Knowing how to say these words and phrases in Sinhalese may help you better communicate with locals and take in the local culture during your travels through Sri Lanka.

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When headed off to Sri Lanka, depending on where you go, it can either be easy to communicate or hard to understand how much your daily purchases might be.

Though many locals who live around tourist areas will be able to understand and speak English, it may still come in handy to learn a few phrases or words in case of trouble or at the very least, to lend a respectful tone.

There are several languages spoken by locals in Sri Lanka. However, Sinhalese is the nation's most commonly spoken language, and learning these words and phrases before you set off on your trip to Sri Lanka may come in handy when exploring the beautiful island sometimes referred to as "the pearl of the Indian Ocean". 


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Essential Sinhalese Phrases

Hello - “Ayubowan” Aayu-bo-wan

There is no better word to know in any language than a simple Hello. It can grab someone’s attention or just be a simple way to greet a shop owner or hotel concierge. Knowing this phrase will be a great introduction to any of the following phrases.

Thank you very much - “Bohoma Sthuthi” Bo-hoh-mah Iss-thoo-thee

The next phrase in showing manners and respect is “Thank you very much.” This can be a great ending to an interaction that will allow for future pleasantries with locals. It is always nice to say thank you in the home language of those around you.

Please - “Karunakarala” Karu-nah-kara-la

The only proper way to get what you are asking for is to add please to your request. When speaking Sinhalese, this word needs to be added to the beginning of your sentence, rather than the end. You may need to add it to get help or just to be nice when asking for more coffee. This will be a perfect phrase to learn for manners.

I don’t understand - “Mata Therinneh Nah” Mata Therenne Nah

You may need to use this for the speaker to slow down, speak more clearly, or say that you don’t understand what they are saying.

Do you speak English - “Oyate Ingrisi Katha Karanna Puluwanda” Oyate Ingrisi Ka-tha Karanna Pulu-wanda

If you are visiting a touristy area, it won't be too hard to find someone that speaks English. However, it is never good to assume. It is always polite to ask if they speak English using this phrase.


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How much is it - “Meeka Kiyadha” Mehka Keeyadha

This is not only a great way to find out the price, but it may also be the perfect way to start out negotiating. In many countries, tourists will often pay higher prices than the locals but can sometimes negotiate a better price if they are able to speak the same language or take a local with them.

Hotel - “Hotele” Hoh-taleh

When you’re in a new city, sometimes it is easy to get turned around and lose your way. Especially if the signs are confusing or you’ve wandered farther from the city centre. If you can say “hotel,” someone may recognise that you are lost and help you get you back to where you are staying.

Food - “Kaama” Kaema

Knowing the word food can at least help you hint to others what you are looking for, even if you can’t form a complete sentence in Sinhalese. This may allow locals to point you in the direction of a restaurant or tell you where to find a quick bite.

Bank - “Bankuwa” Bankuwa

Not only can others point you in the direction of a bank, it may be helpful to know the building when you arrive. If you see this phrase on the building you will know just where to get money for more of your adventures.

Restaurant - “Kaama Kade” Kaema Kaday

This colloquial term for restaurant will help you ask for directions to the nearest place for a bite to eat. 


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Additional Sinhalese phrases

There may be some other phrases that you would like to know or have on hand.

  • Okay/Very Good- Hari Hondai
  • How are you?- Kohomadhe
  • May I Telephone?- Mata Call Ekak Ganda Polu Wandeh
  • I Don’t Speak Sinhala- Singhala Danna Naa
  • Wait a Minute!- Poddak Inna

Learning a new language is tough, and if you are short on time, it can seem overwhelming trying to understand an entire language in just a few days. Instead of focusing on the entire language, pick and choose a few key phrases that will help you in most situations and pick up additional phrases as you travel.

There is no better practice with language than trying to converse with people who speak it fluently. With this language guide above and one of our travel insurance policies, you’ll arrive in Sri Lanka prepared for a  holiday.