Myanmar? I hardly know her! Transcript

Carrie Gillon: Hi and welcome to the Vocal Fries podcast, the podcast about linguistic discrimination.

Megan Figueroa: I’m Megan Figueroa

Carrie Gillon: and I’m Carrie Gillon.

Megan Figueroa: Did I sound weird to you? when I just said that? Oh, your face made it seem like I sounded weird.

Carrie Gillon: Well, cause you were like looking away.

Megan Figueroa: Yeah.

Carrie Gillon: and “I have to respond.” So, you sounded fine, but you looked like you were completely in a different planet.

Megan Figueroa: I was whipping around to the mic, I guess. I don’t know. It’s like, I’ve never done this before every time.

But yeah, here we are. And I have been watching So, much TV lately. Carrie, I can’t even tell you.

Carrie Gillon: Oh yeah?

Megan Figueroa: I just finished Inventing Anna and Julia Garner is the only reason to watch that I would say, but have you heard her in it like clips?

Carrie Gillon: I watched the trailer for it, So, yes. I’ve heard her.

Megan Figueroa: What is, what is your impression as a linguist or just as a human person listening to,

Carrie Gillon: well, it’s really hard. I mean, she’s a Russian, she’s playing a Russian, who’s trying to sound German. So, I guess that kind of what it sounds like.

Megan Figueroa: Yeah. Okay. So, that’s, that was your impression?

Carrie Gillon: I mean, it’s really hard to pin down, but maybe that’s on purpose.

Megan Figueroa: So, you Anna Sorokin the person that she’s playing, you know, of her as someone that’s Russian, trying to sound German.

Carrie Gillon: I read the original New York Times article way back in the day, I was fascinated,

Megan Figueroa: you know a white woman doing dirty or doing her friends dirty and like a very, very skilled way, or just like, kind of, yeah. Fucking up, up like you keep just, I don’t know. I it’s

Carrie Gillon: failing up,

Megan Figueroa: failing up. Yeah. Okay. So, you haven’t heard Julia Garner talk about how she prepared for the accent or what she was thinking. Okay. Cause she literally says it’s German with Russian on top with a little bit of American or European, depending on who she’s with. So, it’s kind of like what you just described, but it’s interesting because in one of the episodes there like a character starts talking to her in Russian and she’s taken aback. Like she’s very upset. She’s like, oh, the guy says, “oh, I’m sorry. I thought I heard some Russian in there.” So, that’s the moment when I realized, oh right. She doesn’t want people to know she’s Russian. So, German has to be the base or the German accent has to be the base.

Carrie Gillon: Or the target anyway.

Megan Figueroa: Right. But I actually have never heard the real Anna speak. So, I don’t know if it’s actually close.

Carrie Gillon: I don’t know if I have either.

Anna Sorokin: This is just like my life. I’m just trying to make it work and figure things out.

Megan Figueroa: Oh my God. Julia Garner nails it.

Carrie Gillon: Okay, good.

Megan Figueroa: What!

Julia Garner: Why are you being like this, so dramatic. Anna Delvey is a masterpiece, bitches.

Carrie Gillon: She is a chameleon. Like she is like an accent chameleon.

Megan Figueroa: like, okay. So, I’m just like watching Ozark too. And it’s So, good. Like it’s like, I don’t think I know. I don’t know who Julia Garner is ever, because she always sounds different and it’s always really good.

Carrie Gillon: Yeah. Uh, what’s his name? David Chen. He tweeted something like, “I still don’t know what she actually sounds like.”

Megan Figueroa: Yeah.

Carrie Gillon: She’s from New York City. So, I feel like I can kind of-

Megan Figueroa: just talented ear. Oh my God. She fucking nails it. This is blowing my mind.

Carrie Gillon: Oh, there you go.

Megan Figueroa: Okay. So, and then I pulled this up, Anna Sorokin says, “I don’t feel like I sound like that.” and then she says, “it’s like, when you hear yourself on TV and it’s not really the voice you hear in your head when you speak.”

