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Shared Course Initiative


Yu Yu Khaing


SCI/Columbia Contact Person:

Vera Felder


Burmese is a language spoken in Myanmar, previously known as Burma in English. The debate goes on about the use of these two names, but in the vernacular, most people use /ba-ma/ while /myan-ma/ is used in literary or formal style. If you are learning Burmese at Columbia through the Shared Course Initiative, you will be learning both colloquial and literary styles.

Myanmar or Burma is a country in mainland Southeast Asia, bordering on Bangladesh and India in the northwest, China in the northeast, Laos in the east, and Thailand in the southeast. The total population exceeds 50 million and is composed of many ethnic groups that have their own languages and cultures. Check out Subdivisions of Myanmar: Wikipedia.

The official language of the country is Burmese or Myanmar, and is taught in every school. The Burmese script is an adaptation of a writing system used in South India in the third century BC and known as Brahmi. Variants of the system, with modifications for local needs, are used for most of the languages of India and many of the languages of Southeast Asia, including Thai, Khmer, Lao and Javanese (source).

Columbia offers Burmese language instruction through the Shared Course Initiative on a rotating basis: Elementary one year and Intermediate the following year. Advanced is offered every year. Classes are small and we pay attention to everyone’s needs and interests, especially in the selection of readings above the elementary levels. We mostly use materials created by our program, including multimedia and web applications. Class scheduling is flexible as we try to accommodate everyone.

Burmese is taught by Professor Yu Yu Khaing at Cornell and comes to Columbia through the Shared Course Initiative. Please contact Christopher Kaiser, the Program Manager of the Shared Course Initiative, for more information.

Taking courses in Burmese will allow you to fulfill the language requirement at Columbia.

Please check the Columbia Directory of Classes for the latest information on Burmese language classes.