Naing Tinnyuntpu is no stranger to systematic and efficient approach. He came from manufacturing environment with Bachelor's and Master's in Industrial Engineering (USA).
His contributions to the semiconductor industry included techniques recognized by Sematech as ‘Administrative Quality Best Practices’ during his process engineering days with now defunct IC chip making division of Hewlett-Packard in Singapore.
Born and raised in Yangon, he has lived in six countries and knowledgeable in unrelated areas including self-taught programming languages. His free online Burmese lessons serve as an effective communication bridge that connects international community with ordinary Myanmar people.
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-deare1hma2 — (It's) located straight ahead. (straight + at)
teare1-deare1thwa3 — Go straight ahead. (straight + go)
a-shay1hma2 — (It's) in front. (front + at)
a-shay1toe3 — Move forward. (front + inch forward)
At the back
a-nouthma2 — (It's) at the back (back + at)
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-deare1hsoat ... teare1-deare1hsoat — 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.
hma2 is the postpositional marker equivalent to English preposition "in", "on", "at". In burmese it goes after the place or location word.
a-pau2hma2 — (It's) up there. (up + at)
a-pau2-zone3hma2 — (It's) at the uppermost level. (up + extreme position + at)
a-pau2-zone3htuthma2 — (It's) on the top floor. (up + extreme position + floor or level + at)
a-pau2-zone3a-hsin1hma2 — (It's) on the top shelf. (up + extreme position + "shelf" + at)
za1-bweare3pau2 hma2 — (It's) on the table. (table + on top + at)
lun3pau2hma2 — (It's) on the road. (road + on + at)
thit-pin2pau2hma2 — (It's) in the tree. (tree + on + at)
a-pau2tet — Go up! (up + climb)
toun2pau2tet — Climb the mountain. (mountain + up + climb)
thit-pin2tet — Climb the tree. (tree + climb)
ka3pau2tet — 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 .. tetome3 — Go up! Go up! (climb + "do this action first")
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. Fortunately, the days of pushy bus ticket conductors are over with the new YBS system which runs without them like the rest of the world.
a-pau2htuttetya1meare2 — (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" but pronounced "zone3" for most words.
outhma2 — (It's) down there. (down + at)
out-hsone3hma2 — (It's) at the lowest level. (down + extreme position + at)
outhsin3meare2 — go down as in "I am going downstairs." (down + go down / alight from vehicle + going to)
outhsin3ya1meare2 — (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 .. hsin3dau1 — Bus ticket conductor telling people to get down. (go down + about time)
hsin3dome3 .. 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 + at)
a-leare2htuthma2 — on the 2nd level of 3 storey building. (middle + floor or level + at)
chan2-hteare3 hma2 — in the backyard. ( backyard where you grow vegetables or raise livestocks + inside + at)
hma2 is the postpositional marker equivalent to English preposition "in", "on", "at" and "Zai4" in Mandarin Chinese.. In burmese it goes after the place or location word.
hteare3 from the word a-hteare3 meaning "inside" is used as suffix to nouns. It is a postpositional marker in Burmese grammar and must still be followed by hma2.
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
ma1-leare3 — ? ( will + ?)
hsa1-ya2beare2thwa3ma1leare3 — Where are you going, Sir?
hsu3-lay2 — Sule Pagoda
lite — to come along
ma1-la3 — ? (will + ?)
hsu3-lay2litema1-la3 — 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,
hsu3-lay2beare2-loutleare3: "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.
hna1-htoun2loatba2 — 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 — exchange
ma1-la3 — ? (will + ?)
hsa1-ya2-ji3,dau2-la2leare3ma1-la3 — "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
ma1-weare2thay3 bu3 — 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 September 2011.
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. Air-conditioned new buses imported from China are now abailable in some routes.See the routes with all the bus stops and detailed maps at http://ygnbusdirectory.com/.