Carrie Gillon: Right.

Megan Figueroa: And then she says, “I don’t think it’s off. I think she kind of she kind of falls in and out of it, some of it she gets right. But not everything.”

Carrie Gillon: That’s probably true.

Megan Figueroa: Yeah. I mean, but it also sounds like Julia Garner was kind of doing what you do, actually, this is I think, quite insightful. Um, she said that she sometimes puts a little bit more American or more European in it, depending on who she’s talking to, which we all do. We all put a little bit of, you know, you know, like sometimes when I’m around my dad, my, my vowels go from like 14 different vowels to five, like in Spanish. So, I have like, you know, that changes, but I think that that’s what Julia Garner is basically saying she’s doing, but. Wow.

So, Julia Garner says that “I was like, what is her accent? I didn’t even know about her accent. I didn’t even know what her accent was. It’s a hybrid of different accents. This is a girl who said that she was German and people believed it, but she actually was born in Russia. So, she’s not going to have a Russian accent. And then she probably learned English in the British way because she’s European and they don’t learn American English.”

So, again, very insightful stuff and probably with the help of her dialect coach, you know, what she said that she used. So, I think Julia Garner’s choices with the accent are like the big thing that everyone’s discussing about Inventing Anna. Um, cause I do think it is the star of the show.

Carrie Gillon: Right.

Megan Figueroa: But now that I hear Anna Sorokin for real, I think she fucking nailed it

Carrie Gillon: probably. I mean, she’s really good at the accents.

Megan Figueroa: Wow. Well, oh my God. Give this woman just the whole EGOT. I don’t know how you can do that, but just give her all of the awards,

Carrie Gillon: I mean, she, at least should be getting some Emmys if nothing else, just because she has done so much TV, she’s been in other things too, but-

Megan Figueroa: yeah.

Carrie Gillon: some movies, but-

Megan Figueroa: she won for playing the character in Ozark last.

Carrie Gillon: Oh, she did?

Megan Figueroa: Recently. Yeah. So, that’s the first time I heard her not be a character when she accepted that.

Carrie Gillon: Oh, So, you have heard her real accent.

Megan Figueroa: I have, I have, it’s just unremarkable compared to everything. Yeah. And so, anyway, I just, yeah, she says she works with dialect coach, which I also wanted to bring up. So, we’ve had accent slash dialect coach, Eric Singer, lovely Eric Singer on our show. He just posted that he’s excited because he has spent eight months working with Austin Butler. I don’t know who that is, but apparently he’s playing Elvis in Baz Luhrmann’s new thing.

Carrie Gillon: Oh yeah. I found his accent weird when I watched the trailer. I’m not convinced by that one.

Megan Figueroa: Yeah. So, I was wondering what you thought about it.

Carrie Gillon: But maybe in the movie it will feel better, but I just, I don’t know. It didn’t quite gel for me in the trailer.

Megan Figueroa: But it made me realize, I don’t really know what Elvis sounds like besides some very iconic clips of him performing on TV.

Carrie Gillon: Oh, you’ve never watched them in a movie, which I mean still performing, but

Megan Figueroa: No!

Elvis: I was anxious to do some live appearances. You know, I haven’t -been a long time since I’ve been on stage in front of me, but it live. And I was anxious to do some live appearances and I thought a bigger opportunity to get in front of the people.

Megan Figueroa: It’s going to be really interesting to see how people feel about the Elvis accident or idiolect, or what’s going to happen with this.

Carrie Gillon: I wonder also  like his face looks really strange to me. I wonder if they’ve got prosthetics on his face. Like I found it very uncanny valley.

Megan Figueroa: Ah, okay. Yeah.

Carrie Gillon: It might also be influencing my feelings about the dialect. Or the particular variety.

Megan Figueroa: Yeah. Maybe if you just heard it and wasn’t watching the trailer.

Carrie Gillon: Yeah. If I should try that,

Megan Figueroa: but you’re right now that you say that yeah, he does look

Carrie Gillon: uncomfortable, right?

Megan Figueroa: Yeah. He’s definitely wearing something on his face. Yeah. But yeah, his, his lip something. And if it is his lips, if there’s something around his, his mouth, I wonder if that that’s actually affecting it

Carrie Gillon: could be, yeah. Could be. By the way, completely like sidebar here. But this is the movie that Tom Hanks was filming when he got covid.

Megan Figueroa: Oh, they filmed it. And where were they? Like Australia.

Carrie Gillon: Australia. Yeah. That’s where Baz Luhrmann is from So,  

Megan Figueroa: oh, right. Yeah. Anyway. Yeah. So,  

Carrie Gillon: which if you have not seen his first major movie Strictly Ballroom. Oh my God. Watch it.

Megan Figueroa: Okay. I have not, I didn’t even, I’ve never even heard of it. I know.

Carrie Gillon: Oh my God. I It’s one of my favorite movies from the nineties, like bar none. I don’t know. I don’t even know how to like, describe my love for it. You know, it’s going to be like of the era, but it’s just So, re like it’s ridiculous over the top silliness, but it’s also  heartfelt. And I just, I don’t know. It’s also  got the silly trope of like the woman takes off her glasses and she’s suddenly hot. But,

Megan Figueroa: yeah, sure.

Carrie Gillon: But!

Megan Figueroa: Like Grease too.

Carrie Gillon: There’s a Spanish connection.

Megan Figueroa: Oh, okay. Strictly Ballroom.

But yeah, no, I’m in asleep, endlessly fascinated by actors’ choices and how accents come out on screen. So,

Carrie Gillon: yeah, this is definitely interesting.

Megan Figueroa: And I know it’s hard.

Carrie Gillon: It’s definitely hard. Yeah. I try not to be too judgmental.

Anyway. Accents are fun.

Megan Figueroa: And they’re all equal.

Carrie Gillon: They’re all equal.

Megan Figueroa: Yes.

Carrie Gillon: Unless you say jams, just kidding.

Megan Figueroa: Oh my God.

Carrie Gillon: Don’t get high. When you’re on a podcast, folks, you might have a viral pronunciation.

Megan Figueroa: Yes. I love it. I’m still thinking about it

Carrie Gillon: anyway. Um, yeah. So, today’s episode is all about Myanmar or Burma, take your pick.

Megan Figueroa: Yup.

Carrie Gillon: It’s just over a year. Since the coup happened, we actually talked late last year. So, things probably have changed, but most of the facts that we talked about are, you know, evergreen. So,  

Megan Figueroa: yeah. And it’s, again, one of those things where I learn, basically everything that our guest says is me learning something.

Carrie Gillon: Oh yeah. And, you know, if you want to support us, you can support us at

Megan Figueroa: Yes. And we’d be So, grateful. We are an indie pod. So, yeah.

Carrie Gillon: So, we’ve got stickers and bonus episodes and a mug.

Today we’re very excited to have Katie Craig who is the co-founder and director of the Myanmar Indigenous Community Partners. And we’ll have the link in the show notes. Uh, So, welcome Katie.

Megan Figueroa: Welcome.

Katie Craig: Thank you. It’s exciting to be here. I was saying to Carrie, the other day I was in a meeting with her. It’s strange to like see your face when you’re talking. Cause I was just hearing with my headphones or like in my car.

Megan Figueroa: No, it’s nice though when we listen back because Carrie does editing, but then I listen back. It’s like, I can imagine just the conversation back in my head again. And I’m like, it’s too bad that people don’t get to see how much fun we actually have recording with people, but it’s okay because it’s a podcast, but yes. Yes. Thanks for joining us. Joining the long great list of guests that we’ve had on. So,  and we’ve never talked about there’s So, many, So, many gaps.

Carrie Gillon: I mean, of course there are many jobs. How many languages of the world are there? I’m glad that we’re at least putting one little pin in Asia. Yes. So, can you maybe just give our listeners a primer on the situation in Myanmar.

Katie Craig: Oh, yeah. I mean, you can call it whatever you want. Some people still call it Burma, even. That’s easier to say. Yeah, we don’t really have like an accepted than a really collective way to call the country right in English.

Carrie Gillon: Oh, that’s good to know. Thank you.

Katie Craig: People are asking me, “how do you say it in English?” I don’t know in Burmese, it’s sort of like “me-an-mah”, but in English it can be maybe decided to pronounce it differently. Like we don’t call Mexico, mehiko, right?

Megan Figueroa: Yeah. Will you say it again how you say it in Burmese?

Katie Craig: I’ll be like me-an-mah. Anyway, So, this situation, the current situation,

Carrie Gillon: well, as much as you can give us without like spending three hours on it, I guess.

Katie Craig: Well, since this is a linguistics podcast, I’ll include some parts that are relevant to language, I guess. So, Myanmar is a country in Southeast Asia. Some people don’t even know that So, maybe I should start there. It’s West of Laos, it’s south of China, what else do we border, India and Bangladesh to the west. So, it’s kind of an interesting place geographically. And it’s very linguistically diverse, as you might imagine, there’s something like 130 or over 130 languages used in the country. There still haven’t been all that much research that’s been done. So, I think that there’s probably different languages and language varieties that we haven’t really done any research on. So, the outside world doesn’t necessarily know about yet. Obviously people living there already know about these, but

Megan Figueroa: Can I stop you real quick. How big, like geographically, like maybe as compared to a state in the US for me.

Katie Craig: about the same size as Texas.

Megan Figueroa: Okay.

Carrie Gillon: That’s huge. Yeah. That’s bigger than I expected.

Megan Figueroa: Yeah, me too. I was imagining, I don’t know why in my head, I know where it is, but for some reason I had a smaller idea. Okay. So, over like the, the Texas size place, there are about 130 around different languages that are spoken.

Katie Craig: Plus sign languages, obviously. I don’t know how many sign languages are used in the country, but I think more than one.

Megan Figueroa: And will you remind us a little bit or tell us for the first time, why at one point it was called Burma and now we’re where we are.

Katie Craig: you know, that’s a good question. So, that’s kind of ties into the history of Myanmar. So, it was colonized by the British, when it was when the British first came, it wasn’t the country of Myanmar. So, by that, I mean, like it wasn’t one nation they’re like multiple nations and territories in what we now call Myanmar. Which is significant to present day, because it affects the way that people conceptualize of the, the country. If that makes sense. It’s kind of like a land of many nations. That’s left out a lot in like the media and things, but I think it’s helpful in understanding the politics of Myanmar. So, yeah, it was named Burma by the British, because the anglicization of the word “Bamar”, Bamar refers to a particular community, like an entholinguistic community, it’s what people call the majority quote unquote language, the majority of quote unquote people, because they’re just call it the dominant language and people. Right. So, at first Bamar, which is another way of saying, Myanmar, Myanmar and Bamar really mean the same thing. After the British, that’s where I was going, after British colonization, a man by the name of General Ne Win kind of took over, not kind of, he completely took over in 1962, and then 1988, there was a big uprising. If you pay attention to Myanmar at all, you’ll have heard about that. But after that, there were like these sham elections. And So, it was during, around that time when there were like, I think it was kind of like a PR stunt, honestly, where they’re like, we’ll change the name of the country to Myanmar. I’m not entirely sure why they decided to kind of reject that, because I feel like it gives more legitimacy to the military, but some don’t have very strong feelings about it anymore.

Megan Figueroa: And this is the very recent past. This is the eighties.

Katie Craig: Yeah. I think it would change in the nineties, early nineties, I think as a result of the 8888 uprising.

Carrie Gillon: I remember it happening. And I also  remember my dad saying Myanmar was associated with the junta.

