I read an article by Author Hla Maung on September 26, 2016 26_sept_16_gnlmin today’s newspaper “The Global New Light of Myanmar”, . The author talked about Myanmar culture with a Myanmar word “Arr Nar De” in on different situations.
“Arr Nar De” by Hla Maung
Human emotions and traits are universal. Hate, love, anger, greed,
generosity, compassion, courage, integrity, honour, and so on, are
found in all human societies and cultures. However, the emphasis
placed on any emotion or trait will vary from culture to culture.
In Myanmar, much emphasis is placed on respect for parents,
elders and people in authority. We are an “obedience-based”
society. In many advanced countries, societies tend to be more
“speak-your-mind”, and the spirit of the Myanmar “arr nar de”
is missing. Myanmar people on the other hand are much obsessed
with “arr nar de”, and often fail to speak their minds. In a way, it
is a weakness, because sometimes we need to speak honestly and
frankly, and sometimes we need to say “No”.
“Arr nar de” is being overly sensitive to how other people
might feel about what do or say, and being hesitant or afraid to be
honest and frank.
There seems to be no direct translation for “arr nar de”. How
can “arr nar de” be translated? The difficulty arises partly because
we expect there is one word in English for every word in another
language, and vice versa. However, this is not the case for many
words. A single word in one language may require two or three
words, or a phrase. In some cases, no equivalent word exists.
The Eskimo language has, for example, more than fifty words for
“snow”, but the word “snow” has no direct equivalent word in Burmese,
because snow is outside the experience of Burmese people.
We refer to “mist” as “hnin”, which is also used for “dew”; and
“snow” is usually translated as “hnin-ge”, or “frozen mist”.
Instead of looking for word for word equivalents, we need to
consider the situation in which the word or words are used, and
then think of the words and expressions that are used in another language.
When we do this, it becomes clear that “arr nar de” is most
closely equivalent to the English word “sorry”, and the “spirit of
arr nar de” is equivalent in most cases to the “spirit of being sorry”.
The English word “sorry” is used very commonly, and also
used in a variety of situations. Some dictionary definitions of “sorry”
• feeling ashamed, embarrassed, unhappy about something done,
• feeling sadness, sympathy, regret, or embarrassment because
something bad has happened to someone,
• feeling disappointed or unhappy about a situation, and wishing
you could change it,
• wishing something had not happened, feeling regret.
Examples of usage:-
– You visit a friend and accidentally break an expensive vase.
In Burmese: “Arr lar lite tar”.
In English: “Oh I am (so) sorry”
– A friend asks for a loan but you cannot give it to him.
In Burmese “Arr nar par de …”
In English: “I’m sorry but …”
– A friend breaks your vase and later buys an expensive one and
gives it to you as a replacement.
In Burmese: “Oh, arr nar lite tar” or “Arr nar sayar gyi”
In English: “Oh, you shouldn’t have bought it. … I’m really
sorry it happened. ,,,”
– A friend asks if you like his singing, and you must tell him it is
In Burmese: “ Pyaw ya hmar arr nar par de, …”
In English: :I’m sorry to have to say this, but …”
– You see a neighbor that you don’t know well, and don’t want to
take him into the city in your car, but you give him a lift.
In Burmese: “Arr nar lo. khaw gae-de”
In English: I felt awkward/ embarrassed/ sorry (not to take
I gave him a lift.
Thus we see that while perhaps not a direct translation, the
spirit of “arr nar de ” is the spirit of being sorry or embarrassed or
unhappy or ill at ease regarding another person.