Our guide for translating Burmese

When it comes to acreage, Myanmar is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia, with direct access to developing economies like China, India, ASEAN, and other international markets. 

Myanmar’s economy has grown at 6 – 8% since 2012, a diversification of the export base and the expansion of value-added products for domestic and international markets.

I. The importance of Burmese translation

Although there are about 111 languages spoken in Myanmar, Burmese is the official language and it is spoken by most of the population as their native language including the educated class which is about 50 million people.

The alphabet consists of 33 letters and 14 vowels. It traditionally had no spaces between words such as Thai or Khmer, although modern Burmese writing has been gradually incorporating spacing to enhance readability.

After decades of being isolated from the world that hindered modernization, the government is currently focusing on the establishment of supply chains for future growth, especially infrastructure, road, rail, air, and ports.

II. 3 problems when translating Burmese

1. No standard way to render the script

Because of political instability and military turbulence that makes Myanmar almost isolated with the computer revolution that swept around the world in recent decades, the character codes for Burmese languages have been inconsistent and therefore the process of its universal adoption was slowed down.

Although there are currently approaches paving the way for some Burmese websites to switch to Unicode rendering, some keep using pseudo-Unicode fonts and others use an image-based method. 

This remains one of the biggest challenges in localization because if there is no standard way to render the script, the translation, desktop publishing, and word-processing tools is inconsistent or easy to go missing.

2. The vocabulary is too old to catch up with modern technologies

The unstable society of Myanmar that causes the first problem we have talked about also hinders the growth of Burmese technology, science, and also the related vocabulary. However, it is not the problem of Myanmar only. Further inquiry into other Southeast Asian languages, you can find that these abstract concepts are a real linguistic challenge.

3. Language registers

Similar to its neighbor Thai and Khmer, the Burmese language is classified into two categories or language registers:

  • The formal register is used in literary works, official publications, news, and formal speeches. 
  • The colloquial register is used in daily conversation. 

Recently, the use of the colloquial, spoken form has been appearing in written contexts. For example, it can be seen in many television news broadcasts, comics, and commercial publications.

Which form of language you should use depends on context and audience. That’s the reason you shouldn’t trust the translating machine. Instead, it is essential to work with a professional language translator who can help determine the appropriate tone, register, and dialect for your content.

If you need to translate into Burmese, give us a call today!

Facts about the Burmese language

  • Burmese doesn’t have any close major language relatives
  • Burmese is a monosyllabic language
  • Burmese characters used to write Pali, the sacred language of Theravada Buddhism
  • The use of Burmese language in naming people is quaint. There are no last names, which does away with any familial relevance in a name.