White Boy Learning Burmese

The journey of an average white guy trying to learn a non-Indo-European language

Introduction

အားလုံးမဂၤလာပါ။ (If you can’t read that, then you should download this font.)

Well, I suppose since this is my first post, I will write in English this time, but in the future, I plan to write ample amounts of posts in Burmese, because, of course, good writing improves all other aspects of language (see kids, English class isn’t useful, after all!).  So, a little bit about myself:  I am now a Freshmore (first year in undergrad, but I have enough credits to be a sophomore, so I’ll mix up the word) in a medium-sized Midwestern university majoring in German and Spanish (both B.A.).

I started learning Spanish at the age of ten by taking a mandatory elementary school class that met once a week.  We only learned basic vocabulary, how to count, and some conversational phrases, but I loved it!  In middle school, I began learning more of the grammar of Spanish and from seventh grade to tenth grade, I used a lot of my free time to work on my speaking and writing until it was pretty-darn good for a guy who doesn’t even speak Spanish at home.

This is where Burmese and German come in:  I started learning both at about the same time, Burmese maybe a few months before German, but in retrospect, the same time.  Towards the end of my sophomore year, I met a girl in my biology class, and because of my Spanish studies, I had become really interested in who was from what culture, etc. So, I asked her where she was from, and she answered “Burma”.  I knew a little bit about the Burmese people in my city.  Many bad stereotypes were lurking around about them because of an incident that happened at a local laundromat where a few “Burmese people” were spitting betel nut on the floor, and as a reaction a sign was posted on the door (in English) saying “NO BURMESE ALLOWED”, which of course, made the liberal nut-jobs of Fort Wayne have seizures and cry to the owner of the gas station that his business was bigoted.  But I digress…  Most of what I heard about the Burmese, is that they were majority Muslim (lol, no offense, that is WHAT I WAS TOLD).  I asked the girl if she was Muslim, to which she answered a resounding, “no!  I’m Buddhist!”  I would chit-chat with her off-and-on about Burmese stuff, and one day, she showed me how to write her name in Burmese: မသူဇာ.  She then informed me that was the only thing she knew how to write in Burmese, but I didn’t care, because I thought the writing looked so awesome.  Over the next few months, I did what I could to start learning Burmese:

  • I gathered whatever books and reading material I could find (including the sub-par BURMESE FOR BEGINNERS, although, it did help me learn the orthography and basic vocabulary, so I owe at least that, to it.
  • I started listening to Burmese music and attempting at watching Burmese movies and TV clips, even if I didn’t understand a darn thing.
  • I’d get on chat programs like Gtalk and ooVoo, just because a lot of Burmese youth use them, in order to strengthen my conversational skill.
  • I would walk up to complete strangers on the street, as long as I was sure they were Burmese, and (after explaining that I am not a rapist…  Lol, jk, I didn’t have to do that) strike up a conversation with them.
  • I started going to a church that had a Burmese service.
  • I did many more things that I can’t recall at the moment. [Update later, maybe?]

So, three years later, and here I am!  I am nowhere near perfect, yet nowhere near horrible.  I’ve had a bit of YouTube success due to THIS VIDEO, in which I sing horribly, yet some people seemed to be quite impressed.  Since many people have asked me just how on earth I was able to accomplish this task, I figured since the majority of good ideas (and bad ideas) are now documented on the internet in blogs for all to see, I might as well choose that medium for my studies.  Although I am very proud of my work, I recognize that I could never have progressed this far without the kindness of friends and strangers.  Thus, I figured I ought to share my knowledge to make it that more valuable and helpful to anyone else who would like to learn another language (this site would be MOST useful if someone would like to learn Burmese, however😉 ).

