Burmese English

Burmese English

Burmese English is an English language dialect used in Burma (also known as Myanmar). After Britain successfully conquered the Burmese Empire and designated it a colony of British India, education in English became highly regarded, although it did not fully replace Burmese as the vernacular. Burmese English resembles Indian English to a degree, because of historical ties to India during British colonisation.

English remains entrenched in the Burmese educational system, and is a required subject from reception (kindergarten) onward. From secondary school onward, English is the primary language used in textbooks, except for Burmese language and other Burmese-related studies. Because of this, many Burmese are better able to communicate in written English rather than in spoken English, due to emphasis placed on writing and reading. English English is the primary dialect of English taught in Burma.


Burmese romanisiation is based on English, despite the lack of an official system. The preferred system of spelling is based on those of the British, although American English spellings have become increasingly popular. Because Adoniram Judson, an American, created the first Burmese-English dictionary, many American English spellings are common (e.g. "color", "check", "encyclopedia"). The '-ize' form is more commonly used than the '-ise' form.

Burmese English is often characterised by its unaspirated consonants, similar to Indian English. It also borrows words from standard English and uses them in a slightly different context. For instance, "pavement" (British English) or "sidewalk" (US English) is commonly called "platform" in Burmese English. In addition, many words retain British pronunciation, such as vitamin (pronounced vit-a-min). Burmese English is non-rhotic.

For units of measurement Burmese English use both those of the Imperial System and those of the International System of Units interchangeably, but the values correspond to the SI system. Burmese English continues to use Indian English numerical units such as lakh and crore.


Honorifics in Burmese English are often derived from Burmese rather than from English, and include the following:
*Bo, Bogyoke - General, only used among Tatmadaw (Army) leaders
*U - Sir (lit. "uncle"). Pronounced 'Oo' (as in 'too'), this honorific is commonly used to prefix the name of an adult Burmese man in much the same way as 'Mr' (e.g. U Thant, the former Secretary General of the UN) [ [http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/history/A0849885.html Columbia Encyclopedia] ] [http://www.myanmar.gov.mm/Perspective/persp1997/9-97/fam9-97.htm Myanmar family roles and relationships] ]
*Daw - Madam (lit. "aunt"), used to prefix the name of an adult woman. It does not indicate marital status.
*Ko - Mister (lit. "older brother") used as a term of familiarity or affection and not in formal usage.
*Maung (abbreviated Mg) - Mister (lit. "younger brother"), in archaic form used to denote the subservient position of the addressee: (e.g. court documentation). It is usually used by someone who is of seniority (in age, rank or social standing) to the addressee.
*Ma (lit. "old sister") - Mrs., Ms., Miss
*Po (lit. "grandfather") - used to prefix the name of an adult man, usually quite elderly
*Saya, Sayama (lit. "teacher") - Teacher, Professor. The former is for the male teacher and the later for the female teacher.
*Sayadaw - Used to address a senior monk [generally the chief monk] of a monastery
*Tekkatho (lit. "university") - Used during colonial rule among professionals to denote they had graduated from university. Mostly used by the writers before their pen names
*Thakin - Sir (lit. "Master"), archaic - This term was applied as a prefix by young Burmese during British colonial times to signify that the Burmese should be masters of their own destiny and that it should not be an exclusive form of address for the British rulers.Such honorifics only apply to the Burmese.


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