Posts Tagged ‘Relatives’

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To be able to pronounce Burmese words correctly by readers, I use MLCTS.

Which was your favourite subject in high school? Though I did well on more than a couple of other subjects, I loved Myanmar subject most while most of the students disliked to study it deeply. Myanmar is the easiest subject to pass and the most difficult one to get distinction. Why? The simple answer is you can’t get it only by studying by-heart though it is a language matter. What you need is a passion to it; a heartily passion to stand its complication, creative usage and god know spelling. Here are obvious examples.

Vocabs about relatives

I can speak three languages and know a bit about another one but I haven’t found such a complicated usage among the relatives except my mother tongue; Burmese. Have you ever thought of  differentiating your uncles from father side and mother side by a word? Well, not only for your parents’ side differentiation but also for the rank between your relatives and parents, there are enough words in Burmese. Let’s see.

We use different words for mother & father side. Plus, we call in different ways according to whether the uncle is older or younger than your parents.

  • Uncle older than father = ဘကြီး /ba gji׃/
  • Uncle younger than father = ဘထွေး  /ba dwei׃/
  • Uncle older than mother = ဦးကြီး/u׃ gji׃/
  • Uncle younger than mother = ဦးလေး /u: lei:/

So only of uncle, there are four types of usage. It similarly implies for “Aunt”, too. And next is depending on your husband/wife. In English, whether she is your husband/wife’s sister or your brother’s wife, you call her only “Sister-in-law” regardless of your gender and same goes for “brother-in-law”. But in Burmese, it goes as follow.

If you are a female,

  • Your husband’s elder brother / Your elder sister’s husband = ခဲအို /khe׃ou/
  • Your husband’s younger brohter / Your younger sister’s husband= မတ် /ma’/
  • Your husband’s sister / Your brother’s wife = ယောက်မ /jaun: ma/

If you are a male,

  • Your wife’s elder sister / Your elder brother’s wife= မရီး /ma ji:/
  • Your wife’s younger sister / Your younger brother’s wife = ခယ်မ /khe ma./
  • Your wife’s brother / Your sister’s wife= ယောက်ဖ /jaú hpa./

Next, if you are a male, you should not call your younger brother as your elder sister does. If you follow the language rules pretty strictly, the usage for

1)elder brother referred by younger sister/brother, အစ်ကို /a̱kou/
2)younger brother referred by elder brother, ညီ / nji/
3)younger brother referred by elder sister, မောင် /maun/
4)younger sister referred by elder sister, ညီမ / nji (nja̱) ma./
5)younger sister referred by elder brother, နှမ /hna̱ ma./

are all way too different! In modern Burmese, not all of above are differentiated accurately, though. Gosh! I just realized that such a number of words are used by us almost daily!


Language is arbitrary. Yes, I know. But Burmese is pretty much more arbitrary especially when it comes to spelling. I guess 80% of native Myanmar can’t spell correctly for some daily words. I am addicted to spelling. Let’s see why it should be named “God know spelling”.

As an instance for the word “ကျပ်” /kja’/ (Myanmar Currency), you can spell it in two ways to get the exactly same pronunciation. But only one can use for the correct spelling. Another one is used for the other meanings of “ကျပ်” /kja’/ (Fully packed, tight, strict). Absolutely same pronunciation but totally different ways to spell. There are thousands of such words in Myanmar language. Not everyone can remember how to use it correctly. And there are mostly no reasons to differentiate it, too. (You can find the very old source and attempt to be able to understand it, though.)


There are many ways to count different things correctly in Japanese. Likewise, in Burmese, it has many more ways. We use different units to count TV, flowers, man, animals, car, etc. I had to try pretty hard to get those usages of Japanese so I guess that of Burmese will not go too easily for foreigners as well.

That is what all I can think of for the moment. But this is not to scare you. It is always fun to learn a new language with right approach. Check out this guy, he can speak Burmese quite amazingly. And this Japanese who can speak Burmese, too. He shocked me even with first greeting sentence when we introduced each other. Way too perfect.