First, here’s some background: I started learning Burmese in February 2018 and learned the script slowly. It took me about a month to get through it and I unfortunately stopped after shortly that.
This is mostly a side hobby that I have so I don’t plan on spending hours on it every day but I do have the incentive that I may be going there this year on holidays and that my brother’s girlfriend is from Myanmar.
Having learned a few languages and dabbled in a lot more, I know how I prefer learning languages and it usually goes as below:
- Learn the script quickly
- Cement the knowledge of the script with reading and analyzing as many words as possible
- Start listening to some of the target language’s music to get my ear used to the sound
- Start writing words I wish to know in the script to begin creating a knowledge base
- Expand to grammar points I want to know/like to use
- Write short and simple articles on Lang-8
- Write down corrections and start watching a few videos regularly to get the rhythm and flow of the language down.
- Spread my learning through years to get good
Obviously this is rather general and the 8th point is extremely vague but this is usually the process I follow until I feel I can start exchanging, digging deeper into X or Y topic in said language, etc.
But how have I been doing for Burmese then?
Let’s start with making it clear: The Myanmar Script is hell to learn. A few consonants but dozens of vowels. Furthermore, from a westerner’s point of view, it just looks like a whole lot of rounds at first.
A. My current stage with Burmese
Due to the script being especially hard, I have been spending extra time on being sure I can read it without trouble. For this reason, I have been doing 2. and 4. at the same time for quite some time while listening to music on Youtube and sometimes working with VOA in Burmese in the background. Not understanding anything at all allows me to concentrate on my work while getting the flow of the language naturally enter my body.
B. Learning the Script
I found a few resources online, among which Wikipedia seemed to be pretty much the best one. But this was until I found Bob Lyle’s Youtube channel. He explains in clear details and with examples each vowel and everything that goes with it.
I should precise that he appears to be a Jehovah’s witness and the app he refers to is called JW Language and is used by Jehovah’s witnesses to learn the language of where they’ll go. While me not being interested in this at all, his explanations and the app itself are of great use to learn the script, even by ignoring all the religion sentences.
The first video explains the consonants but I don’t think it is that important to spend so much time on it (apart from writing it down like below for instance) as they will all come back often and are a piece of cake to learn compared to the vowels.
After that, I wrote about one lesson a day for each video of vowels, writing down examples for those while making sure I understand the construction of the new vowel. You can find a few examples in the page below.
After stopping for almost a year though, I have forgotten almost all of it so I am looking through the JW app daily, listening to the sound of expressions I want, writing them down and sometimes adding the vowel description again in my diary. (see below bottom part about Myanmar)
As of 1/22/2019, I still need to use what I wrote a year ago to find again which vowel is which but some are starting to feel more natural.
I bought two books to learn Burmese (one in French and one in Japanese) but I don’t have a CD reader on my computer so I am waiting for it before starting those. When I will get it, I will then start adding grammar into the mix to develop my knowledge further.
Learning a new language is never an easy task and tackling a lesser-known one is so all the more. This being said, the way to learn any language doesn’t change too much so while the above may not work for you, try things out and find what does so that you can repeat it over and over again until you know all the languages you want!
As for me, I’ll keep on struggling with the Myanmar language and will try to document new findings, resources, and anything you might want me to develop if there’s any request.
For now, let’s learn Burmese: