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.
Top or Down the Street?
Unlike English or Mandarin Chinese speakers, people in Yangon don't often use 东 East, 西 West, 北 North, 南 South to tell directions.
For example, If I tell the taxi driver to go to the 46th Street in downtown Yangon, the driver will ask,
အပေါ်လမ်းလား | a-pau2 lun3la3
(top of the street ?) or
အောက်လမ်းလား | out lun3la3
(down the street?).
အပေါ် | a-pau2,
meaning "on top" refers to North and
အောက် | out
meaning "under" refers to the South.
On the other hand, people in Mandalay speak of the left side of the body as
မြောက် | myout(North),
and right side of the body as
တောင် | toun2 (south).
So, when the doctor asks the patient which side hurts, the patient will reply either "North" or "South".
CLICK TABLE HEADER COLUMNS TO SORT BY ASCENDING OR DESCENDING ORDER IN ENGLISH OR BURMESE SCRIPT.
Summary of Words and Phrases in this lesson (Sortable)
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: ဘယ်လဲ | 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 ဘယ်လဲ | 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 သွားမယ် | thwa3meare2 — 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?"
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-teare1thwa3 — 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)
ဆုတ် ဆုတ် ဆုတ် | hsoat, hsoat, hsoat
— Parking attendant telling the driver it's OK to reverse. (retreat + retreat + retreat)
တည့်တည့်ဆုတ် တည့်တည့်ဆုတ် | teare1-deare1hsoat ... teare1-deare1hsoat — Parking attendant telling the driver to back up straight.
ဟိုး | 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 သွား | thwa3 - Go! In colloquial Burmese, people often use it as a verb. For example, very common phrase ဟိုးထား | ho3-hta3 is used to tell the driver to stop there and not to release the brakes.
— (It's) at the uppermost level. (up + extreme position + postpositional marker)
အပေါ်ထပ်မှာ | a-pau2htuthma2 — (It's) upstairs. (up + floor or level used as a numerical classifier + at)
အပေါ်ဆုံးထပ်မှာ | a-pau2-zone3htuthma2 — (It's) on the top floor. (up + extreme position + floor or level used as a numerical classifier + at)
အပေါ်ဆုံး အဆင့်မှာ | a-pau2-zone3a-hsin1hma2 — (It's) on the top shelf. (up + extreme position + "shelf" + at)
စားပွဲပေါ်မှာ | za1-bweare3pau2 hma2 — (It's) on the table. (table + on top + at)
လမ်းပေါ်မှာ | lun3pau2hma2 — (It's) on the road. (road + on + at)
သစ်ပင်ပေါ်မှာ | thit-pin2pau2hma2 — (It's) in the tree. (tree + on + at)
အပေါ်တက် | a-pau2tet — Go up! (up + climb)
တောင်ပေါ်တက် | toun2pau2tet — Climb the mountain. (mountain + up + climb)
သစ်ပင်တက် | thit-pin2tet — Climb the tree. (tree + climb)
ကားပေါ်တက် | 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.
တက်ဦး တက်ဦး | 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.
အပေါ်ထပ် တက်ရမယ် | a-pau2htuttetya1meare2 — (You / We) need to go upstairs. (up + floor or level + climb + obtain + going to)
အပေါ်ထပ် တက်ကြစို့ | a-pau2htuttetja1zo1 — Let's go upstairs. (up + floor or level + climb + let's)
Note: Extreme position is spelled ဆုံး | "hsone3" but pronounced "zone3" for most words.
အောက်မှာ | outhma2 — (It's) down there. (down + at)
အောက်ဆုံးမှာ | out-hsone3hma2 — (It's) at the lowest level. (down + extreme position + at)
အောက်ဆင်းမယ် | outhsin3meare2 — go down as in "I am going downstairs." (down + go down / alight from vehicle + going to)
အောက်ဆင်းရမယ် | outhsin3ya1meare2 — (You) need to go down. (down + go down + obtain + going to)
ဆင်းမယ် | hsin3meare2 — go down as in "I am going down from the bus." (go down + going to)
ဆင်းတော့ ဆင်းတော့ | hsin3dau1 .. hsin3dau1 — Bus ticket conductor telling people to get down. (go down + about time)
ဆင်းတုန်း ဆင်းတုန်း | 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. 可以 ... 可以 | "Ke3 yi.. Ke3 yi" to stress from "can" to a more enthusiastic "Of course, you can.."