And So, one of the reasons why you reached out is because you wanted people to know what happened earlier this year. And I mean, I hope people have heard, but there’s a good chance some people haven’t. So, maybe you can also  explain that.

Megan Figueroa: Especially Americans, because we are So, american centric.

Katie Craig: I mean, especially our news and media. It’s very American centric. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard about it. It just hasn’t, unless you’re friends with someone from the country or someone who’s like associated with the country, then this might not have come across your newsfeed or whatever. I don’t want to be like making people feel bad.

Megan Figueroa: Oh, that’s what our podcast is all about.

Katie Craig: but you might’ve seen there’s an American journalist, Danny Fenster, who was detained I think in May, he was in jail for nine months, nine months, six months. He was recently released. So, you might’ve seen that.

So, on February 1st, the military decided that they were going to basically take over. So, they claimed that there was election fraud in the 2020 elections.

So, we also  had to like-

Megan Figueroa: okay,

Carrie Gillon: it’s not just the United States going through this.

Katie Craig: Yeah. Then we had elections of 2020 and they claimed election fraud. So, they decided that that was grounds for them to essentially take control of the country. So, since then there’ve been protests all over the country. There’s been this massive, they’re calling it a Civil Disobedience Movement, CDM, where people just won’t work for the military. So, doctors, school teachers, railway workers. They refused to work for the government. People aren’t paying their electricity bills.

Megan Figueroa: Oh, wow. So, when I say not work for the government, it’s just now the government is the military. So, it’s basically okay. I see. Wow.

Carrie Gillon: This is how I found out about it. First was the exercise video that came out on February 2nd. So, the, there was a woman who was like filming her, her YouTube exercise video. And in the background, there are the tanks coming in. So, you can just watch the coup happening. Yeah. Yeah.

Megan Figueroa: That’s wild. Okay. Same, we’re now recording. What is happening right nowat the end of 2021.

Katie Craig: What’s happening at the end of 2021?

Megan Figueroa: What’s the current situation. Is the military still in power?

Katie Craig: hahaha. Um, there is a sort of a shadow government that was formed called the NUT, the National Unity Government, but they’re not being given any legitimacy from the international community, essentially. So, that’s part of the advocacy efforts that are happening all over the world is to encouraged other governments to give more legitimacy to the NUT. So, this was a democratically elected body of government. But they can’t really do it very openly.

Megan Figueroa: Right. So, are there still strikes? Are the doctors working?

Katie Craig: Yeah, they’re still striking. It’s really, there was all this really quite horrible.

Megan Figueroa: This is during COVID too. Yeah, yeah, yeah,

Katie Craig: yeah. But the doctors specifically have been targeted by the military.

Megan Figueroa: What is the population around?

Katie Craig: 53, 54 million.

Megan Figueroa: Okay. So, sorry. I have So, many like little questions. It’s just, I’m trying to, I’m one of those Americans who often does not have a great knowledge base of places other than right here now. I just like to- definitely speaking from what I know, Americans struggle with this area.

Carrie Gillon: So,  can you give us a little bit of a snapshot of the linguistic situation? So, I know you said there was like 130 plus languages, but like what kind of languages are there and maybe name a couple of other ones besides Burmese?

Katie Craig: Yeah. So, there, supposedly -this is not my research, but other people say that there’s six different language families represented in the country. Um, indigenously. So, they’re the Tibeto-Burman like Burmese, you could have Chin languages, Karen languages. So, that’s the biggest one. There’s also   what some people would call it Tai-Kadai, let’s see, there’s also  Austronesian. I think just one or two in the south. What else is there? Okay, some people call it Hmong-Khmer. Some people call it Austroasiatic . And what else, there is Hmong-Mien spoken by a small population and Indo European, a couple in the west. If you’ve heard of Rohingya…

Carrie Gillon: it’s a wild situation with that many different language families in such a small area. I mean, it’s as big as Texas, but still it’s impressive.

Katie Craig: Yeah.

Megan Figueroa: Is there a legal, official language?

Katie Craig: Yeah, the official language is Burmese.

Megan Figueroa: Okay.

Katie Craig: According to the constitution, but the shadow government NUT decided to abolish 2008 Constitution. If I say that officially, I might be going into mindset in the military, but

Megan Figueroa: right. Okay.

Katie Craig: Even in the NUT government it’s still the language of government, whichever government, whichever state quote unquote government, cause there’s also  like a parallel government.

Carrie Gillon: So, why did you want to set up the Myanmar Indigenous Community Partners?

Katie Craig: Yeah. Where should I start? I mean, language is definitely a very sort of salient marker of identity. And it’s very political. It’s just very significant for a lot of reasons. People, these different communities are asking for more language development, especially I would say language in education. They want to educate their children in their own language. So, basically we started it to be able to serve these communities better specifically in language development kind of things. Potentially in other areas as well and doing advocacy and awareness raising things like that.

Megan Figueroa: Yeah. And what’s the situation in schools then? Is it all just community-based is it like, depending on where you happen to walk into, it’s different?

Katie Craig: In our work?

Megan Figueroa: In Burma or Myanmar, are kids able to have access to other languages or?

Katie Craig: Um, there’s really quite a lot of variety. So, there is like the state schools that are run by the government, which haven’t really been running probably because of COVID. They’ve tried to open them again, but most people are not sending their kids. So, those schools are in Burmese Burmese, textbooks, Burmese language, Burmese even Burmese history Burmese everything. Which is very intentional. In the past, especially, it used to be this one language one, I don’t know how to say in English like race or ethnicity, whatever, one people, they’re used to that policy.

But recently there have been some changes. So, they have recently sort of started develop what they call the local curriculum, which has kind of morphed in meaning as to what it is, it was just started to be implemented in 2019/2020 school year. But they only had a portion of that, that curriculum, which is really just one subject. They only had a portion of it ready for that school year. And not every community even was able to implement it because there wasn’t any funding. So, anyone that was able to implement it did So, because they funded it themselves. So, is that development, which I can talk about more if you want.

Um, but there’s also  other, like I said, parallel education systems for different reasons. There’s some areas where they’re called self-administered zones, especially the Wa. They kind of do their own thing on the border with China. The military has never really had much control over them. So, they do whatever they want. They use a lot of the Wa language and Chinese, um. In other areas like the Karen areas or one sort of Karen area in the east where they are sort of the defacto government. So, in some of their schools, it’s all one of the Karen languages. They don’t necessarily use all of the different Karen language languages, but there’s one sort of dominant language within the Karen community that they use in their schools. There’s kind of a variety all over the country, but the state schools are all in Burmese. If that makes sense. It’s kind of a long answer.

Megan Figueroa: No, it’s great. And, and what is the work that you’re doing in terms of language development?

Katie Craig: Yeah, we kind of do a variety of things. And like I said, it kind of depends on what the community is asking for. Some communities are really sort of at the beginning of developing their language. So,  some of them are either developing an orthography or trying to standardize the orthography. Some people are just at the next step, just trying to create more literature and things like that. And then, like I said, some groups have like entire education systems. They’re just wanting to basically strengthen those.

Megan Figueroa: So, I kind of wonder what that looks like with developing literature or standardizing some sort of orthography of, are there people that are, is there like translation of like books from whatever language to these languages? Or are there people that are creating books, writing books from oral histories?

Katie Craig: Yeah. Usually creating their own. Um, everything written in Burmese, especially, sort of being written from the perspective of a Burmese person. There’s a lot of obviously resentment towards, So,  yeah, and it’s just, I mean, they’re pretty different, even if it’s geographically similar and they’re physically close to each other. It’s really quite a lot of variety and all the different communities and their way of life. So, the thing difficult is translate. I mean, once you get to a certain level, you can start translating things and in that way, sort of introducing people to other places and other ways of life and other cultures. Right.

Megan Figueroa: And So, similarly, is there a lots of multilingualism.

Katie Craig: Yes. Yeah. I mean, certain areas, there’s not as much other areas, especially if you speak Burmese. Burmese people are Bamar people who speak Burmese as a the first language, right, who grew up speaking Burmese, they don’t necessarily, like most English speakers don’t necessarily, don’t typically learn other languages. Some people have switched their language just for safety reasons is kind of, if you don’t speak Burmese it’s kind of a Shibboleth of death, in some ways.

It really depends on area. Not even necessarily the language specifically. So, for like for the Karen kind of spread out all over lower Myanmar. People who live- there’s a, a region just west of Yangon, which is the major city in the south, the former capital, not the capital anymore. Um, So, just west of there, So, a lot of people living in that region have started to shift their language use, right. They come to switching from Karen to Burmese. I think part of it is because of a lot easier access. The east, just geographically, it’s more difficult, but also  it’s more concentrated, just Karen people, whereas in Ayeyarwady, that’s the name of that region, it’s more mixed. You might have like, even like different Karen languages.

So, it kind of just depends. It depends on the area. If it’s urban or rural, if it’s an area that’s run by one of the many different armed groups or yeah.

Megan Figueroa: You said that they were cut off from the rest of the world. I’m guessing there hasn’t been much migration there from other places or has there still.

Katie Craig: Um, into the country?

Megan Figueroa: Into the country.

Katie Craig: I guess it depends on who you ask. That’s kind of the Rohingya issue. Burmese people all claim that they’re immigrated from Bangladesh but they’re not from Bangladesh. So.

There’s some Chinese migration migration. I’m not sure if I should comment, but that’s really about it. I would say.

For these groups, like these borders are artificial. I think there’s in some places, some places the worst, pretty porous, but it’s not necessarily people from outside, outside. It’s just a Chin person on the Myanmar side versus a Chin person on the Indian side.

Megan Figueroa: Is there a lot of multilingualism with Chinese,

Katie Craig: certain areas. And like on the border, a lot of people will go to China to work, but not in the rest of the country. There’s a lot of like kind of anti-Chinese sentiment in the country, but on the border, definitely,

Megan Figueroa: you know, I just realized this all sounds complicated to me, but I realize, being American, So, this is my reference point, american history is also  very complicated, but we only hear it from the perspective of white people. Um, So, it sounds a lot less complicated when they’re the ones telling the story. Um, So, I don’t think that this is unique in that it feels complicated. Um, but it just made me realize it really matters who’s telling the history.

Katie Craig: Something I’ve noticed during the past, however many months, and So, I was a little bit like, “Hmm. I mean, I guess that’s actually, they’re kind of missing this piece,” not just from a Bamar perspective. I think that’s part of it. Sometimes it’s like, oh, this is just an urban perspective or this is just like the Delta, the center part of the country. Um, yeah. Well, it’s kind of part of the reason. Usually, I’m kind of tucked away in my little part of the world, I like don’t really talk to people, to speak up more because people are just hearing this one perspective and people want to talk about really these kind of issues of ethnicity and language, et cetera, et cetera. Um, it’s kind of seen as, what’s the word, like you’re creating tension, they’re saying “we need to unify. We need to be unified.” Like the non-Bamar people hear that a lot. Right.

And So, I feel like, well, I can speak up. Like, I’m not afraid of like catching flack and it’s not, I haven’t experienced the same trauma that they have and like being forced to assimilate to another way of living. So, I don’t experience that as the same way as they do either. If that makes sense.

Megan Figueroa: Why is it important that we, anyone, particularly people that have been colonized and oppressed structurally for So, long, have access to their language?

