nau1 go2 khwin1-pyu1 ba2 ome3
If you'd excuse me, please...