MAUNG KHINE ZAW
Dear Readers, please note that since 1995 the old English spellings and pronunciations of some geographical names in Myanmar had been officially changed to comply with Myanmar dialect.
In this article old names “Ava” “Taungoo” “Tennasserim” “Mataban ” “Moulmein” “Syrian” “Bassein” “Akyab” “Arakan” are corrected as “Innwa””Taungnu”, “Tanintharyi” “Moatama” “Mawlamyine” “Thanlyin” “Pathein” “Sittway” “Rakhine” etc. —Ed.
The Myanmar people began to study the English language and literature during the reigns of King Tabin Shwehtee and King Bayintnaung Kyawhtin Nawrahta of Taungnu period in the year 1548 A.D. According to the historical records it is learnt that during the reign of King Bayintnaung Kyawhtin Nawrahta among the foreigners who arrived in Myanmar the Europeans were predominant in number.
In Historian D.G.E. Hall’s “Europe and Burma” mention is made of the fact that during the King Bayintnaung a large number of Europeans including Portuguese arrived in Myanmar on business matters. Among the Europeans Kaiser Fraidarikay, the native of Venice, Italy arrived here in 1569 during the reign of King Bayintnaung. Englishman Mr. Reply Fitch reached Tanintharyi, Moatama and Pathein in 1587 and 1588.
Europeans coming to Myanmar for the first time were merely adventurers, merchants and missionaries. Especially Roman Catholic Missionaries entered the country slowly and carried out the religions propagations.
They taught the people English speaking and language while carrying out the religious propagations.
Before King Maha Dhama Razar of the Naungyan Dynasty 1613, the English literature was used by Roman Catholics as their language and literature.
After King Maha Dhama Razar attacked and occupied Thanlyin and executed Philip Debrito, he took away all the Roman Catholics as captives and sent them to the upper Myanmar. He also settled them down. Since then, the study of English language had become widespread moderately. In 1721 its progress was increasing.
In 1721 during the reign of Taninganway Minn Roman Catholic Missionary Banabite who was a native of Rome, Italy arrived at Myanmar. He tried to teach the natives with scriptures and techniques in English while carrying out the religions propagation.
Banabite’s efforts made most of the Myanmar people interest in the study of English.
As people took more interest in English, The language was taught methodically at Thanlyin and other cities in upper Myanmar.
After the first Anglo-Myanmar war (1824 -1826), the standard of English teaching had improved.
As he Tanintharyi and the Rakhine divisions fell into the hands of the British colonialists, the natives of Myanmar in these regions had become in touch with the English language. They had become more interested in the study of English.
They had already learn the English language. Even the Myanmar kings them selves took interest in the study of English. In August, 1827 King Bagyidaw permitted opening of the English school at Innwa (Ava).
Roman Catholic Missionary Dr. Price was the first man who opened the English school at Ava. One the opening day of the school there were four students only and then increased to seven students.
Subjects taught at the school were English, geography, astronomy, science and navigation. Students, though small in number, had passed the examination with good qualification (credit).
“The Calcutta Herald” newspaper praised success of the school and outstanding ability of students.
The newspaper said that student studying English at Dr. Price’s school were outstanding. Two princes were the best among the students. They could read the Bible (00VDO~6.00) written in English properly and understood.
They could also draw the world map neat and tidy. In those days Mawlamyine was the most prominent in the field of English speaking and English teaching.
A sit was a seaport, many of the British steamers berthed. Town dwellers had been always dealing with the English merchants and seamen.
They had been always in contact with English language and literature. It was recorded that those who could speak English and write English literature were 2500 town dwellers of Mawlamyine only in the ten-year period between 1826 and 1836.
American Missionary Dr. Adoniram Judson was one of these who made the study of English improve. Dr. Judson arrived at Yangon via India in 1803. He reached Mawlamyine in 1833.
He opened the English schools jointly with missionary wade. The imperialist British Government aided these schools with Indian Rupees 500 per month.
