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Department of the Languages and Cultures of South East Asia

Burmese By Ear or Essential Myanmar

An introductory language course by John Okell

Burmese by ear or Essential Myanmar is a systematically graded foundation course in modern colloquial Burmese, also known as Myanmar. It aims to give you a confident and enjoyable start in speaking Burmese, focusing on what you are most likely to need when you visit Burma: “survival language” for cafés, taxis, shops, and so on, and “social language” for getting to know people and making friends. 

The primary content of the course is delivered by the audio files, with the text providing a reference point for refreshing your memory as you progress through the lessons.

This balance offers several advantages: you can learn while you are walking or washing or travelling or driving; since you are hearing the new words and phrases rather than reading them, you achieve accurate pronunciation and oral comprehension from the start; and as you take a speaking part in the exercises and dialogues, you have active practice in talking.

The author was a lecturer in Burmese (Myanmar) at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, until his retirement in 1999. Since then he has been active in teaching short courses and developing materials for the study of Burmese.

Publication history

Burmese by ear or Essential Myanmar was written in 1996, and published in 2002 by Audio-Forum, Sussex Publications Limited, Microworld House, 4 Foscote Mews, London W9 2HH, with the ISBN 1 86013 758 x.

Audio-Forum relinquished publication rights in 2006, after which the course was distributed by the author.

From 2009 it has been available for downloading free of charge from the website of The School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London.