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Useful Burmese Phrases for Myanmar Travelers

Basic Myanmar Language for Travelers

Myanmar is a multi-ethnic nation with around 100 ethnic groups. The majority ethnic group is the Burmans and Burmese is the main language of Myanmar.

When I first went to Myanmar in 1994 to look for a field site to do my doctoral research, the little Burmese I knew I had been taught by British teachers in a kind of formal language that didn’t work well on the streets of Yangon!

So here is a simple guide to useful Burmese language phrases you can use on your next trip to Myanmar. I am using informal language and you can see how the Burmese words look when I write in Burmese script. These are all essential phrases that really are used on the streets of Myanmar – people will understand you! Don’t be shy of speaking Burmese – the Burmese absolutely love it when you have a go at their wonderful language.

There are three tones but you don’t need to worry about them in order to be understood using these everyday phrases for travelers to Myanmar as I have included their pronunciation in a simple way – you won’t even know you’re using them!

yangon burmese phrases on signs

Basic Myanmar Greetings and Travel Phrases

Learning Burmese, even just a few greetings, means you can get to know some Burmese people and experience their incredible hospitality!

Hello

Min-ga-la-ba          မင်္ဂလာပါ

 

Goodbye                                                          myanmar beach children

Thwa-meh-naw ?          သွားမယ်နော်

lit. I’ll go now.

 

Thank you

Ce-zu tin-ba-deh        ကျေးဇူးတင်ပါတယ်

“Ce” is pronounced “Chay”

 

Sorry

Saw-ri-beh            ဆောရီးပဲ

 

Yes

Houq-keh         ဟုတ်ကဲ့

 

You’re welcome/ that’s all right

Ya-ba-deh           ရပတယ်

 

Excuse me please (to attract attention)

Di-hma          ဒီမှာ

 

Do you speak English?

Englaiq-lo pyaw-daq-thala?      အင်္ဂလိပ်လို  ပြောတတ်

 

I can’t speak Burmese

Bama-saga ma-pyaw-daq-bu         ဗမာစကားမပြောတတ်ဘူး

 

Where is the restroom/toilet?

Ein-dha beh-hma-leh?    အိမ်သာဘယ်မှာလဲ

yangon railway station

When traveling in Myanmar

Where is…

beh-hma-leh                  ဘယ်မှာလဲ

 

What time are we arriving?

Beh-acein yauq-ma-leh?            ဘယ်အချိန်ရောက်မလဲ

“Acein” is pronounced “a-chain”

 

I need a taxiMyanmar, Inle Lake, sunrise

Taxi lo-deh                  က္ကစီလိုတယ်

 

Where is the hotel?

Hot-eh beh-hma-leh   ဟိုတယ်ဘယ်မှာလဲ

 

I’m going to the hotel.

Ho-teh thwa-meh                 ဟိုတယ်သွားမယ်

 

I’m going to…[the Sedona Hotel]

Sedona Ho-teh thwa-meh                  Sedonaဟိုတယ်သွားမယ်

 

I’m going to…. [the Shwedagon Pagoda]

Shwedagon Paya thwa-meh           ရွှေတိဂုံဘုရားကိုသွားမယ်

 

Where is the railway station?

mee-ya-daa beh-hma-leh                         မီးရထားဘူတာရုံဘယ်မှာလဲ

 

I’m going to the railway station

mee-ya-daa thwa-meh                         မီးရထားသွားမယ်

 

Where is the bus station?

Kaa-gaiq beh-hma-leh                   ကားဂိတ်ဘယ်မှာလဲ

“Kaa-gaiq” is a Burmanization of the English words “car gate.”

 

I’m going to the bus station

Kaa-gaiq thwa-meh           ကားဂိတ်သွားမယ်

 

Where is the airport?

Lei-saiq beh-hma-leh          လေဆိပ်ဘယ်မှာလဲ

 

I’m going to the airport

Lei-saiq thwa-meh               လေဆိပ်သွားမယ်

myanmar flight

Addressing a Burmese person

How you address someone in Myanmar depends upon how old you think they probably are and what gender they are. For example, if you walk into a shop and see an older man behind a counter, you would address him as “Uncle.”

Older Man (Uncle)

U-le        ဦး လေး

 

Older Woman (Aunt)

Daw-daw         ဒေါ်ဒေါ်

 

A man older or the same age as you (Older Brother)

Ako                   အကို

 

A woman around the same age as you (Older sister)

Ama            အမ

 

A Boy (son)young buddhist monks

Tha            သား

 

A Girl (daughter)

Thami       သမီး

 

Have you eaten (rice) yet?