The main objective was to enable the multinationals in this region to speak and write the English language and literature.
Dr. Judson was the person who not only opened the English schools but also compiled the English-Myanmar Dictionary and the Myanmar-English Dictionary for the people of Myanmar to understand the English language property.
In 1834 the British Government established as English school at Maingay Street in Mawlamyine. American Missionary C. Bennett supervised the school.
This school was the first one among the schools established by the British Government. In addition to the government school, many missionary schools had sprung up in Mawlamyine. In 1843 St. Mathew Boys School and in 1844 St. Joseph Convent School were established in Mawlamyine. Similarly, the British Government-sponsored school had appeared in the Rahkine Division-one at Kyaukphyu in 1835 and another school at Sittway in 1837.
While the British government established the English schools in the Tnintharyi and the Rakhine Divisions, the Myanmar king also hired the foreign missionaries to establish the English language schools at Yatanabon Naypydaw-Mandalay,
Prince Mekhayer took more interest in studying the English language among the persons of royal lineage. He compiled the English-Myanmar dictionary which would help the study of English.
The prince learn the English language at British merchant Rogers. He complied the dictionary together jointly with British merchant Lane who had resided in Innwa.
He had taken five years to complete the compilation work. Barney was very much pleased with this dictionary in such way that it would contribute greatly to the British officers who undertook the administrative words and the Myanmar nationals under the reigns of English Chief Commissioner and Myanmar King who wished to learn the English language and also it could be very valuable for the Myanmar Empire.
On 13thFeburary 1835 Barney submitted the manuscripts of the dictionary to the Viceroy of India and advised him to publish it with the government fund after scrutinizing its contents by compiler Prince Makhayar handover the copyright to Lane.
Prince Makhayar had confronted many challenges and difficulties in compiling the dictionary with his effort, diligence and knowledge in the five-year period.
It is highly miserable for the people of Myanmar because the English-Myanmar dictionary has vanished from the world of literature.
Indeed it is a great loss to the world of Myanmar literature and the history of Myanmar.
During the reign of King Mindon the field of studying the English language and literature had become more wide spread. He himself encouraged the study of English, financially aided, and built the English school buildings.
He encouraged both the study of Tri-pitaka scriptures and Myanmar literature and the study of English language and literature simultaneously. He built a school on the vacant plot of land at Mandalay to enable English priest Dr. Marks to teach English to his sons.
He also provided French Roman Catholic Priest Bigandet with a plot of land and cash to carry out the educational development tasks.
Under the supervision of Bigandet St. Patrick High School at Mawlamyine in 1868, St. Paul High School at Yangon in 1870, St. Peter High School at Pathein in 1872 and St. Peter High School at Mandalay in 1896 were established respectively.
As King Mindon encouraged the study of English to his utmost, he donated 30,000 in Myanmar currencies to build the English School at Mandalay.
The Myanmar Gazette Newspaper issued on 21st December 1871 revealed that the Myanmar King donated 30,000 in Myanmar currencies to English men to build an English School at Mandalay.
The Myanmar carpenters build the school in accordance with the design given by the English architect.
The Study of English in Myanmar began to flourish with the strenuous effort of Christian Missionaries.
They taught English language to the native people in order to succeed the propagation of Christian religion.
Although the study of English was aimed at carrying out the propagation of religion, it has been extended to the studies of political, social, educational, commercial and cultural sectors later.
Nowadays, the English ‘ language has stood as the principle language for international relations.
When we study the history of Myanmar literature, we observed that the Myanmar scholars carried out with special attention the tasks leading to the development and thriving of the Myanmar literature which is the traditional cultural heritage.
In keeping abreast with the international political, economic, educational and social fields they studies English as the foreign language with special emphasis.
The ancient Myanmar’s prowess of performing task in praise-worthy.
Source : The traveller Vol 3, No.8 From August3 To August 9, 2015