The official language of Myanmar is Burmese which has seen three major incarnations since the 12th century. Old Burmese, Middle Burmese, and the Modern Standard Burmese language used today are all important in understanding the linguistic culture of Myanmar. Evolving from the Sino-Tibetan language family, Burmese is the fifth language from this family to develop a writing system. There is also a national standard for Burmese Sign Language which is taught in the three schools for the deaf in Myanmar.

Burmese is spoken by two-thirds of the population of the country as a first language which equates to over 33 million people. An additional 10 million people or more speak Burmese as a second or third language. Burmese is also a minority language in the neighbouring countries of Thailand, Bangladesh, China, and Laos. The language consists of several dialects, many of which are similar, resulting in minorities in the outer areas of the country speaking non-standard Burmese. The majority of dialects within the Burmese language are mutually intelligible.

Hello in Burmese is said as "min-ga-la-ba", this phrase can also be used for a greeting during the morning, afternoon, or evening. While out and about in Myanmar the phrase "ka-mya ne-kaun-la" may be heard. This phrase means how are you? Many Citizens of Myanmar will have a knowledge of English but will greatly appreciate an honest attempt at the Burmese language.

Myanmar is home to around 100 languages that represent five major language families; Sino-Tibetan, Austro-Asiatic, Tai–Kadai, Indo-European, and Austronesian. The most prevalent minority languages in Myanmar are Shan, Pwo, Sqaw, Kachin, and Mon. English has been the primary language of higher education since the late 19th century and almost every school in Myanmar teaches English as a secondary language.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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