Sa-bi-bi-la?           စားပြီးပြီလား

 

Yes, I’ve eaten.

Sa-deh.                စားတယ်

 

No, I haven’t eaten yet.

Ma-sa-dhe-ba-bu            မစားသေးပါဘူး

I know it sounds odd to ask someone if they’ve eaten but its the main way you would strike up a conversation with someone. A bit like making a comment about the weather!

myanmar girls washing

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Best Burmese Phrasebooks and Dictionaries

 

When shopping in Myanmar

I don’t want it/one

Ma-lo-kyin-bu          မလိုချင်ဘူး

 

How much is this/it?

Da beh-lauq-leh?    ဒါ ဘယ်လောက်လဲ?

 

That’s too muchASIA MYANMAR BAGAN SHOP UMBRELLA

Mya-ba-deh          များပါတယ်

 

Won’t you reduce the price?

Mashaw-nain-bu-la?    လျှော့နိုင်ဘူးလား

 

I’ll pay 40 Kyat

Le-zeh pe-meh            ၄၀ ပေးမယ်

 

OK/ All right

Kaun-ba-bi            ကောင်းပါပြီ

 

Here’s the money

Paiq-san di-hma              ပုံက်ဆံ ဒီမှ

“Paiq” is pronounced “Pay”

 

I’ll keep on looking

Ci-oun-meh    ကြည့်အုံးမယ်

“Ci” is pronounced “Chi”

 

Go away please

Thwa-deh-naw?              သွားတယ်နော်

(Don’t use this unless you are being relentlessly hassled, everyday Burmese would consider it rude. If you are being subjected to harassment, feel free to be even ruder and just say, “Go!” (thwa!)

Traditional handicraft bags sold in market, Myanmar

Best Myanmar Guidebooks

 

Basic Burmese Phrases for Restaurants and Tea Shops

The Burmese love vegetarians. The majority of the population are Buddhists and they eat very little, if any, meat. They don’t kill meat and there are always vegetarian dishes around.

If you’re stuck up-country somewhere with few food options and nothing looks particularly safe to eat, you can always safely eat vegetarian soup. The Burmese tend to boil their soups for a long time.

Tea is similarly boiled for a long time. I have never been ill in even the remotest villages, drinking tea and eating soup!

 

Do you have any [coffee]?

Kaw-pe shi-dhala?          ကော်ဖီ ရှိသလား

 

Could we get some [coffee]?

Kaw-pe ya-mala?      ကော်ဖီ ရမလား

 

Give me a [coffee]

Kaw-pe pe-ba   ကော်ဖီ ပေးပါ

“pe” is pronounced “pay”

 

I/We’ll pay the bill now

Paiq-san shin-meh          ပိုက်ဆံ ရှင်းမယ်

“Paiq” is pronounced “Pay”

 

How much does it cost?

Beh-lauq ca-dhaleh          ဘယ်လောက် ကျသလဲ

“ca” is pronounced “char”

 

Here’s the money

Paiq-san di-hma            ပိုက်ဆံ ဒီမှာ

 

I don’t eat meat

A-tha ma-sa-bu     အသား မစားဘူး

 

vegetarian

Theq-thaq-lweq      သက်သတ်လွတ်

 

soup

Hin-cho                 ဟင်းချို

“Cho” is pronounced “Jo”

 

water

Ye           ရေ

“ye” is pronounced “yay”

 

milk

Hno    နို့

 

fishMilk tea in Burmese style

Nga   ငါး

 

rice

San    ဆန်

 

noodles

Kyauq-swe     ခေါက်ဆွဲ

 

chicken

Cheq-tha              ကြက်သား

 

curry

Hin         ဟင်

 

tea

Lap’eq-ye               လက်ဖက်ရည်

 

tea shop

Lap’eq-ye-zain                လက်ဖက်ရည်ဆိုင်

 

coffee

Kaw-pe ကော်ဖီ

 

beer

Bee-ya ဘီယာ

 

gin and tonic

Gyin-hnin-louq-thu-mya   ဂျင်နှင့်လုပ်သူများ

 

Useful phrases for when you are sick in Myanmar

 

I need a doctormyanmar street pharmacy

Sa-ya-wun-lo-deh       ဆရာဝန်လိုတယ်

 

I need to go to the hospital

Se-youn thwa-ya-deh            ဆေးရုံ  သွားရတယ်

“Se” is pronounced “say”

 

Where is a pharmacy?

