Of course we’re experiencing language difficulties everywhere we go, but Myanmar is something else. Here, I can’t even say the place names.
Expressing where you want to go is pretty crucial but often I can’t manage it. Some examples:
- Hpa An
- Mrauk U
My attempts to pronounce these are preceded by a huge sigh and a grimace.
The other day I tried to ask a taxi driver whether he could take us to Pyin Oo Lwin. Luckily tourists only want to visit a small number of places so I only had to struggle briefly until he got the gist.
To complicate matters, the transcription of place names from Burmese to English is inconsistent. The same place could be written as Samkar / Sankar / Sam Kar / San Kar.
Then there are the colonial names (not used much now) versus the traditional names eg. Rangoon / Yangon, Pagan / Bagan.
I try to learn a few words of greeting in the countries we visit but that isn’t easy here either. I’ve pretty much mastered hello (mingalaba) but I can’t manage thankyou (ce zu tin ba deh).
I suppose I come across as friendly but ungrateful. At home, though, I’m unfriendly and ungrateful so at least it’s a step up.