Languages in Sri Lanka: Local Language and Getting Around Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has witnessed many invasions, and these invasions perpetuated their rule over the nation. However, the independence thread led to the unification of the diverse cultural people coming together to fight for their freedom. Since then, languages in Sri Lanka have prolonged that unity and one can spot the locales speaking various languages presiding together with all the love and happiness in their hearts!

History of Language in Sri Lanka

Buddhism prevailed for quite a long time and still the population of Sri Lanka witnesses approximately 70% of the Buddhist community. However, since the spread of Buddhism, many kingdoms and dynasties were raised within the nation, such as the most ancient kingdom dates back to the Anuradha period towards the early stages of civilisation. During this period, the Indo-Aryan spoken language ‘Sinhalese’ was the dominant source of communication.

The history of the nation also observes the domination of the Pali script and the Sinhalese language. However, there was a shift in literature after the period desolation with the northern coastal region looking towards the southern part of India for advice. Moreover, this language rift survived the Dutch, Portugal, World Wars and the British invasions. Stumped within a few mishaps, Sri Lanka has come to preserve its ethnicity and culture since then and is boosting ahead with its tourism industry and blooming economy.

The two official languages in Sri Lanka are Sinhala and Tamil.

1) Sinhala Language

Sinhala script

Sinhala is the language of the Sinhalese people who are an ethnic group of natives residing within Sri Lanka. The Sinhalese people have their identity attached to literature, historical heritage and region and are primarily Theravada Buddhists. The Sinhalese population is around 16 million as it is a second language in Sri Lanka by many different ethnic groups residing in the country as well. The Sinhala language belongs to the Indo-European group of scripts of the Indo-Aryan branch. The Sinhala script is often used to write, and it is related with the Brahmic text which is thoroughly used within the Indian subcontinent and throughout the Southeast and East Asia. The domination of the Sinhala language has been evident in the nation since the Pre-Anuradha period. It is one of the most beautiful words in Sri Lanka and represents a unique community adding to the cultural value of the country.

2) Tamil Language

Tamil script

Tamil is a dominant language within the northern part of India. Tamil is an official language of the Tamil Nadu state of India, Sri Lanka, and Singapore. The Tamilian script is quite varied and distinctive and is considered to be one of the most long-lasting classical languages. The Tamil language has a recorded Tamil Literature of over 200 years to back up its significance. The beauty of the Tamil language lies not only in its literature but also in the script. A Dravidian vision, Tamil language is the heart and soul of the people and stands strong within the list of languages in Sri Lanka with almost 28.5 % (4.7 million) of the population speaking this classical beauty.

The other frequently spoken languages include English, Portuguese Creole and Creole Malay.

1) English

The universality of Engish offers a great source of communication to people in different places. In Sri Lanka, almost 23.8% of the population use the English language to communicate. English stands as an essential part of Sri Lanka and its population.

2) Portuguese Creole

The Burgher community majorly speaks Portuguese Creole in Sri Lanka. The Burgher community is an ethnic group of mixed breed living in Sri Lanka. They are often called as Eurasians, owing to their ancestry of Asians and Europeans. Portuguese Creole is the Creole language with the basics of Portugal influence and lexicons.

3) Creole Malay

Creole Malay is another distinctive language in Sri Lanka by the Malay community. The Malay community is also another ethnic minority group residing within the country. The dialect of Creole Malay is the variation of Austronesian language, Sinhala and Shonam (Sri Lankan Muslim Tamil) with the Malay language being the basic lexicon. 

These languages have their beauty and add to the history of literature in Sri Lanka.

Other secondary languages include the Rodiya language, a dialect of Sinhala spoken by the lower caste community of the chamodhi veddhas. The Veddah language is spoken by the minority of the Veddah people, an indigenous group of natives. Also, the Muslim community speaks the Arabic language with regards to their religious background and nowadays have come to use the Arwi language within which the Tamil language uses the Arabic script and the Arabic as the basic Lexicon.

For easy navigation and communication through this beautiful country, one can use local phrases that will help you to have a better understanding of the ethnic language and share a unique bond with the locals as well. 

Some must remember these phrases:
  • 'Ayubowan, Aayu-bo-wan’ - Hello
  • ‘Hootale kohedha?’ - where is the hotel?
  • ‘Stesemeta eka ko?’ - where is the station? 
  • ‘Metana nawaththanna’ - please stop here. 
  • Bohoma istouti’  - thank you very much 
  • (Meeka) kiyadha?’ - how much is this?
  • ‘Hari ganan’ - very expensive
  • ‘Mata terinneh neh’ - I don’t understand
  • ‘samah venna’ - excuse me. 
  • ‘Mata call ekak ganda poluwandeh?’ - May I telephone?
  • ‘Ingirisi dannevada?’ - Do you speak English? 
These phrases will help you while shopping, bargaining, and conversing casually with the locals.    

Thus, the phrases mentioned above will make your time in Sri Lanka much comfy and fun. A bonus associated with it is that you get to learn a new language too!

A diverse and ethnic background of the country, Sri Lanka holds several exotic languages and hosts a varied number of ethnic minorities adding to its cultural quotient. The beautiful languages in Sri Lanka are what builds the nation and raise its grandiose and beauty.

This post was published by Ummema

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