No matter where you go, learning the local language is the best way to navigate a new city. When ordering food or walking around town, it’s nice to know a few phrases to help connect with the local people and show respect.
The people in Myanmar are unbelievably friendly — in fact they’re some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met while traveling!. Everyone is smiling everywhere you look and eager to speak to you.
Unless you’re in a touristy area, English speakers are rare so being able to engage and acknowledge those around you in Burmese will get you far, and probably make you a friend or two at the same time.
Here are some basic Burmese phrases that will help you along your way in Myanmar, and a few tips when it comes to learning Burmese.
Basic Burmese Phrases for Travelers
During your stay in Myanmar, these words and phrases will be essential. So, it’s worth it to take the time to memorize a few of them.
You’ll use them on a daily basis, and soon you’ll be a pro at greeting the local people! Burmese people love to smile so be sure to show your pearly whites when trying out your new phrases.
Hello – Min ga la ba
Thank you – Je zu tin ba deh
Yes – Ho de
No – Ma ho bu
Goodbye – Ta ta!
I’m sorry – Taung pan par tal
Do you speak English? – In-glei sa-ga go pyaw tat de la?
I don’t understand – Na ma le ba bu
Where is the restroom? – Toilet beh ma lay?
Introducing Yourself in Burmese
When making friends with locals, it’s nice to be able to initiate a short conversation. Wouldn’t it be great to introduce yourself or even ask how their day is going?
Practice these phrases a couple of times, and you’ll find them rolling off your tongue every time you meet someone new!
How are you? – Nei kaon la?
It’s nice to meet you. – Tway ya da wanta ba de
What is your name? – Na meh be lou kor d’le?
My name is [name]. – Ja nor na meh [name] ba (for guys), Ja ma nau na meh [name] (for girls)
Ordering Food in Burmese
One of the best parts of visiting a foreign country is trying new foods.
Most local restaurants in Myanmar won’t have an English menu so you’ll have to rely on basic phrases (and pointing, of course) to end up with something yummy. Although, no matter what you’re served, it’s sure to be delicious.
Try these basic Burmese phrases when you go out to eat.
What is this? – Da ba lay?
Check, please! – She meh
It was delicious. – Di har sar lote kaung deh
Cheers! – Aung myin par say!
Not sure what to order? We’ve got you covered with our guide to the best Burmese food.
Basic Burmese Phrases for Shopping
From spices to fabrics to jade and more, Myanmar is shopping heaven. You’ll find little alleys and long streets filled with trinkets that are sure to make you swoon.
Similar to most Southeast Asian countries, bargaining in Myanmar is key so here are some phrases to help you get the best prices for whatever you want to buy.
Market – Zei
How much is this? – Zey beh lout le?
Too expensive! – Zei mya de
Can you lower the price? Zay shot pay bar lar?
Bonus: Numbers are useful so that you can tell prices! (ti, hni, thone, lay, ngar, chauk, kunit, shitt, koe, tasel)
Useful Phrases for Traveling in Myanmar
Getting around Myanmar can be a little bit tricky because of the language barrier and congested roads.
To have a less stressful experience getting from place to place, plan ahead to account for bad traffic and always confirm the price with a taxi upfront so you don’t get any nasty surprises at the end of the trip. In the meantime, these phrases should help you get where you’re going.
I would like to go [location name]. – [Location name] twar chin deh
Stop here. – Dima seh meh
How much is it? – Zey beh lout le?
Where is [location name]? – [Location name] bae nae yar lae?
Is it far? – Ae di nay yar ka way lar?
Bus – Basa ka
Taxi – Ta ka se
Car – Ka
Bus Station – basa ka hma’tain
Railway Station – Buda youn
Airport – Le zei
Tips for Learning Burmese
Want to practice your pronunciation and learn more Burmese? Here are a few tips to improve your new language skills!
Speak With Locals
The absolute best way to improve your Burmese and learn more is to converse with locals. With some of the friendliest people in the world, it shouldn’t be hard to find someone who’s willing to have a chat. Talking to local people is a great opportunity for cultural exchange and a chance to pick up some new vocab!
Take Burmese Lessons
For those serious about learning Burmese, consider taking classes to really get a foundation of the language and the hang of pronunciation. While in Myanmar, it’s fairly easy to find someone willing to teach you the language for a reasonable price.
Get a Phrasebook
Purchasing and using a phrasebook is a super easy way to get around a country and improve your language skills.
While in Myanmar, carry this handy Lonely Planet guide with you. If you’re having trouble remembering Burmese, you’ll have it right at your fingertips.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The only way to learn a new language is to practice, so start repeating these words and phrases and using them as much as possible! You may feel shy, but as soon as you bust out your Burmese, locals will be smiling at you left and right.
The more you speak, the more confident you’ll be — so start practicing and you’ll be unstoppable.
Bonus: Basic Burmese Etiquette
While practicing your new language skills, it’s important to use proper etiquette to show respect to the people of Myanmar. Remember these basic points and you should be just fine.
Always Use Your Right Hand
When making any transactions, as a sign of respect, you should always use your right hand to give money or anything else to a local person. You should also always use your right hand when eating to fit in with local norms and customs!
Don’t Touch People’s Heads
Similar to its Southeast Asian counterparts, in Myanmar, it’s disrespectful to touch someone’s head. In Buddhism, the head is considered holy, and since the majority of people in Myanmar practice Buddhism, you’ll should respect this and avoid touching anyone’s head.
Hide the Bottom of Your Feet
While the head is considered holy, the feet are thought to be impure. This means you’ll want to avoid pointing the bottom of your feet at anyone.
You’re also going to want to want to keep your feet tucked under your body when sitting on the ground, and refrain from touching any objects with your feet either. Finally, be sure not to point your feet at a pagoda as this is severely disrespectful. Keep them hidden and you should be just fine.
No matter where you travel, learning some of the local language is valuable in more ways than one. When in Myanmar, you’ll quickly realize how lovely it is to be able to connect with just a few simple words.
Enjoy your time and don’t forget to smile!
Traveling to Myanmar? Our articles can help
- Myanmar Travel Tips
- Yangon Itinerary: A 3-Day Guide to the Best of Yangon
- Things to do in Bagan That You Can’t Miss
- Things to Do in Mandalay That You Shouldn’t Miss
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