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Learn basic Tamil language

Updated on June 18, 2013

Tamil is a very ancient language which is still spoken predominantly in South India and North-east Sri Lanka. It is one of the national languages of Singapore. Small minorities in countries like Canada, USA, Malaysia etc. speak Tamil. If you ever travel to Tamilnadu in South India, a little basic knowledge in Tamil language will come in extremely handy. This is especially true because, Hindi which is the national language of India is not widely spoken in Tamilnadu, unlike other parts of India. You can get by with English in bigger stores & restaurants, but knowing some Tamil will save you a lot of frustration and money.

Some basic phrases:

  1. Hello - Vanakkam
  2. How are you? - Yeppadi irukeenga?
  3. I'm fine - Nalla irukken
  4. What does this cost? - Ithu yenna vela?
  5. I am hungry -Yenakku pasikkuthu
  6. Where can I get food? - Saapaadu enga kedaikkum?
  7. Water - Thanni
  8. Want - Venum
  9. Don't want - Venaam
  10. It's good - Nalla irukku
  11. It's not good - Nala illa
  12. Where is the bus stop? -Bus stop enga irukku?
  13. What? - Yenna?
  14. Why? - Yaen?
  15. How? - Yeppadi?
  16. Who? - Yaaru?
  17. When? - Yeppa?
  18. What time is it? - Time yenna?
  19. Thank you - Nandri
  20. Thanks a lot - Romba nandri
  21. You - Nee or Neenga (the latter addresses the person with respect)
  22. Me - Naan
  23. Us - Naanga
  24. One moment - Oru nimisham
  25. I am sleepy - Thookam varuthu
  26. Rupee - rooba ( this is the Indian Currency)


  • 1 - onnu
  • 2 - rendu
  • 3 - moonu
  • 4 - nalu
  • 5 - anju
  • 6 - aaru
  • 7 - yezhu
  • 8 - yettu
  • 9 - wonpathu
  • 10 - Paththu
  • 20 - irupathu
  • 30- mupathu
  • 40 - naapathu
  • 50 - ampathu
  • 60 - arupathu
  • 70 - yezhupathu
  • 80 - yenpathu
  • 90 Thonnooru
  • 100- Nooru
  • 1000 - Aayiram

Some tips & cultural norms to have a pleasant stay:

By learning some of the cultural norms of Tamilnadu, you can feel less like an outsider and gain respect as well. South Indian folks are fascinated by foreigners. And they stare a lot. But that does not mean any disrespect, just a form of blatant curiosity and even admiration. It's best to ignore such stares. Unfortunately if you are a woman, any kind of response even a look or a slight smile can be mistaken as sign of flirtation.

When visiting someone's house it is customary to leave shoes outside. This is true of places of worship like Hindu temples, churches and mosques as well.

Tamilnadu is very humid and hot almost all year. Its best to pack loose fitting cotton clothes. Actually clothis is so inexpensive, its best to pack light and buy them right there.

Bargaining is very common. If you do not like to or want the hassle of bargaining, it is advisable to at least make sure that the price is the same that the locals pay for the commodity.

If you are planning to stay a while, it's best to get a driver/helper person. Its easy to find a good driver. But do not be alarmed by the rash driving style. You will soon realize that that's kind of the norm. Your travel agency should be able to help you find a chauffeur. This arrangement can come in very handy and for a small price the person can run errands, and help you out with any necessities. Good luck.

Here's a glimpse of Tamilnadu from the Department of Tourism


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      This is very helpful who one travel the taminadu

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      My dad is tamil and I am just 9 years old I'm still learning tamil

    • profile image


      4 years ago


    • profile image


      4 years ago

      //Hindi which is the national language of India//

      This is technically/politically/legally an incorrect statement. Hindi is one of the 18 accepted national languages in India. It is spoken by a large number of North Indians. Every State has its own "national" language because India is a Union of nations.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      My child's are learned tamil in ilearn online tamil tutor service .its very useful to our child for more details visit

    • profile image


      5 years ago from Tirunelveli TamilNadu India

      Tamilan vaalatha idamilai intru intha Hub websitilum vaalkiraan ...ungal roobathil shalini.......nice work :)

    • ShaliniSays profile imageAUTHOR

      Anitha S Joseph 

      5 years ago from Zionsville, IN

      Romba nandri to you too :) I hope you get to travel to Tamilnadu and Srilanka!

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      5 years ago from Western New York

      Romba nandri for this hub - I hope I get to travel to Sri Lanka one day! It is great to have an easy guide to basic Tamil. Now I'm off to google pictures of Tamilnadu!


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