20 thoughts on “Introduction

  1. အညာေဆးရိုး၊ Kunishiwa၊ Sawadee Krab၊ Arikado၊ Salam၊ Hello၊ Hola၊ my introduction ႏူတ္ခြန္းဆက္သေပးပါသည္။

  2. မဂၤလာပါ။

    ကၽြန္မနာမည္က ၿငိမ္းၿငိမ္းပါ။ တစ္ခုေလာက္ အႀကံေပးခ်င္လို႕ပါ။

    အခု blog ရဲ႕ title မွာ “Indo-European မဟုတ္တဲ့ ဘာသာစကားကို ေလ့လာႀကိဳးစားေနတဲ့ ကုလားျဖဴ သာမန္ရဲ႕ ခရီး” ဆိုတာ “The journey of an average white guy trying to learn a non-Indo-European language” ကို ဘာသာျပန္ထားတာလို႕ ထင္မိပါတယ္။ အဲ့ဒီမွာ “white guy” ကို “ကုလားျဖဴ” လို႕ ဘာသာျပန္ထားတာ တစ္မ်ဳိးေလး ျဖစ္ေနတယ္ရွင့္။ မမွန္တာေတာ့ မဟုတ္ေပမယ့္ ကုလားျဖဴ ဆိုတာ ျမန္မာျပည္ကို တစ္ခ်ိန္က က်ဳးေက်ာ္ခဲ့တဲ့ အဂၤလိပ္လူမ်ဳိးေတြကို ေခၚခဲ့တဲ့ စကားလံုး ျဖစ္ေနပါတယ္။ ကုလား ဆိုတာ အသားမည္းတဲ့ Indian လူမ်ဳိးေတြကို ေျပာတာပါ။ “ကုလားျဖဴ” ဆိုတာ “အသားျဖဴတဲ့ ကုလား” ေတြ ဆိုေတာ့ derogatory အသံုးအႏႈန္း နည္းနည္းဆန္ေနမလားလို႕။ ကၽြန္မ ရဲ႕ အျမင္ သက္သက္ပါ။ “လူျဖဴ” (သို႕မဟုတ္) “အျဖဴေကာင္” ဆိုရင္ နည္းနည္း ပိုမွန္မလားပဲ။

    ေနာက္တစ္ခုက “သာမန္” ဆိုတာ နာမဝိေသသန (adjective) ျဖစ္တဲ့အတြက္ နာမ္ (noun) ရဲ႕ အေရွ႕မွာ ရွိရပါတယ္။ ဒီေတာ့ “ကုလားျဖဴ သာမန္ တစ္ေယာက္” အစား “သာမန္ ကုလားျဖဴ တစ္ေယာက္” လို႕ ဆိုမွ မွန္ပါတယ္။

    ျမန္မာစာကို ဒီထက္ပိုၿပီး ႀကိဳးစားတတ္ေျမာက္ႏုိင္ပါေစ။🙂

  3. Just to add. “အညတရ အေနာက္တိုင္းသား” sounds more poetic too. (normal white guy)

  4. ေလးစားပါတယ္…ျမန္မာလူမ်ိဳးအတြက္ေတာင္ ျမန္မာစာကခက္ပါတယ္…ဆက္ၾကိဳးစားပါ…အားေပးေနမယ္..
    အကို့ကိုၾကည့္ရင္း ျမန္မာေတြအတြက္ရင္ေလးပါတယ္..
    ကိုယ္ပိုင္ရိုးရာယဥ္ေက်းမွုေတြ..သမိုင္း၀င္အစဥ္အလာေတြ..ရွိပါရက္နဲ့…မိမိကိုယ္မိမိ ဂုဏ္မယူနိုင္ၾကဘူး….
    (နာမ္စားေတြခက္တယ္ေနာ္…ျမန္မာစကားပံုမွာ အေျပာမတတ္ရင္ဆဲသလိုပဲတဲ့…တျဖည္းျဖည္း ကၽြမ္းက်င္လာမွာပါ)
    ေမြးစားစကားလံုးေတြလဲနားေထာင္ရတာခက္ခဲလိမ့္မယ္..ဥပမာ..ကား(car)..ဒီဇိုင္နာ (desinger)..
    ျမန္မာအခ်င္းခ်င္းေတာ့လြယ္ပါတယ္..နိုင္ငံျခားသားအတြက္ကေတာ့ခက္မယ္
    ဘာျဖစ္လို့လဲဆိုေတာ့…အသံထြက္မမွန္လို့ပဲ….
    K(ေခကို ေကလို့ထြက္ၾကတယ္)
    P(ဖီ ကို ပီ)
    T(ထီ ကို တီ)
    Q(ခရူ..ကို က်ဴ)..အဓိက. အဲ့စာလံုးေတြေပါ့
    Aunty (အန္ထီ ကို အန္တီ) Car (ခါးကို ကား) Taxi (ထက္စီ ကို တက္စီတဲ့)..အမ်ားစုကအဲ့လိုေျပာေနၾကေတာ့ ကိုယ္ကအမွန္အတိုင္းအသံထြက္ရင္ ၀ိုင္းေနာက္ၾကေရာ..(ေနာက္=joke)
    ္facebook ကေန ေနာေနာ္သီခ်င္းဆိုထားတာေတြ့ပါတယ္…အရမ္းေကာင္းပါတယ္…ေနာက္လဲကူညီပါဦးမယ္

  5. my facebook -http://www.facebook.com/thura.htet.7
    add me if u don’t mind😀

  6. Facebook အေကာင့္ေလး သိခ်င္ပါတယ္..

  7. A suggestion to replace “အျဖဴေကာင္” and “ကုလာျဖဴ” with more politically-correct terms. And, “Indo-European” can be and has been transcribed as “အင္ဒုိ-ဥေရာပ”.

  8. အရမ္းကိုေလးစား ဖို့ေကာင္းပါတယ္ ဆက္ၾကိဳးစားပါ

  9. you’re amazing bro

  10. wow… such a nice story… ဘာသာစကားတစ္ခုကို တတ္ေျမာက္ခ်င္လို႔ ဒီေလာက္ထိ ၾကိဳးစားတာကို မခ်ီးက်ဴးပဲ မေနႏုိင္ေလာက္ေအာင္ပါပဲ… ဒါနဲ႔ မသူဇာကေရာ ျမန္မာလိုေျပာတတ္လား… ျမန္မာလိုမေရးတတ္ဘူးဆိုေတာ့ ခု ၀င္းဟိန္းက သူ႔ကို ျပန္သင္ေပးလိုက္ေပါ့… မသူဇာအေၾကာင္းေလးဆက္သိခ်င္ပါေသးတယ္… ဟဲ… ဟဲ… (စတာေနာ္)

  11. Hey are you from Fort Wayne? I am a FW native! How can I get in contact with you?

  12. I’ll be living in Myanmar soon. Mon State, in the south. I can speak Thai as I have been in Thailand 10 years, but need to learn to read and speak Burmese. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Thanks for the comment, David, and good luck in Burma (MM)! I would also reccommend, since you’ll be travelling to the beautiful Mon state, to pick up a bit of Mon while you’re there. The Mon people of the Mon state are in a situation where their language is being less and less spoken (it’s actually considered endangered), so for a foreigner to learn to speak at least some, would make the locals even more appreciative of your efforts! Also, Mon is a Mon-Khmer family language with a phonetic structure similar to Thai, so pronouncing Mon words shouldn’t be hard for you, since you already speak Thai.

      Cheers!

  13. ah Phyu kaung sounds a bit harsh and verging on racism. I don’t think polite Burmese people would use this term. maybe you can use ah Phyu kaung lay to soften it a bit? lay soften the tone like yo and ne particles in Japanese.🙂

  14. You really impress me. Burmese language is difficult to learn even to a native speaker like me. U’re really awesome. Anyway, I would like to help you if U don’t understand in Burmese.

  15. I also am beginning to learn Burmese, using the free recordings and booklet online. Burmese By Ear.. John O’kell I believe is the Author…

    I’m an old guy so learning is slow. . And I don’t devote enough time to it.. But progressing. 🙂
    Thank you for your blog, a Burmese friend told me of it.🙂

    I have made 3 trips to Burma (Myanmar) spending a total of about two months there.

    • Hello and welcome! John Okell is a safe place to start! There is also a new book, which I highly recommend, called “Colloquial Burmese” published by Routledge. The authors are very knowledgeable linguists.

      I hope you enjoy your stay in Burma! I’ve only been there for a week, to be honest.🙂

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