Sinhala is a complicated language and those that say it is is easy are bloody liars, if you haven’t got the pronunciation down they will never guess what you mean. We have been here 8 months and have picked up a few handy words and phrases that will not only give you more respect in the community but may even reveal a double take or cause the recipient to burst into fits of laughter in pure disbelief. It’s a bloody good feeling!
Ayu-Bowen – Welcome
Ko-hom-i-da – Hello, how are you?
This is used as the greeting in pretty much all cases, they should answer with good but we have found a number of Sri Lankans just repeat it back to you)
Hon-die – Good
Oya-teh Ko-hom-i-da – and how are you?
This would be said if someone firstly asked you how you are and you then wanted to ask them, Oya-teh is asking them
Godac Hon-die – Very Good
If you raise the pitch of your voice at the end of this sentence it becomes a question, for example if someone answered Hon-die, you could then ask Godac hon-die?
Bo-homo Hon-die – Very Good
Bo-homo is used more commonly than Godac and can be put in front of any adjective
Hon-di-neh – Not Good
Literally translates as good no
Nari-kai – Terrible/ Very Bad
If you are describing a very bad person you would say narakai, it means very bad indeed
Ing-al-an-teh – England
Being English this is the only country we know
Lanka Ko-hom-i-da? – How is Sri Lanka?
La-son-eye – Beautiful
Pat-i-gini – Hungry (Give me rice)
Rass-i – Tasty
Wadi – These are deep fried lentil cakes basically, if you ever travel on a train you will hear this word over and over
Channa – Chickpeas
Wam-bat-au – Aubergine
Pap-a-nini – Cucumber
Camera-Cider – How is the food?
Monera – Peacock
Aliya – Elephant
Ali Pet-i-ya – Baby Elephant
Eta – Tusked Elephant
Baa-la – Dog
Sri Lankans use these words for friends, you often here Uncle and Auntie as it is a sign of respect but young boys often call each other Mali.
Amma – Mum
Tada – Dad
Aya – Older Brother
Aka – Older Sisiter
Mali – Younger Brother
Nangi – Younger Sisiter
Uncle/Auntie – Older man or woman
Ecka – 1
Deckai – 2
Tuni – 3
Hat-er-ai – 4
Baa – 5
Saya – 6
Hat-ah – 7
A-tah – 8
Nav-aya – 9
Dasa – 10
General Words & Sayings
Tika Tika pul-eh-wah – I can a little
This is what you answer when asked if you speak Sinhala, you can change Tka Tika for:
Podi Podi/Chu-teh Chu-teh – Small/Little
Mata Sat-a-two-ee – I am happy
Mata Sal-in-neh – I have no money
Mama Du-pad – I am poor
Hat-teh Vat-teh Hon-die/Nari-kai/Pos-ad – Good/bad/rich heart
Oya – You
Mama – I
Mama Yan-oh-wa – I leave now Good Bye if you were by yourself
Api Yan-oh-wah – We leave now Good Bye if there is a group
Api Yam-oo – Shall we go?
sani-pie – good feeling
Same-e-veh-vah – same to you
Mama Ador-eh Oya-teh – I love you
Oya Ma-gay-ya-lu-wah – You are my friends
Pissu – Foolish/Crazy You can call people this without offending them, it is a jokey insult
Kel-eh – girl
Col-eh – boy
These next 2 words are very bad words in Sinhala and should never be spoken unless to a close friend as a joke, however, it is good to know in case you are being called them. We have been called them before by a very rude man, he didn’t realise we knew how offensive he was being towards us, which meant we had reason to never speak to him again and be rude back.
I repeat, do not call people these unless they are your good friend as they will be very offended indeed.
These words will get you through most conversations without any hassle and it really is a wonderful feeling when you speak the language as the locals really do not expect you to and their looks of astonishment are worth the hard work!