Burmese Speaking CountriesMyanmar-speaking countries
Eight important lessons I learnt during 2 week in Myanmar.
I' m aiming to study Burmese well enough to get along. Have I spoken Burmese fluently and been able to discuss Burmese history, culture, philosophy and policy? My Burmese was VERY different from any other foreign tongue I have ever learned (although it had interesting grammar resemblances with Melanesic Creols like Tok Pisin[of all people], which gave me an edge, as well as strange resemblances with many other foreign tongues that I can also speak).
Because English is not widely used where you are, this does not mean that your chance of being replied to in English is lower. In such a land you will probably be replied MORE in English! Actually, if you look at it in a neutral way (and this is considering that I am a Caucasian who would not be confused with a native of Myanmar under almost all circumstances), I was more often replied to in English in Myanmar than in SWEDEN.
I' ve spoken Myanmar fluently in Myanmar, but only near high-end areas in Yangon (and those were the wealthiest areas of the whole country). For most Burmese (including those who speak plain and basic English), it seems that they wanted to demonstrate that they could speak any level of German.
At a place like Sweden or Iceland, where a bunch of trite stories are made about why they are so good at speaking English, it seems that most people have no need to have it. Back in Italy and France (when my French and my French were even poorer than my Burmese when I left), the English was very similar to that of Myanmar, although the English of the natives was usually much higher than in most areas of East Asia.
Except in places where world / populace tongues are used, few will try the loca-tion. It is customary in Myanmar for natives to welcome visitors with "Mingalarbar" (?????????). However, I did notice something when I was interacting with restaurants or natives on the streets and other visitors were there.
The natives also reacted differently to me, although I travelled with those who didn't even know a hint of Burmese. I was praised very much even when I had difficulty hearing what was being said back to me or even when I received an answer in English. That makes the knowledge of the national languages (even if one speaks a little, which would mean: "I can order meals in this languages and ask how much it will cost or ask for directions").
This will give you an enchanting atmosphere that those who do not make the effort and even those who speak the tongue since its inception. In some places during my Myanmar journey I was "on a roll", I understood all the sounds correctly, I made no pronunciations mistakes, no hesitations and sometimes I didn't even have to look into my textbooks to refresh my lexicograph!
But, intriguingly, if I had to work in a speech I'm good with all the time (like the ones I teach), I wouldn't have had a problem even if I was sleepy, ill or fed by beetles ('luckily that didn't happened to me). I was only so "out of it" once or twice that I fell into English.
You' re still studying. Even with your mother tongue, your grammatical skills or your vocabulary will vary (to a smaller extent). This also applies if you are a monoglote who can only speak your mother tongue. However, consider your disadvantages in the process of acquiring new skills.
Looking at the Google Translate app frustrated, I wondered why I was unable to get the Myanmar / Burmese translator pack (as I could with Icelandic). However, my Burmese language course manuals were nothing (and I had two that I always had with me).
Burmese had a consequent weakness: numeric classification (these are not used well enough and that means that you are replied to in English in a yap). When I was in various countries in Europe from 2011 to 2014, I sometimes dealt with my errors too often. Responded in English?
Similarly, I don't think I should over-react when the same thing happens during the course of studying languages. Burmese is not something I have spoken fluently. To know that one time I will look back on those few years when I made more frequent errors, to know that I would recall "when I couldn't yet talk Burmese so well" and that I would probably be smiling with a smile....fills me with determined.
It' s simple to likeness to other students, even those who have been living in the countryside for a short time and have spoken fluently (I can only think of a few cases, I think Benny Lewis in Brazil was such an event, but obviously studying Portuguese as a mother tongue will be nothing more than Burmese as the mother tongue of..... any European language, actually).
They have a lot of work to do later (and "the rest" is actually infinitely extensive, and that applies to any language). Even if you don't come back, you will have the opportunity to spend the remainder of your lives interacting with mother-tongue people wherever you are.
Even though I will never return to Myanmar, I hope to see this banner more often in my Iife.