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Learn to Speak Basic Sinhalese Language While Traveling in Sri Lanka

Updated on February 15, 2015
Beautiful Sri Lanka
Beautiful Sri Lanka

A Beautiful Island in Asia: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a wonderful country with so many things to do with nice beaches, hill country with range of mountains and tea plantations, 2500 years of history with lot of heritage and architecture. A country one must visit.

The tourism is booming and makes it a point to visit it early to get the real beauty. Sinhalese language is their mother tongue and learning the basic words would definitely help you while traveling to Sri Lanka.

Sinhalese: The National Language of Sri Lanka

Sinhalese language is developed 2500 years ago and has a belief that it is a variation derived from Sanskrit. Sinhalese has more than 50 phonemes, though only 38 are frequently used in contemporary writing. Sinhalese is the official language of Sri Lanka and minor nationalities like Tamils and Muslims also converse in Sinhalese.

Such that it is spoken on the island by about 17 million people as a first language and by another 3 million people as a second language.

The beauty of Sinhalese alphabet:

In 2014 Sinhalese alphabet has been chosen as one of the 5 most beautiful alphabets in the world. Sri Lanka ranked in number 2 of the list.


Sinhala (Sinhalese) belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. It is the majority language of Sri Lanka where it is spoken by 13.2 million people. It is also spoken by some 30,000 people in Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Maldives, New Zealand, Singapore, SriLanak mapThailand, United Arab Emirates, and US (Ethnologue).

— http://aboutworldlanguages.com

How to speak in Sinhalese? Using 30 Words

Following is a list of basic words you will need to use more often to express your needs in English along with the Sinhalese word.

  1. Thank you - "Sthuti"
  2. Hello - "Ayubowan"
  3. Goodbye - "Subha Gaman"
  4. How much - "Keeyada"
  5. Where - "Koheda"
  6. Yes - "Ow"
  7. No - "Naha"/ "Epa"
  8. Don't - "Epa"
  9. Please - "Karuna Karala"
  10. Sit - "Waadi wenna"
  11. Go - "Yanna"
  12. Can you - "Puluwanda"
  13. Give - "Denna"
  14. I want - "Mata onei"
  15. Do not want - "Mata epa"
  16. Enough - "Athi"
  17. Not enough - "Madhi"
  18. Food – Kaema
  19. Drinks - Beema
  20. Have a nice day – Subha Dawasak
  21. Sorry – Samaa wenna
  22. Go Away – Methanin yanna
  23. Help – Udaw
  24. Stop- Nawathinna
  25. Very good - Hari hondai
  26. Delicious - Hari rasai
  27. I don’t understand - Mata terinneh neh
  28. Very expensive - Hari ganan
  29. What is your name? - Nama mokadda?
  30. My name is - Mage nama

Talk the Numbers in Sinhalese

Having some knowledge on mostly usable numbers in Sinhalese will help you when you do shopping, paying for taxis, asking for quantities and to do better bargaining.

1 - One - Eka
2 - Two - Dheka
3 - Three- Thuna
4 - Four - Hathara
5 - Five - Paha
6 - Six - Haya
7 - Seven - Hatha
8 - Eight - Ata
9 - Nine - Namaya
10 - Ten - Dahaya
100 - Hundred - Seeya
500 – Five Hundred - Pan Seeya
1000 – Thousand - Daaha

Source

Learn Sinhalese Further? Where Can I Get Help?

Some institutions have Sinhalese language courses that are specifically designed for foreigners to learn English. Those courses duration could be from a week to few months. One such institute is British Council in Colombo 03. You can see the details in their website.

Further one can refer the national library that has a wealth of resources to learn Sinhalese by themselves.

Another nice way would be to stay at a local homestay and tell your host that you like to learn a few words of Sinhalese and I bet that would be the easiest , most economical and fastest way to learn Sinhalese.

Why It Helps Learning the Basic Sinhalese Words?

Learn few words while you tour around in Sri Lanka. It serves 3 purposes.

  1. One thing is it will make the locals happy and would be friendlier and more geared to help you.
  2. The second thing is when you know few Sinhalese words, you can avoid tour guides whom could be little nuisance coming after you offering unwanted help just saying no thanks in Sinhalese.
  3. The third advantage is that once you talk in few Sinhalese worlds, you will be treated more like a local and would not be charged high touristy prices. How good is that!

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    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Very interesting hub

    • Thish profile image
      Author

      Thish 2 years ago

      Thanks Lawrence01. Hope this helps anyone coming to visit Sri Lanka to speak a few sinhalese words.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      it's always good to know a few words of a language even if you don't visit the country. As you said there are a lot of Sri Lankan people all over the world. Just knowing a greeting in their language can bring down so many barriers and warm so many hearts.

    • Thish profile image
      Author

      Thish 2 years ago

      Your thoughtful comment makes me feel you are such a nice person. Yes you are very correct, learning few words in any language is a plus. I have a friend who can speak 16 languages.

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 2 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      An interesting hub - I can see why the Sinhalese alphabet is considered beautiful as the characters are gorgeous and calligraphic! Like the Keep Calm cup for sale here too. Voted useful!

    • Thish profile image
      Author

      Thish 2 years ago

      Hi Suzanne, Thanks for voting. Yes SInhalese is very nice language, bit hard to learn but its very interesting and calligraphic.

    • profile image

      SL traveler 2 years ago

      This is so useful for me to learn my first few words of sinhalese as I am traveling in Sri Lanka this work. A french learning sinhalese how nice is that.

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