The Language of the Chinese Shan

I am proud to say that I have officially published my very first Memrise course! Dehong Dai (Chinese Shan) is a language spoken by roughly 700,000 people in the Dehong prefecture of Yunnan, China. In Chinese, the language/dialect is known as 德宏傣语 (Déhóng Dǎiyǔ) and in Dehong Dai as ᥖᥭᥰᥖᥬᥳᥑᥨᥒᥰ (Taī Taûexoōng). Although it has many differences in phonology and vocabulary, Dehong Dai is often considered a dialect of the Shan (Tai-Long) language spoken in Shan State, Laos and Thailand.

Please follow this link to access the course:

The intended purpose of this course is to provide an easy to learn and practical introduction to the language. Although this course is not advanced, it will allow learners to interact with Dehong Dai people in a friendly way.

The course contains twenty two levels.

  1. Pronouns
  2. Verbs I
  3. Verbs II
  4. Yes & No
  5. Nouns I
  6. Nouns II
  7. Food and Drink
  8. Question Words
  9. Particles
  10. Conversation I
  11. Conversation II
  12. Conversation III
  13. Conversation IV (Desires)
  14. Verbs III
  15. Sentence Constructions I
  16. Sentence Constructions II
  17. This & That
  18. Places and Locations
  19. Family
  20. Conversation V
  21. Numbers 1 – 10
  22. Affectionate Terms

Course Guide


Dehong Dai  is a tonal language with a very limited inventory of syllables with no consonant clusters. 16 syllable-initial consonants can be combined with 84 syllable finals and six tones.

A – pronounced as a glottal stop

P – pronounced as a cross between a ‘p’ and a ‘b’

X – a voiceless velar fricative. Please learn how to use this here:

*h – letters with a h written after it indicates an aspirated pronunciation.


Sentence Structure

Dehong Dai has a SVO sentence structure like English.


Adjectives come after the word in Dehong Dai. For example, Dehong Dai in called Xaām Taī Taûexoōng  (Language – Tai – Dehong).


Verbs are easy to use, and require no inflections for tense. Verbs are negated by simply adding the word ‘no’ as a prefix.


There are six tones in Dehong Dai which are listed below;

_ (mid tone) a e i o u
ᥰ (high tone) ā ē ī ō ū
ᥱ (low level) ǎ ě ǐ ǒ ǔ
ᥲ (mid-fall) à è ì ò ù
ᥳ (high-fall) â ê î ô û
ᥴ (mid-rise) á é í ó ú


Below is the vocabulary for the course. The vocabulary provided is enough to have basic but meaningful conversations in Dehong Dai.

I have not written the vocabulary in Dehong Dai Script for simplicity’s sake, instead I have created an easy to follow romanisation scheme called Jom Mueang’s Romanisation for Dehong Dai.

Kau – I / me
maūe – you
mān – he/she/it
haū – we
xaú – they / them

Basic Verbs I
peen – to be
heět – to do

yǔ – to be at / in
tsue – to be named
taàn – to speak
kaǎ – to go
maā – to come

Basic Verbs II
xaì – to want
keek – to like
tsèhm – to write
kin – to eat
moó – to be able
fěk – to learn / to study
au – to read

Yes & No
aw – yes
ǎm – no

Basic Nouns I
xaām – language
Taī – Tai/Dai/Shan
koōn – person
Taûexoōng – Dehong
Koōn Taī – Tai people / Shan people
Xaām Taī Taûexoōng – Dehong Dai Language
Xaām Taī – Shan Language
Mēng Taī – Shanland / Shan State

Basic Nouns II
taīkoô friend
moòsón – teacher
Phūnglī – Buddhist Monk
Saǎng Lōng – Novice Monk / Sang Long
laāi – letters
lik – book
kōngmū – pagoda

Food & Drink
xaù – rice
seèn – noodles
xaù seèn – rice noodles
lâm – water
lâm leèng – tea
lâm maì – hot water
lâm kāt – cold water
kewaán – sugar
moò – cooking pot
longkin – food

Question Words
sáng – what / how
phaé – who
ti thaé – where
yaām lae – when

hué – question particle
yaû – past tense particle
xán – final particle of sentence
long – action nominaliser

Basic Conversation I
maǔesúngxaa -ᥛᥬᥱ ᥔᥧᥒᥴ ᥑᥣᥝ  Hello
Maūe kin xaù yaû hué? – Have you eaten yet? (Common greeting)
Maūe tsue sáng? – what is your name?
Kau tsue… – My name is…
Maūe luk ti thaé maā? – where are you from?
Kau luk…maā – I am from…
yǔxán – goodbye

Basic Conversation II
Kau fěk Xaām Taī Taûexoōng – I am learning Dehong Dai

Kau moú taàn Xaām Taī Taûexoōng – I can speak Dehong Dai

Maūe moú taàn Xaām Taī hué? – Can you speak Shan?

Kau ǎm moú taàn Xaām Taī – I cannot speak Shan.

Mān ǎm moú tsèhm laāi Taī – he cannot write Shan

Mān moú au Taī lé – She can read Dehong Dai

Xaú peen Koōn Taī – They are Tai/Shan People

Basic Conversation III

Kōngmū yǔ thaé?- Where is the pagoda?

Maūe kaǎ ti thaé? – where are you going?

Maūe xaì kaǎ ti thaé? – where do you want to go?

Kau xaì kaǎ Mēng Taī – I want to go to Shan State

Xaú ǎm xaì kaǎ – They don’t want to go

Basic Conversation IV (Desires)

Kau xaì au lik – I want to read a book

Kau xaì kin xaùseèn – I want to eat rice noodles

Kau xaì kin lâmleèng – I want to drink tea

Kau xaì fěk Xaām Yīpùn – I want to learn Japanese

Kau xaì peen moùsón – I want to be a teacher

Verbs III

hàk – to love

xōn – to smoke

xaá – to look for

thoôp – to hit, to strike

thâp – to block

lií – to be good

Sentence constructions

Thoǒktaâ – however

pheéng – like, as

kò- also, too

hêhm – more than

tup-tup – exactly

kôp-pá – because

hán-waa – although

ǎm-waa – no matter what

an-waa – it is said that…

koī-waa- but

poō-waa – if

phōng-waa – in case

kôp – for, for the sake of

loǒ – must

kǐng – ought to / should

This & That

laî – this

lân – that

paàn – that over there


Mēng Xeém – China

Yīpùn – Japan

Mēng Thaī – Thailand

Mēng Laō – Laos

Mēng Maàn – Burma/Myanmar

Aǎsaám – Assam

Kūnmíng – Kunming, Yunnan

Ānggrīt – England

laā – rice field

Districts of Dehong

Mēng Xòng ᥛᥫᥒᥰᥑᥩᥢᥲ – Mangshi City

Mēng Maāo ᥛᥫᥒᥰᥛᥣᥝᥰ

Mēng Tiī ᥛᥫᥒᥰᥖ

Mēng Laā ᥛᥫᥒᥰᥘᥣᥰ

Mēng Van ᥛᥫᥒᥰᥝᥢᥰ

soǒimeēu – family

pò – father

meh – mother

piǐ – older sibling

lòng – young sibling

tsookǒnmǒnleén – ancestors


Conversation V

Maūe loǒ ǎm xōn kôp-pá ǎm lií – you must not smoke because it’s bad

Kau fěk Xaām Taī koī-waa Kau ǎm moú taàn

I study Shan but I can’t speak it.

Hán-waa Kau keek Mēng Xeém, Kau hǎk longkin Thaī hêhm longkin Xeém.

Although I like China, I love Thai food more than Chinese food.

Kau fěk Xaām Taī Taûexoōng yaû kôp-pá Kau xaì kaǎ Taûexoōng.

I learned Dehong Dai because I want to go to Dehong

Kau kò fěk Xaām Taī Taûexoōng yaû!

I also learned Dehong Dai!

Numbers 1 – 10

leng – one 

sóng – two 

saám – three 

sǐ – four 

haà – five 

hoǒng – six 

tseět – seven 

pěht – eight 

kaù – nine 

síp. – ten 

Affectionate Terms

Kau hǎk maūe – I love you

Maūe peen xaùseèn těm liíhǎk Kau – You are my cute little rice noodle.

Maūe hēhtban Kau yǔm – You make me smile.

Maūe haànglií – You’re beautiful


Dehong Dai is the language of my ancestors and unfortunately it is on the verge of becoming an endangered language. I started this project after reading information and lessons on Dehong Dai online and became inspired to help continue the legacy of this wonderful language.

Despite being tonal, the course and language in general is quite easy and will not require extensive learning in grammatical conjugations and outrageous particles. Speakers of Thai and Chinese may find this language extremely easy to learn due to lexical and grammatical similarities

I have been studying Shan myself since I was sixteen and have travelled to Shan State, Myanmar on various occasions. I am quite passionate about Shan culture and issues, and I intend to study Southeast Asian politics at University in the near future.


Dehong Dai is what the language is commonly known as in English, which comes from the Chinese 德宏傣语 (Déhóng Dǎiyǔ). However, the language is also known by many other names, such as Tai Nüa, Chinese Shan, High Shan and colloquially called Tai Le (“Upper Tai”). Use of the word Shan is akin to use of the word “Chinese” to refer to Mandarin. This is because “Shan” has many different branches within it, the most common being Tai-Long (Known as “Tai-Yai” in Thailand).

Using the term “Dehong Dai” specifically refers to the language spoken in Dehong, and is also the most common term used in English and Chinese to refer to this language.

For more information on Dehong Dai: