Article

How times have changed

Early days

  • In the early days, most students know Burmese and English well.
    Many went on to become bi-lingual writers and outstanding translators.
  • Rangoon University had students from overseas (India, Nepal, Japan, Russia).
  • Some (e.g. one Russian, one Japanese) majored in Burmese.

BRS

  • Several British scholars and/or teachers helped set up the Burma Research Society (BRS) and published the BRS Journal.
  • The journal contains transliteration of old Burmese/Myanmar inscriptions (kyauk sar). For example, use three English letters KOL => Ka gyi, Lone gyi tin, Ta chaung gin to transliterate the Burmese word “Ko”.
  • BRS also helped conduct “Research Congress”.
  • Saya U Win (Geography) was the last presenter at the Research Congress. Higher authorities came in and declared the immediate demise of BRS.

Burmese Typewriter

  • The advent of Burmese typewriter (around Burma’s Independence) allowed reasonable typing of Burmese characters and words.
  • Olympia provided two models : Portable and Standard (which had more keys such as “Tha gyi” and “Pat sint” characters. Some tricks had to be employed to type Pali and less common Burmese words.

Burmese Language Studies

  • There were exchange programs between the RU Burmese Department and some foreign Universities (e.g. in Osaka, Japan; School of Oriental and Asian Studies, UK; Northern Illinois University, US).
  • U Hla Nyunt (father of Mary Nicely) taught Burmese at the precursor of Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Northern California.
  • Professor Harada (“Chit Mann Nwe”, born in Mandalay) of Osaka University won the National Literary Prize for translating the novel “Thway” into Japanese. He invited Sayagyi U Wun (Minthuwun) to help compile the Japanese-Burmese Dictionary and to do research with Burmese Language Professors at Osaka University.
  • Sayagyi Dr. Hla Pe (author of “Burmese Proverbs”) a close friend of Sayagyi U Wun (Min Thu Wun) and Sayagyi U Thein Han (Zaw Gyi). He and his colleagues (notably John O’kell) advocated the need for Burmese word processing on Apple Mac, and also [co]published “Learning Burmese/Myanmar” and others. Software was developed to input Burmese characters into a Mac using transliteration.
  • A few years back, the National Language Center at the University of Maryland (College Park) had a project to develop listening and reading comprehension courses for Burmese and have it available on its network.
  • Daw Khin Htwe retired from The Library of Congress. She was in charge of Burmese manuscripts and books. During her days, the query system used a phonetic system.
  • Some monasteries and/or organizations in US have offered Burmese classes and “Sagar Waings”. But, there are some who do not want to invest their time to learn Burmese without a hefty ROI (Return on Investment).
  • Saya U Kyaw Hlaing taught Burmese at NIU (Northern Illinois University), which has an Asian Collection and Burmese Sub-collection. He later taught Burmese for a Summer course at the University of Hawaii.
  • Dr. Than Tun was a Research Scholar at NIU.
  • Saya U Saw Tun is current Head of the Burmese Department at NIU.
  • Daw May Kyi Win (GBNF) served as Librarian of the Burmese Sub-collection at NIU.
  • Cornell University, New York offers Burmese language and literature courses. The Burmese sayama also works for the French Department.

Development

  • To please the then Number One, the Burmese spelling was revised twice by the Myanmar Sar Ah Phwe.
  • Despite the fact that the ancient pagoda was called “Botathaung” and not “Bo Tit Htaung”, the Burmese were forced to use “Tit” everywhere instead of “Ta”. Violators are fined ten pyas per occurrence.

Word Processing

  • The initial Burmese Word Processing was done at UCC.
  • Without standardization, several Burmese Fonts and Keyboards were developed by the industry.
  • Zawgyi Font was used in most web sites.
    Met one of the authors in Mandalay, who explained the background of its development.
  • Unicode was proposed as a standard for information processing, but it took a long time for web sites and smart phones to comply.
    There are now Unicode sets for Myanmar and some languages used by the indigenous people.
  • There are some limitations in the Unicode-compliant systems. e.g. Saya U Moe Aung found it difficult if not impossible to type “Theikkha” and similar Myanmar words.
  • A compromise solution is offered by “ZawDecode”.
    One can read Unicode well, and 80 – 90% of Zawgyi.
  • Some use two devices (e.g. two phones, a phone and a lap top) with Zawgyi on one device and Unicode-compliant font (e.g. Pyidaungsu) on the other device.
  • Some switch the “Preferred Language” setting as needed
    May require a restart
  • Some save read-only documents as PDF.
    PDF readers are free.
    PDF writers are usually not free.
  • Some use converters / translators.

Decline

With the use of SMS, the spelling skills have deteriorated.
“Kha Lay” (child) became “Khay”.

False Pride

One Burmese parent back in Yangon proudly claimed that her daughter is attending a prestigious “international school” to study overseas and she does not speak Burmese.

How times have changed !



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