Myanmar (formerly Burma) and the Burmese Language

November 19th, 2015

The official language of Myanmar (formerly Burma) is Burmese; a language that comes from the Mon writing system and one that belong to the Tibetan language family.

Myanmar (formerly Burma) and the Burmese Language | One Hour Translation

The official language of Myanmar (formerly Burma) is Burmese; a language that comes from the Mon writing system and one that belong to the Tibetan language family. Evidence of the Burmese script dates right back to the 11th century. The majority of Myanmar people speak dialects of Mandalay and Yangon, but there are certainly other dialects. In addition, different ethnic groups within the country speak their own languages.

The Burmese Language

  • In this writing system, each letter carries an inherent vowel - it uses a syllabic alphabet;
  • Writing of Burmese is from left to right; and the words are joined together.
  • The round or circular appearance of letters is due to the fact that, in the beginning, these letters were written with palm leaves: it was the palm leaves that gave the letters a round appearance. Also, ca-lonh is the Burmese name given for their writing system, a phrase that means rounded writing.
  • Diacritical marks indicate the vowel sounds that lie either above or below, or ahead of or behind a consonant: they’re also indicated by single letters;
  • Burmese translation is similar to Chinese in that it is a tonal language. This means that the way a tone is pronounced can change the meaning of a sentence or of a word.
  • There are no grammatical inflections as in Latin languages. The tense, number, and gender are expressed by prefixes and suffixes, and the verb is always at the end of the sentence.

And as always, we should emphasise the influence of culture on a language. In both Chinese and Burmese, the question: ‘Have you eaten yet’ can often be used as a greeting, however it doesn’t mean they’re really asking if you ate or not. This example offers clear evidence that knowing a language is not enough to qualify someone as a translator: they must have a much deeper understanding of both the languages and the cultures.

If you require a translation in this Tibetan language, or indeed any other, please contact One Hour Translation. Our qualified, highly experienced translators are ready to assist with your translation, no matter how large or small your project may be.

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