Self-directed study of Sinhalese language

Posted on July 28, 2011


How to learn a language when you’re ‘on the road’? I’m keen on the immersion method, surround yourself in the culture and get a general feel for the way the language works rather than memorising a few key words here and there (although that’s also useful). I say this being a boring one language person with only some beginner attempts at others.


Why Sinhala? What is it? (Sinhalese) is the language of the ethnic group with the same name, from Sri Lanka. My heritage is whats called Sinhalese Burgher which is characterised by colonial descent (mainly Dutch, also British and Portugese), often lighter skin, english speaking and usually of christian religion as well. This makes up a small percentage of the Sri Lankan population at present but I would suggest quite a significant amount of the expats around the world.

This was the context which I was raised in Sydney in an english speaking household, just as my folks had been raised in Sri Lanka in an english speaking household – only thing is I had even less exposure to the Sinhalese language and since I didn’t show interest in going to language school on my childhood sundays – so I didn’t pick up the language.

You might be able to imagine the kind of short reaction I’m tempted to make when new folks blinded by the visual appearance, ignore my fairly clear Aussie accent and blurt out something like “Wow, you speak good English!” Thats enough of that, also, I’m not going to get into cultural identity of migrants or colonialism seeding future western migrants around the world – although they’re very relevant considerations which paint more of this scene.

I have few opportunities to be around Sinhalese speaking environments, usually in melbourne with family, so I went looking for other ways to try to immerse myself in sinhalese language. Podcasts and audio to the rescue!

First stop SBS radio and their regular podcast. I even picked up a few tips from a cooking vid on the first link there, yum.

If you have some sort of iDevice, search for sinhala or your language in podcasts or the open university project to find them. There’s a few but they’re mainly to do with technology so expect to hear murmus of “facebook” …. “gmail” …. “html” etc amongst the quick spiels of urban-slang sinhalese.

More Audio:
Many options on Sinhala search under audio

4 Channel music netradio:

Other Resources collated from wikis and such:

Pronunciation Guide with audio examples, other resources and downloads, some free:

Phrases and Dictionary, with JPEG characters :
Dictionary which seesm to need the indic font to work: