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Burmese translation and interpretation services have been growing in demand over the last decade. This is partly a result of increased immigration to the United States as well as the gradual opening of Myanmar (Burma) to the global economic community.

The Burmese language (မြန်မာဘာသာ mranmabhasa) is a member of the Sino-Tibetan language family, and is the most widely spoken of the non-Sinitic (non-Chinese) Sino-Tibetan languages. It is the primary language of the Bamar ethnic group, which comprises the majority of the population in Myanmar (roughly 68%), where it is the official language. Burmese is spoken by 33 million people as a native language, and by an additional 10 million as a second language, mostly by ethnic minority groups in Burma and neighboring countries.

In the United States, there are significant communities of Burmese immigrants, although the majority consist of Burmese of Chinese descent and other ethnic minority groups from Myanmar, such as the Karen and Chin minorities. As of 2010, approximately 100,000 individuals of Burmese descent were living in the United States. This represents a 499% increase from the previous census period. The largest communities of Burmese living in the United States are found in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Greater New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Frederick, Maryland. These areas frequently have a large demand for Burmese translation and Burmese interpretation services.

The majority of Burmese speakers in Myanmar are located in the Irrawaddy River Valley, where a number of similar dialects are found. In more peripheral regions of Myanmar, a number of other, more divergent dialects can be found, although, despite some differences in vocabulary and pronunciation, there is a relatively high degree of mutual intelligibility among the Burmese dialects. Currently, the “standard” dialect of Burmese is the Yangon dialect as a result of the city’s media and economic importance.

Burmese is a tonal, pitch register, and syllable-timed language, containing four tones (low, high, creaky, and checked), and the basic word order is subject-object-verb (SOV). Burmese is also a diglossic language, with a formal, literary form of the language, and an informal spoken variety. One of the unique features of Burmese is the fact that it lacks traditional adjectives. Instead, it uses verbs that indicate “to be X,” wherein “X” represents the description (e.g., hot, tired, angry, etc.). Burmese verbs also usually contain at least one grammatical particle that is used to indicate tense, intention, politeness, and mood. Suffix particles are also used in Burmese to denote gender (male or female), as well as a wide variety of “measure words,” which are commonly found in other neighboring languages, such as Chinese, Thai, and Bengali.

The majority of Burmese vocabulary, which is largely monosyllabic, is derived from its Sino-Tibetan heritage. Burmese has also incorporated a significant number of loanwords from other languages (which are either polysyllabic or sesquisyllabic), including English, Chinese, and Mon, a minority language spoken in parts of Myanmar. As a result of Myanmar’s Theravada Buddhist traditions and culture, a large number of loanwords have also come from Pali, one of the key literary languages in the Buddhist tradition.

The Burmese script, thought to be derived from an early Brahmi script, is an abugida, with all letters containing an inherent vowel. The alphabet consists of 33 letters and 12 vowels and is written from left to right with no spaces between words. Letters also include diacritic marks to indicate the tone and vowel modifications.

FUN FACTS: Traditionally, Burmese names do not include a surname (last name). While Burmese names are commonly multisyllabic nowadays, they typically only consisted of one syllable, with the frequent addition of an honorific. Also, the Burmese script appears “rounded” because it was originally written using palm leaves, and writing with straight edges would cause the palm leaves to break.

At Piedmont Global Language Solutions (PGLS), we offer Burmese translation, interpretation, localization, and other language services in Burmese. Whether you need to translate public school notices into Burmese, need a Burmese interpreter for a business meeting in Mandalay, or want to localize your website into Burmese to market your products or services in Myanmar, PGLS is here to help with all of your Burmese translation and Burmese interpretation needs.

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