SOAS University of London

South East Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

The spoken language

(a) for English speakers (entries are in date order, most recent first)
  • Burmese by Ear, (or 'Essential Myanmar'), by John Okell, published March 2003. The course consists of six hours of audio and a reference booklet. It focuses on the needs of visitors to Burma-Myanmar, and is designed to be used while driving, jogging, washing dishes etc. All the exposition and practice is in the recorded material; the booklet provides reference and amplification. Awarded the 1997 Grand Prize of the Charles E Tuttle Language Grant for Asian Language Publication.
    Both audio recordings and text are available for free download from
    For notes on the web edition see
  • Burmese phrase book, by David Bradley. 1st ed. 1988 ; 2nd ed. revised by Vicky Bowman and San San Hnin Tun 1997, Lonely Planet, Hawthorn, Australia. Pocket format, 180 pp. Sections on: grammar, greetings, smalltalk, getting around, accommodation, around town, in the country, food, shopping, health, time, dates and festivals, numbers and amounts, vocabulary, emergencies.
  • Practical Myanmar, by SUN Associates. 1995, Pranom Supavimolpun, Book Promotion and Service Ltd, Bangkok. Small format, 347 pp. Contents: pronunciation and grammar, social customs and home life, common phrases, arrival in Myanmar, travelling around, at the hotel, eating and drinking, shopping and bargaining, making friends, living in Myanmar, at a doctor's office, post telegraph and telephone, ministries and government departments, English Myanmar vocabulary. All words are presented in three cols: English, roman, script.
  • Burmese: An Introduction to the Spoken Language, Books 1 and 2, by John Okell. 1994, Center for Burma Studies, Northern Illinois University. For approach and contents see separate description in Section 1.6.
  • Burmese self-taught, by R John. 1991, Asian Educational Services, New Delhi. Not yet seen.
  • Conversational Myanmar, by May Than Nwe. Aug 1996, Kyi Win, Yangon. 55 pp. Distributed by Golden Myanmar Information and Advertising, No 297/GM, Mahabandoola Street,Yangon. Includes: Pronunciation guide, practicing tones, greetings, questions, small talk, numbers, classifiers, day and time, appointments, eating out, going places, on the phone, on a visit, common opposites, in sickness, personal and professional, cause and effect. The author, who teaches Burmese at the National University of Singapore, can be contacted at
  • First steps in Burmese, by John Okell. 1989, London, SOAS (out of print in 1996). Text & vocab with 5x90' tapes. A brief foundation course, designed to develop fluency and comprehension. Mainly exercises for practicing question and answer, using vocabulary appropriate to the classroom (timetables, calendars, maps, price lists etc). Script is printed alongside romanized versions, but not taught in the book.
  • Beginning Burmese, by W S Cornyn and H D Roop. 1968, reprinted 1987, Yale Univ Press. 501 pp, Book + 25 tapes including exercises. Dialogues, explanations and exercises, including sections introducing the script; copious drills. Helpful explanations of grammar. Tapes available separately.
  • Burma: a seven day Burmese language survival guide on cassette, by Robin Carter alias Hla Aung. Undated (?1987), £5.95 from the author at 27 Oval Road, East Croydon, Surrey CR0 6BJ. One tape of words and phrases with notes. No script.
  • Spoken Burmese, by W S Cornyn. 1945, Henry Holt, New York; reprinted 1979, Spoken Language Services, Ithaca NY. Two vols, tapes. US War Dept Education Manual 541-542, designed for US Army personnel in wartime; forerunner of Beginning Burmese; uses pre-decimal coinage, discourteous style, but has good exercises. No script.
  • Spoken Burmese, by U Khin. 1976 (out of print), Dept of State, Foreign Service Institute, Washington DC. Vol 1 lessons 1 to 35: 643 pp, vol 2 lessons 36 to 100: 479 pp.
  • Lessons in spoken Burmese, by Emily Ballard. 1961 (out of print), Burma Baptist Convention, Rangoon. A well set out introduction, with exercises, and a good section introducing the script; some Christian missionary content.
  • Burmese: Basic course, by Defense Language Institute. 1957, US Dept of Defense. Well presented, thorough drills; some military content.
  • Say it in Burmese, by Saya Judson et al. 1950 (out of print), American Baptist Burma Mission, Rangoon. A short introduction, with exercises.
(b) for speakers of other languages
  • Myanmar verstehen: Sprachlehrbuch, vols 1, 2 and 3 + 5 CDs, by Uta Gärtner. 1998, Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaft (Südostasien Working Papers Nº 11/1, 11/2 and 11/3). 432 pp (vols 1 and 2) + 211 pp (vol 3). A survey of Burmese grammar, in both colloquial and literary styles, liberally supplied with examples, exercises, reading texts and dialogues, fitted into 18 lessons. Includes an introduction to the script. Vol 3 consists of a glossary and keys to the exercises. CDs 1 and 2 contain an introduction to the pronunciation of Burmese; CDs 3, 4 and 5 contain the texts of the lessons 1-18, all done by native speakers.
  • Burmesisch für Globetrotter, by Harald Fungk. 1994, Peter Rump Verlag (Kauderwelsch Band 63), Hauptstrasse 198, D-4800, Bielefeld 14. 128 pp, small format (3"x4"). Presents script in 4 pp (13-16) but examples and phrases are in roman without script. Grammar pp 22-62. Then the usual topics: general, greetings, terms of address, family, travelling, accommodation, etc. With brief wordlists.
  • Manuel de birman, vol 1, by Denise Bernot, Marie-Hélène Cardinaud, Daw Yin Yin Myint. 1990, Paris, L'Asiathèque, 246 pp and 2 tapes.
  • Lehrbuch des modernen Burmesisch, by E Richter, 1983, Leipzig, VEB Verlag, 405 pp. Script and colloquial. Hard going as a course book, but sound and useful as a reference grammar.
  • Burmesisches Übungsbuch, by Annemarie Esche & Eberhardt Richter, unter Mitarbeit von U Khin Maung Saw. 1988, Leipzig, VEB Verlag. 12 Units and tape: to follow Richter's Lehrbuch. Enables learner to conduct simple conversation.
  • Deutsch-Burmesisches Gesprächsbuch, by E Richter and Maung Than Zaw. 1969, Leipzig, VEB, 306 pp. A phrase book, German-Burmese, 'Occupations' etc.
  • Biruma-go yonshukan ("Burmese in four weeks"), by Ono Toru. 1986, Tokyo, Daigaku Shorin, 274 pp. Explanations in Japanese.
  • Eigo taisho Biruma-go kaiwa ("Burmese conversation with English equivalents"), by Ono Toru. 1982, Tokyo, Daigaku Shorin. A phrase book, arranged by situations ('At the post office' etc), in 3 cols: Japanese, Burmese (in Burmese script), English. No explanations.
  • Uvod do moderni barmstiny ["Introduction to Modern Burmese"], by Jan Becka. 1985, Prague