Sinhala Is Throwing Us for a Loop

Sinhala Is Throwing Us for a Loop

With its fluid, circular characters, written Sinhala (or Sinhalese) must be one of the world’s most lovely scripts. A page full of it almost looks like absent-minded doodling, with its loops, spirals and squiggles. I’ve been fascinated by it since we arrived, and bought a book called Let’s Learn Sinhala, Volume 1. Five days later, I can confidently write important words like head, crooked, bones, eye and bait. That’s a good start towards a strange, sinister sentence.

රසම ඇට
tastiest bones

The Sinhala alphabet is descended from India’s Brahmi, and has a history almost as old as Sri Lanka itself. Although the script’s curviness is aesthetically pleasing, its reason for being is rather practical. Thousands of years ago, while the language was developing, it was most often written on palm leaves. Straight lines sketched across leaf veins would have caused unwanted rippage.

According to my book (and somewhat in contradiction to Wikipedia), there are 58 symbols in Sinhala, split between 16 vowels and 42 consonants. Of these, only 37 are much in use. Each character gets a syllable: ම = “ma”. You can add extra symbols to change the sound of the syllable. ි added to the “ma” symbol would change it something more like “mi”. මි

I’m through nine characters of my book, and am starting to be able to sound out street signs. Of course, I have no idea as to the meaning of the words which I’m saying, but let’s just take this one step at a time!

වේ ලොවේ ශ්‍රී ලංකා

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8 Comments

  • Gayan Kanishka

    ආයුබෝවන් nice blog 🙂

    February 13, 2012 at 3:42 pm
  • pubbaa

    HA! i’m impressed, you are putting so much effort to learn Sinhala, good progress! although what you typed last should be  “මේ” ලොවේ ශ්‍රී ලංකා , what i learned in school goes something like thisම් + අ = මම් + ආ = මා 

    February 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm
  • Angela

    I just love the two comments above and the fact that I saw the same thing. Ha! Suerte, chicos. You’ll master Sinhala, I’m sure.

    February 15, 2012 at 5:44 pm
  • Aren

    Bravo!!!The lovely flowy script of a language that is soooooo much easier to learn to read and write than English!read it as it sounds, write is as you speak!!!I remember sobbing my way through the English reader while sailing along book1,2, 3….of Sinhala.good for you! At least you can understand place names..and…I am sure you know this already  ඇට mean bones as well as seeds…so tasty seeds???! 🙂

    February 18, 2012 at 12:20 pm
  • D

    ආයුබෝවන් !

    July 20, 2012 at 7:44 pm
  • priya

    fascinating to see our country through the eyes of a westerner.U must have gone quite close to get the real taste of real Sri Lankan life,which most tourists who come here would not make an effort to.congrats!!!!

    November 26, 2013 at 3:31 pm
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