Katie Craig: It’s was kind of a sort of basic question that we often just sort of glide past, like why language to begin with, why are we even talking about this? Language is like kind of what makes us human. Right. And in some ways it’s like what gives us agency, it’s like how we communicate with others, that’s how we do everything really. Like everything passes their language and affects every part of your life, affects every different sector, every domain. It doesn’t matter what it is. Obviously, it’s not just confined to the linguistics, it affects education, like we were just saying, and reading and math and science and literally everything, because it’s just a central part of what it means to be human. It’s kind of a part of like, I don’t know how to say it, like our essential life. Losing your language, I think can be kind of like losing your soul, losing your way to navigate through the world in the ways of relating to each other, to the earth, to everything

Carrie Gillon: and knowledge, a lot of knowledge

Katie Craig: and knowledge, especially in anything about climate change. I read about like place names, even in the United States that like contain information like the geographic location, like swampy land. And then we changed it to like Sir Richard, whatever. There’s a flood or something. Well, all the proverbs and the parables that are kind of included in language, they can’t really translate.

Carrie Gillon: What can we, as people outside of the country, do to help either the language situation or maybe even the political situation? I don’t know what’s feasible. Maybe you have a sense.

Katie Craig: Yeah. I mean, I guess it’s always good to just learn more. Um, I don’t impose my perspectives on other people. You might have a different perspective. Um, but knowing that a lot of what you’ll see and read is often from like one particular perspective, you can do a little bit and realize, oh, maybe there’s another way to look at this.

Yeah. There are lots of different advocacy efforts happening. There are those that have been proposed, I guess, in Congress, both in the House and the Senate. If you were interested in the Burma Bill in the House and the Senate, it basically just authorizes more sanctions against the military and authorizes more humanitarian aid. That’s kind of the core of the Bill. So, if that’s something that you are interested in or agree with, I mean, if you don’t agree with it, you don’t have to ask your reps to co-sponsor it. But you can still talk to your representatives about what’s happening and ask them they’re doing.

Yeah. In general, raise awareness about the country and what’s happening.

Megan Figueroa: Yeah. I’ve learned So, much from you today.

Carrie Gillon: Are there any last words you want to give to our listeners about Myanmar languages

Katie Craig: Man, there’s So, much I can say very interesting place. Um, So, I think that’s worth learning about.

Not particularly,

Carrie Gillon: you know what I forgot to ask. How did you get interested in Myanmar in the first place?

Katie Craig: Um, So, when I was doing my masters, I met a bunch of Burmese refugees. Sounds interesting.

Megan Figueroa: Where were you? Where’d you do your masters?

Katie Craig: It’s a small school in Dallas.

Megan Figueroa: Okay. And you met them there. Is there a large Burmese population in Dallas?

Katie Craig: I guess that’s something else. Anyone that was interested can do, there’s for Burmese people all over the world. I’m mostly familiar with United States. So, having lots and lots of different fundraisers all over. So, you can do some searching. Maybe it’s been written about in the local paper about handing out food and concerts. That’s what we’ve been doing. Or if there’s like a Burmese restaurant or Burmese businesses, you can support them.

Megan Figueroa: That’s a good one.

Katie Craig: ’cause Burmese people they’re sending So, like millions of dollars and most Burmese people like the diaspora, most of them came as refugees. Right? So, they’re like not super well off, but they’re doing a really phenomenal job at raising funds and sending funds back to their friends and family.

Megan Figueroa: Thank you So, much. I’ve learned So, much from you. This was a very fun conversation, fun. And in the way that I liked talking with you and not that everything was a good thing.

Katie Craig: Yeah,

Megan Figueroa: absolutely. Yeah, we always leave our listeners with one final message. Don’t be an asshole.

Carrie Gillon: We would like to thank our newest patron. Sophie. Thank you So, much. Sophie.

Megan Figueroa: Thank you, Sophie. Yeah. We appreciate you So, much.

Carrie Gillon: Just a reminder. If you want to support us

The Vocal Fries podcast is produced by me, Carrie Gillon for Halftone Audio, music by Nick Granum. You can find us on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @vocalfries. You can email us at and our website is

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