You don't need to know the Sinhala language to go to Sri Lanka, but it helps. As this photo indicates, English is extremely common, and one can get by. Having a guide like Katie who speaks like a native is very helpful, though!

English was the common international language in Sri Lanka. We saw tourists from all over, but almost all spoke some English. It was a little eerie to see a German tourist and a Sri Lankan bank clerk arguing in English over the exchange rate.


A city street Kandy. Try to find something besides English... it's not easy!

Sinhala words and phrases:

Language structure:

Some of the Sinhala language is actually quite elegantly constructed, and much can be said in a few syllables. (Bear in mind that I am not a linguist - these are my impressions from speaking with Katie. She and the other Peace Corps volunteers often spoke in "Singlish", sprinking their speech with Sinhalisms.) What I found the most interesting was the use of suffixes to indicate overall meanings. For example:

Another interesting construction was the "verb-and-verb". Many times, actions were lumped together, in a manner difficult to render into English. For example, if someone were to be heading off to fetch a coconut, they might say, "I will go-and-come", or "I will climb-and-fetch", or similar. In Sinhala, as I understand, this uses the present form of the first verb and the future form of the second.

Other terms: