April 07, 2015

Learn Burmese Chapter 1

First of all, I have to admit that I don't think I have 'talent' and 'passion' in learning other language, I am trying, but I know I don't try hard enough. Learning language requires good memory to memorize all the new words, which is incredibly hard for me.

Anyway, I will post what I am learning: which basically moving in what I read from: John Okell Burmese by Ear (BBE), Seasite.niu.edu (SEA), and Burmese phrasebooks by lonely planet 4th ed (BPB). Please check and download them before we continue.
I will use my own word, please excuse if it is not semantically correct; I will put the source's wording in brackets.

1.1 Introduction

Burmese has its own script, pronunciation (with tones), combination of script will create word/phrase with its own meaning, and grammar. I am trying to focus on learning spoken Burmese, but then I think I will also try to learn how to read the script.
My earlier posts on Learning Burmese and Learning Burmese by Ear.
"The Burmese alphabet consists of 33 consonants and 18 symbols which can be attached to the consonants. The attached symbols represent vowels, medial consonants, tones or other features. There are in addition 8 “free-standing characters”. The consonants and the attached symbols are combined to form syllables, and syllables are combined to form words and sentences." (BBE).
Unlike 'simple' A-Z alphabets, and unlike the Chinese character that each has unique meaning; Burmese a bit complex (at least for me). The combination of Burmese 'alphabet' might result on 'unpredictable' spelling. The 'tones' symbol, however, is pretty straight forward.

1.2 Syllable

There is formula to create a syllable: Head + Rhyme.
  • Head may be (1) an initial consonant or (2) an initial consonant combined with second consonant (medial consonant).
  • Rhyme may be (1) an attached vowel, (2) a final consonant (with killer symbol ်), or (3) combination of an attached vowel symbol and a final consonant.
ဗ မာ [bǎma] (word) = ဗ [b] (head -- initial consonant) + မာ [ma] (syllable consists of head ဗ and rhyme attached vowel ာ).
Check BBE Appendix 2 & SEA to see the details.

1.2.1 Head: 33 initial consonants (BBE)

1.2.2 Head: 4 medial consonants (BBE)

1.2.3 Rhyme: attached vowel symbols & tone marking (BBE)
1. ာ is modified to ါ when paired with certain consonant.
2. ု ူ are modified to the elongated form when there is no room, example ချုပ် .
1.2.4 Rhyme: final consonants (BBE)
1.2.5 Rhyme: combinations of vowel symbol and final consonant (BBE)

1.3 Exercise

Here comes the fun part: trying to spell the script! It's like puzzle.
1. ပူ တယ်
2. စား တယ်
3. ကျေး ဇူး နော်။

  1. pu-deh (hot).
    p (1.2.1) + u (1.2.3). t (1.2.1) + eh (1.2.3).
  2. sà-deh (to eat).
    s (1.2.1) + a high tone (1.2.3). t (1.2.1) + eh (1.2.3).
  3. cè-zù naw (thanks).
    k (က 1.2.1) + y (ျ 1.2.2) + e high tone (ေ: 1.2.3) become cè. z (1.2.1) + u high tone (1.2.3). n (1.2.1) + aw (1.2.3). 
We will discuss tones & voicing in the next chapter.

*I summarize what I learn in this website: http://www.bamalearnburmese.com/. Hope it is helpful.

Last update: Jul 3, 2015
* = New

Learn Burmese Series

Introduction: Learning Burmese and Learning Burmese by Ear
Chapter 1


Cheat Sheet for Burmese Script
Writing Burmese Script on Mac Computers
Writing Burmese Script on Windows Computers
How to Get Pinyin Mark on Mac

We created website http://www.bamalearnburmese.com/ to learn Burmese from 0. It will include basic Burmese Script, audio, exercise, common phrases, mini dictionary, flash card app (click HERE to download the free offline Android app) and other mobile apps (coming soon). We will add new content and audio, so stay tuned!
Please send feedback / just say hi: hello@bamalearnburmese.com.

LiveinRangoon Blog Table of Content