Se-zain beh-hma-leh          ဆေးဆိုင်  ဘယ်မှာလဲ

 

Best Beginner’s Myanmar Language Courses to Learn Burmese

Numbers and Money

The name of Burmese currency used in Myanmar is the Kyat (K) ကျပ်, pronounced “chat” as in a conversation, not as in the French word for cat.

1   (၁)          tit                      တစ်        Myanmar money kyat banknote close-up

2  (၂)          hnit                   နှစ်

3  (၃)           thoun              သုံး

4  (၄)          lei                    လေး

5  (၅)          nga                  ငါး

6   (၆)        chauq              ခြောက်

7    (၇)        kunnit             ခုနှစ်

8  (၈)         shit                  ရှစ်

9    (၉)       ko                     ကိုး

10    (၁၀)     ta-sair              တဆယ်

50    (၅၀)      nga-sair          ငါးဆယ်

100  (၁၀၀)    ta-ya                 တစ်ရာ

500  (၅၀၀)    nga-ya              ငါးရာ

1000  (၁၀၀၀)   ta-daun            တစ်ထောင်

10,000  (၁၀၀၀၀)    ta-thaun       တစ်သောင်း

 

Why does Burmese look like a bubble language?

The Burmese language is written in the most wonderful way – it looks like a whole lot of bubbles piled up on top of each other. This is because Burmese was originally written by monks and they wrote on palm leaves (see one below). Palm leaves have long veins or striations in them and if you run your pen (or other writing tools) vertically down the length of the palm leaf, it splits apart. To solve this problem, the monks used rounded characters. That’s why the Burmese language is a wonderful cluster of bubbles and round squiggles.

Burmese language written on palm leaves

If I’ve missed out key travel phrases or ones you’d really like to use when you’re in Myanmar, let me know in the comments!

Further Links and Information

   Planning a trip to Myanmar and wondering what to do in Yangon? No matter whether you prefer an all-inclusive tour or to see the city by yourself,  click on my ultimate itinerary for one, two or three days in Yangon: Yangon Itinerary: Best Things to Do in Yangon for 1, 2, and 3 Days

   For a comprehensive guide on the most important of all the things to do in Yangon – visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda – see my post here: Shwedagon Pagoda: The Best Pagoda in Myanmar

   More detailed information on how to book transport, airfares, accommodation, and travel insurance is available on my Travel Resources page

   Get Your Guide Myanmar travel activities are here

Visiting Bagan? Click on my ultimate itinerary for one, two or three days in the largest archaeological site in the world: Bagan Itinerary: Best of Bagan Temples in 1, 2 and 3 Days

   For another spectacular and must-see Asian temple, see the world’s largest Buddhist temple, Borobodur here

If you’ve enjoyed my Burmese phrases travel blog, share it with your friends now and sign up for my newsletter. Become a member of the TripAnthropologist tribe and to receive other great posts and tips by your personal TripAnthropologist for your next travel destination!

I’d love to hear about how you got on speaking basic Burmese phrases on your next trip Myanmar, so please leave me a comment!

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burmese phrases pinterest

 

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    Ann
    25th January 2020 at 6:21 pm

    Oh I love this idea for a post!
    I always try to learn a bit of the language in the country I am visiting 🙂

    • Reply
      admin
      25th January 2020 at 7:22 pm

      Me too!

  • Reply
    Kristina
    26th January 2020 at 2:11 am

    I wish I’d had this when I visited Burma 6 about 5 years ago! Before I travel I always try to learn two phrases (beyond please and thank you); “coffee with milk” and “where is the bathroom?”

    • Reply
      admin
      26th January 2020 at 5:13 am

      A great idea. I also try and learn ‘gin and tonic’!

  • Reply
    Alison
    26th January 2020 at 7:26 am

    What a useful post! We were there for 3 weeks a few years back and it remains one of the highlights of all our travels. Amazing country! And mingelaba is one of my favourite words ever!

    • Reply
      admin
      26th January 2020 at 9:35 am

      So glad you find it useful!

  • Reply
    Marilyn
    27th January 2020 at 2:59 am

    Such a practical and useful post. And interesting to learn how the language became.

    • Reply
      admin
      27th January 2020 at 6:06 am

      It’s such an unusual language – I love it!

  • Reply
    Emese
    27th January 2020 at 8:36 am

    Beautiful characters in the written language, thanks for explaining the reason for it. I always appreciate an interesting language; And yes, great idea to learn a bit of the language of the country you’re visiting; I always do and advise others to do the same – your experience will be so much better 🙂

    • Reply
      admin
      27th January 2020 at 9:02 am

      Agreed!

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