Classic Burmese propaganda and language complaints


This is a two-day-old issue of New Light of Myanmar, but the government hasn’t updated its Burmese site yet. I was scrolling around and trying to read all of the material on that issue, and on the last page, there was a dotted box entitled “Pleasant Naypyidaw”. It describes the following (my weak translation): “Naypyidaw and its surrounding areas will one day be pleasant” (I believe it’s referring to the “garden evergreen city” Kyaw Hsan, the minister of information described Naypyidaw as being to Al Jazeera’s Veronica Pedrosa). Interesting comment; it’s obviously not an advertisement, but an anonymous statement. I also noticed the scarcity of ads in New Light of Myanmar; it’s far different from Los Angeles Times and other Western newspapers. Maybe advertising on this newspaper is not worth its money because it has a low readership.

And I have a few complaints of the Burmese language, not that I dislike it in any manner. I love the language; all of the sounds flow together, and there are no abrupt sounds or the like. Except I’m perturbed by how many Burmese speakers avoid using the “r” sound everywhere they can. I recall at the Mingun Bell, an elderly woman who thought I was Korean called me a phaw-lein-na, instead of phaw-rein-na, when I could have just been less annoyed if she had just said naing-ngan gya-tha (that’s the real Burmese word for foreigner). I can understand that she substituted the “f” in foreigner with a “ph” because there’s no “f” sound in Burmese, but a “r” sound does exist. I pretended not to understand her conversation with aa fellow shopkeeper, who was trying to identify my nationality. Reading it can also be a pain, especially for those whose first language is not Burmese. A lot of Burmese words that come from English are spelled strangely. I would have guessed that January would be spelled gyannyuwari.gif (Gyan-nyu-wa-ri), but it’s not. It’s spelled zannawari.gif (Zan-na-wa-ri). Such oddities Burmese words are. And, going back to the “r” sound, I guess my family really dislikes pronouncing “r” sounds, because I never knew that the Burmese word for animal is tareitsan.gif (ta-reit-hsan) and not taleikhsan.gif (ta-leit-hsan) until today, when I read some article in Burmese about a zoo and looked up “animal”. I would propose a spelling reform, but then I am not a linguist. All languages with alphabets probably face this, though. It truly takes a native to master a language, and I am not a native of Burma, obviously. But that was just my rant, a rant that will probably not appeal to those other than Burmese speakers (maybe even a more limited group, those who are trying to master it.)

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