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Language

Perth, Australia
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239 posts
165 reviews
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Language

Have any of the regulars to SL been able to get your tongue around the Sinhala language. I've been having a bit of fun in my school using the lonely planets Sinhala Phrasebook trying to pronounce words to many of the Sri Lankan students that I have in my classes. The problem is the sounds of the language just don't resemble anything said in English, so I wonder how much effort it takes to get any degree of fluency or even understanding.

Chris

Fredericia, Denmark
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37,532 posts
7 reviews
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1. Re: Language

Hi Chris,

I don't find it is so much the sounds, but more the "rhythm" in Sinhala that's the main problem.

Hans

Colombo, Sri Lanka
Destination Expert
for Sri Lanka
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2. Re: Language

Hi Chris,

The locals tend to be quite tolerant. So as long as I manage to get the sounds of the words correctly they have no big problem in my lack of being able to form complete sentences with them. In my experience it works better to practice with Latin-alphabet transcribed sentences and not immediately with the native alphabet; that is so complex that even Sandya after a few weeks of 'abstinence' needs quite some energy and time to write in it again, and to a lesser extent same for reading.

All the best,

<Erik> & [Sandya]

Fredericia, Denmark
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37,532 posts
7 reviews
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3. Re: Language

I gave up on the Sinhala alphabet many years ago. Simply too many letters - IIRC 72.

Hans

UK
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2,319 posts
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4. Re: Language

Hi Chris,

I agree with both of the last two posts.

I've found that the best way is to ask the locals.

Every time I've asked someone to slow down and teach me to pronounce a particular word or phrase, they've been delighted to help.

It usually turns into a comedy sketch with me being the joke but I enjoy it.

I've found the kids are particularly helpful as long as you can get them to slow down and stop giggling .

Rod.

Fredericia, Denmark
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37,532 posts
7 reviews
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5. Re: Language

I agree with Rod.

I have learnt most of my Sinhala from the kids, adults are mainly too lazy.

My friend's 2 kids - now 16 and 13 - speaks very good English and are patient in teaching me Sinhala and translating for the younger kids in the family.

Hans

Antarctica
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505 posts
1 review
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6. Re: Language

Hi,

I would like to disagree on one point. The alphabet seems complex, but infact it's not. Once you remember the characters then it's really easy to pronounce unlike english. There are many ambiguities when pronouncing with tha latin script. One has to know the pronounciation before to say it properly. This is why many foreigners pronounce sinhala awkwardly after reading from the latin script. They just don't know the pronounciation beforehand and the script makes it worse.

For an example, "competition" is pronounced com-pe-ti-shen. But for somebody who doesn't know it beforehand may say it as com-pe-ti-ti-on. I think you get the point. There is a lot of ambiguity in pretty much most of the words. For someone who only knows the latin script and doesn't know english language, it is pretty difficult.

This problem never arises in the sinhala script(most of the south asian scripts) because one word would only have ONE possible pronounciation. There is no ambiguity as with the latin alphabet. (One letter equals one syllable and not s sound as with the latin alphabet)

So, if the characters can be memorized( that may be a bit difficult for starters) then it will do a world of good in your pronounciation.

But anyway nobody would mind bad pronounciation. On the contrary they would be pleased at the attempt to learn.

Colombo, Sri Lanka
Destination Expert
for Sri Lanka
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52,064 posts
176 reviews
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7. Re: Language

Hmmm... depends on what you are starting from. With Sinhala the nightmare is not only the 70+ characters but also the 'variations' with accents (small curves) capable to add to most characters. At least 3-4 of them for each vowel as far as I recall.

On the other hand - yes English has quite a few different pronuncations for similar vowels, like 'sibling' and 'bible' doing something totally different with the first I. Most full-Germanic languages however, at least Dutch and German, don't have that; one vowel can be pronounced only ONE way. (On the other hand their grammar is more complex than English...) So same as Sinhala, but with a far easier alphabet.

So for now I stick to the advice to avoid the script, it's as challenging as e.g. Hindi and classic Sanskrit!

Have Sinhala fun,

<Erik> & [Sandya]

Perth, Australia
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239 posts
165 reviews
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8. Re: Language

Thanks for the thoughts. Don't worry I'm not trying to tackle the script just sticking with the english alphabet trying to mimic the sinhala sounds. My hand writing would never be neat enough to ever be able to write the script.

Chris

Antarctica
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505 posts
1 review
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9. Re: Language

Hmmm.The 'small curves' are the ones that add the vowel sound to the consonants. BTW some of the 70+ are quite redundant. Anyaway it would be great if there is a hybrid alphabet so as you get the latin characters with the sinhala alphabet system of adding the vowel sound. No need to learn complex characters plus removes the amguity in pronounciation!

Gosh i am dreaming!!!

UK
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2,319 posts
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10. Re: Language

Hi,

The script became redundant to me when I was first informed that a given sound can be written in several different ways.

As gifts from Sri Lanka to family and friends back in the Uk, we've had necklaces / pendants, whatever you call them, " a lump of silver hanging around a neck on a silver chain ", made up by Sri Lankan jewellers.

The " Lump of silver " is actually the name of the person, written in the Sinhala script made from silver.

Several different jewellers have written the Sinhala version of Englich Christian names, on paper, for us to select.

They all offered different versions of Sinhala script.

I tested out all the different versions on hotel staff, tuk tuk drivers etc to see if they they read it correctly and they all did , with good English pronounciation.

So, yes, the script may automatically give a Sinhala reader the correct pronounciation but learning quite a few different ways, of writing it, in the Sinhala script,, I'll stick to the spoken word.

Rod.