The middle way
အလယ်မှာ | a-leare2hma2 — in the middle. (middle + at)
အလယ်ထပ်မှာ | a-leare2htuthma2 — on the 2nd level of 3 storey building. (middle + floor or level + at)
ခြံထဲမှာ | chan2-hteare3 hma2 — in the backyard. ( backyard where you grow vegetables or raise livestocks + inside + at)
မှာ | hma2 is the postpositional marker equivalent to English preposition "in", "on", "at" and 在 "Zai4" in Mandarin Chinese.. In burmese it goes after the place or location word.
ထဲ | hteare3 from the word အထဲ | a-hteare3 meaning "inside" is used as suffix to nouns. It is a postpositional marker in Burmese grammar and must still be followed by မှာ | hma2,
North, East, South, West
အရှေ့ | a-shay1 — East. (same meaning as "the front")
အနောက် | a-nout — West. (same meaning as "the back")
တောင် | toun2 — South.
မြောက် | myout — North.
A Tourist Story
ဆရာ | hsa1-ya2 — Sir
ဘယ် | beare2 — where
သွား | thwa3 — go
မှာလဲ | ma1-leare3 — ? (will + ?)
ဆရာ ဘယ်သွားမှာလဲ | hsa1-ya2beare2thwa3ma1-leare3 — Where are you going, Sir?
ဆူးလေ | hsu3-lay2 — Sule Pagoda
လိုက် | lite — come along
မလား | ma1-la3 — ? (will + ?)
ဆူးလေ လိုက်မလား | 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, လိုက် | "lite" is like saying, "That's where I am heading. Are you coming along?")
Alternatively, you can say,
ဆူးလေ ဘယ်လောက်လဲ | hsu3-lay2beare2-loutleare3 : "How much to Sule?"
Taxi driver after scratching his head:
၃၀၀၀ | thone3 htoun2 — 3,000
ပဲ | beare3 — only; just
ပေး | pay3 — to give
ပါ | ba2 — polite
၃၀၀၀ ပဲပေးပါ | thone3 htoun2beare3pay3ba2 — Pay me only 3,000.
ဟာ | ha2... — C'mon
၃၀၀၀ | thone3 htoun2 — 3,000
များ | mya3 — too much
တယ် | deare2 — ending word.
ဟာ ၊ ၃၀၀၀ များတယ် | ha2...thone3 htoun2mya3deare2 — C'mon... 3,000 is too much.
၂၀၀၀ | hna1-htoun2 — 2,000
လုပ် | loat — to make or to do
ပါ | ba2 — polite suggestion.
၂၀၀၀ လုပ်ပါ | 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:
တက် တက် | 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 :
ဆရာကြီး | hsa1-ya2-ji3 — Big Master (master + big)
ဒေါ်လာ | dau2-la2 — dollar
လဲ | leare3 — exchange
မလား | ma1-la3 — ? (will + ?)
ဆရာကြီး ဒေါ်လာ လဲမလား | 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 :
အခွေ | a-khway2 — tapes, VCD, DVD etc.
တွေ | dway2 — plural
ကြည့် | kji1 — to watch
ပါဦး | ba2 ome3 — polite suggestion
အခွေတွေ ကြည့်ပါဦး | a-khway2dway2kji1ba2 ome3 — "Won't you watch movies?" The street vendor helds up a transparent plastic VCD cover with interesting color print inside.
တစ်ခွေ | ta1-khway2 — one tape (one + tape)
၅၀၀ | nga3 ya2 — 500
ပါ | ba2 — polite ending word.
တစ်ခွေ ၅၀၀ ပါ | ta1-khway2nga3 ya2ba2 — "500 kyat each", he says in a salesman pitch.
မ | ma1 — not
ဝယ် | weare2 — buy
သေး | thay3 — yet to be; not yet
ဘူး | bu3 — negative ending
မဝယ်သေးဘူး | ma1-weare2thay3 bu3 — Not buying this time!
The Adventure of the tourist continues in lesson 6.