On Thursday, March 26, Than Shwe’s grandson posted a Facebook photo of Than Shwe and his granddaughter. An Irrawaddy article, “Former Burma Supremo Seen in Rare Photo With Granddaughter,” first brought this to my attention.
Burmese is quite inconsistent in its transcription of foreign place names. Historical practice has tended toward preservation of the original language’s orthography. For example, the Burmese word for France is ပြင်သစ်, pronounced Pyinthit in modern Burmese, but spelt prang sac, which is much closer to the Roman spelling of France.
Nowadays, the prevailing trend is to imitate pronunciation of the place name in the English language. However, when it comes to place names that use obvious Indic loanwords, especially in neighboring countries like Thailand, Burmese speakers, on occasion, employ equivalent Indic spellings. For one, Bangkok’s International Airport, called Suvarnabhumi, is rendered into Burmese as Thuwunnabumi (သုဝဏ္ဏဘူမိ), in line with the actual Indic orthography, not with the actual Thai pronunciation (Suwannaphum) nor with the expected English pronunciation.
Unfortunately, this is an exception, not the rule. In many instances, Burmese speakers fail to recognize the Indic origins of the Thai place names they transcribe. Instead, they create Frankenstein transcriptions that are neither based on original orthography nor the intended pronunciation, ultimately doing a disservice to the longstanding literary and linguistic heritage shared by both Thais and the Burmese.
There’s been much confusion in English language media with respect to the translation of the name of Burma’s national capital, Naypyidaw (နေပြည်တော်). Conventional translations range from “abode of kings” to “royal capital” to “seat of the king” to “royal city.” All of these are mostly correct, but are without nuanced context.
On Wednesday, Gmail officially announced on its blog that Burmese was added as Gmail’s 74th supported language:
To capture the nuances of this language and make sure the translations were accurate, consistent and complete, we relied on an array of Myanmar speakers from within the country, and around the world. In April 2013 we launched Google Search in Myanmar, and today we’re excited to announce that Gmail now supports Myanmar (Burmese), our 74th language. [link]
My apologies: WordPress prematurely published the draft of “Brothers from the same mothers: the Lanna and Burmese scripts.” I meant to publish this as a separate post because I realized my original post was too long.
Below is a more detailed commentary on the letters and characters found in the Lanna and Burmese alphabets, as well as an analysis of unique Lanna letters, which transcribe native Tai vocabulary (i.e., multiple tones, unique consonants like ‘f’ not found in Indic scripts, etc.).
My interest in Chiang Mai’s indigenous script was piqued when I first noticed the astounding similarity between the Burmese and Lanna scripts. The Lanna script, also known as the Tai Tham (Tham comes from Dhamma, because the script was used to transcribe Buddhist manuscripts), Tua Mueang, and Northern Thai scripts, is traditionally used to transcribe the Northern Thai language, also known as Kham Mueang. It is closely related to Lao Tham, a liturgical script used in Laos.
I was born with a left hand dominance. To this day, it’s simply instinct for me to reach for things, to brush my teeth, and to use utensils with my left hand. However, I write with my right. Why?
Here’s a question. What’s the easiest way to distinguish Burmese monks from their counterparts in other countries? Typically, it’s from the color of the robes. Burma is unique among Theravada Buddhist countries in one respect: the color of monk robes. While Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Sri Lankan monks don robes dyed in bright saffron hues, Burmese monks typically dress in drab maroon or burgundy-colored robes (aside from a few outliers).
Recent headlines have crowned Burma the world’s most generous country, a ranking shared with the United States. According to the Charitable Aid Foundation America’s 2014 World Giving Index, the world’s biggest economy and one of Asia’s most undeveloped countries have something positive in common for once. And a point of pride is that this is unsurprising, Just a validation, if anything. Continue reading
Just Google “broken congress” (or “dysfunctional congress”) and you’ll be greeted by hundreds upon hundreds of articles heralding the demise of American democracy. It’s no surprise–Americans have a lower rating of Congress than of any other branch in government. And the average American, myself included, feel more and more powerless, more and more disenfranchised, to change a system where the odds are stacked against our favor.
Ever since I started working full time, I’ve tried to make a habit of traveling outside the U.S. at least once a year. I am completely infected with wanderlust. If I had the luxury of choice and money, I would not be spending my 20s working full time. And I really don’t want to end up like my older colleagues and acquaintances–filled with regret over not having traveled more. Last winter, I spent about 2 and a half weeks in Taipei and Hong Kong.
More infographics from ASEAN DNA. This time, a look at education, health and social matters. Burma’s position in a lot of these metrics shouldn’t come as a surprise… It lags behind its neighbors in terms of health care infrastructure and education. And in other instances, the data used to draw up these infographics is questionable (e.g., average IQ rankings).
As ASEAN presses forward with economic integration, targeted for 2015, there’s been a surge of interest, especially among the younger generation, to establish a pan-ethnic, pan-national identity. Just the other day, I watched a Thai music video with Thai artists singing in all of the ASEAN national languages (the Burmese was incomprehensible). My misgivings about the ASEAN Economic Community aside, I found a series of interesting glossy infographics (full report here) comparing different metrics, both social and economic, (everything from milk consumption to effective tax rates) among the ASEAN countries.