Knowledge of the Sinhala and Tamil languages is not really a problem for those visiting for a short while. Getting around in Colombo is fairly easy with the use of English. Tuk drivers will, for the most part, recognize the names of where you are trying to go, and Uber and similar local ride-share apps work very well too, not to mention google maps. For more on this, visit our Getting Around page.
If you are a long termer though, you will find the language barrier a little frustrating, particularly when it relates to domestic help and staff. Finding staff with a really good English knowledge will prove to be a bit of a challenge, especially if you want them to read and write in English.
We wish we had learnt Sinhalese when we first arrived, we strongly recommend you give a couple of classes a go, it is cool to be able to communicate in one of the native languages of the place you are living in.
We’ve compiled a few helpful words/phrases below to help you communicate better:
|When giving directions|
|Turn left||Vamata harawanna|
|Turn right||Dakunata harawanna|
|Go straight||Kellin yanna|
|Stop Here||Methana Navaththanna|
|In front of||Issaraha|
|Go away||Methanin yanna|
|Next Week||Ena sumanaya|
|How are you?||Kohomadha?|
|What is your name?||Oyāge Nama mokadda?|
|Good work||Vaeda hondai|
|How are you?||Soukhyama?/ Eppadi irukkeengaa?|
|I am fine||Nalla irukken|
|What is your name?||Unga peru Enna|
|Did you have your lunch?||Saapttengala?|
|Come home||Veettukku Vaanga|
|In the morning||Kaalela|
Hmmm as a foreigner here it is best not to engage in political discussions too much. People get very heated and passionate about it, and unless you have a very strong, well-informed opinion that you can’t hold back on, just hold your thoughts. Our motto in life is everything is 50% good and 50% bad, just focus on the good and acknowledge that bad is everywhere in the world.