Learning Sinhalese

I ran across this course while looking for Sinhala learning resources:


I am curious if anyone has any experience with this? It is somewhat more expensive than the cudoo course (which I am already trying), but still not outrageously expensive.

I am hoping to visit Sri Lanka in a few months, so I want at minimum to have"survival" language skills.


It’s difficult to say without being able to see the course material.

An update on Sinhalese learning resources: I’ve been trying the cudoo resource and am so far rather disappointed. The transliteration (spelling Sinhala words in Roman letters) has lots of mistakes (a instead of e, a instead of aa, leaving out r). Some of the audio phrases are spoken so quickly I am unable to connect them with the transliteration or to repeat them, and there is no capability to slow the audio down. I guess you get what you pay for, and that is the one advantage of cudoo is the low cost.

A related question: I am looking for intensive Sinhalese courses in Sri Lanka, and so far I haven’t found anything. Does anyone know of any?

Another possible resource leading to a dead-end: https://nativemonks.com
Sounded good but no tutors in Sinhalese are available.

I was into giving this a try a while ago. I could find almost no resources. There were more resources for almost-extinct Celtic languages than living Sinhala. Like Burmese, I think it’s just a very, very hard language to find instruction in.

You can learn online at www.italki.com. There is a Sinhala teacher on there.

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This is a great tip. I have a booked a trial lesson to see how it goes.


This is far and away the best thing I have found on the web…

The transliteration is consistent and logical, although slightly different from the Pali standard. And he always includes the Sinhala in unicode as well. He tries to be a bit “edgy” but it’s not problematic. He really does have the best explanations of both grammar and culture that I have found.

If you are looking for a class in Sri Lanka and you are on Facebook, you might try joining some of the ex-pat groups and posting there. I haven’t heard of any intensive classes, but there may be.


I have been trying to find a convenient way to type Sinhalese script on my laptop. In Pali, I have been happy with the keyboard that prints diacritical characters using the ALT-GR key, so I installed what I thought would be a similar keyboard, keyman + garp (Garp Sinhala 7.2.0 keyboard). Well, it doesn’t come with instructions. I have been able to determine how to type some characters by experimentation, but I can’t figure out how to type certain ones, like ත (ta). So this is not working so well for me.

Does anyone have experience with keyboard software for typing Sinhalese script?

The one I use is Helakuru…

It’s not obvious how to download it. You have to look in the bottom right corner for the “Download for Windows” button.

There are basically two methods that Sinhala keyboards use. The first is mapping the keys to letters as in a traditional keyboard. This is the preferred method for people who want to touch type and are willing to memorize a new layout. The other method is phonetic, where you use the English keys to sound out how to write the letters. This means you need to understand how Sinhala is usually transliterated into English. Normally “t” represents the letter ට. ත is written as th. So even the phonetic involves a learning curve, but many Sinhala people who don’t write full time in Sinhala on a keyboard use this method.
If you are working within Chrome, you can install Google Input Tools. That has a phonetic method as well as a traditional Sinhala keyboard. Google used to have a stand alone keyboard but it was abandoned about a year ago.

Hello GreenTara,

I found this trilogy to be the best for learning spoken sinhala,

It will teach you not only basic survival but will help you thrive.It also comes with a few audio cd’s with songs and pronunciation guide etc.
Also, the teacher doesnt teach you written sinhala form mixed up with the spoken,which usually is the case with all other older sinhala lauguage resources and can be problematic when speaking. She does teach how to read sinhala script,and that can be learnt quite quickly.
If you are a language magician, then these books will be easy for you.

If however you just want to survive (quite well),then the website ‘lazy but smart sinhala’ by Dilshan is good enough.

I have not come across or heard of any official Sinhala language learning centre.

I must admit that i attempted learning the langauge for five years but failed miserably. I was able to read,write and memorise hundreds of words quickly due to inspiration but the speaking part didnt work out too well for me. I received the above suggested books at the end of my inspiration and i believe that if inspiration arises again, those books will lead to complete fulflment in sinhala proficiency.
As a monk trying to speak sinhala with lay people,it can be quite difficult because nobody wants to correct me, and just agrees with whatever I say, therefore I can’t tell if what im saying is correct or not, so you can imagine the communication fun i experience.
Most western monks who have learnt,have learnt while staying with sinhalese monks,so as a lay person,i am sure you will be helped by everyone you meet.

All the best.


How do you address other monks in Sinhala?!

An Introduction to Spoken Sinhala 2953-3-an-introduction-to-spoken-sinhala
by Professor W. S. Karunatillaka, Godage International Publishers,
High quality textbook. Good for self study by people with experience learning languages. If you are familiar with Karunatillaka’s New Course in Reading Pali, the lesson format is the same.


Beginning Colloquial Sinhala: an Introductory Sihala Curriculum sinhala_teachers_large
Student Edition http://sales.lrc.cornell.edu/products/student-edition-beginning-colloquial-sinhala-an-introductory-sinhala-curriculum
Teacher’s Guide http://sales.lrc.cornell.edu/collections/sinhalese/products/teacher-edition-beginning-colloquial-sinhala-an-introductory-sinhala-curriculum
This is an excellent completely modern textbook but is not suitable for self study. Many of the exercises are only suitable for a group.


Student Reader: Beginning Colloquial Sinhala IMG_0753_copy_large
This is a great graduated reader with short articles and matching vocabulary lists.


Thanks for the tip. I am trying the helakuru keyboard, phonetic. So now I can type “tha” and get “ත”. Cool!
EDIT: Unfortunately the phonetic option of helakuru has proved to be unreliable. For the same sequence of letters, the character produced may be different (and incorrect), apparently at random. I am now trying Google Input Tools. There are three different Sinhala input tools, so I am just trying them one at a time. The first one provides a menu of Sinhala characters to choose from for a given sequence of letters - this looks like it will be a good learning tool, but slow for actual composing.

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Regarding Buddhism, do not expect the common Sri Lankan version to correspond with western Buddhism. It is influenced by the Mahavamsa, an internal historical chronicle which is mythically embellished. For example Sri lankans believe the Buddha visited the country.
The Buddhist Publication Society in Kandy has books relevant to western Buddhists:

The world is forever grateful to Sri Lanka for being the custodian of the Buddhist teaching when it declined in India, and the need for it has now resurfaced in this beginning millennium, where the focus has turned from materialism to mind. But the resurgence of Theravada in the form of the western school owes its genesis to the western monks who lived in Sri Lanka and wrote their books there:

“Since the Buddhist revival Sri Lanka has also been an important center of Western Buddhist scholarship. One of the first western bhikkhus, Nyanatiloka Mahathera studied in Sri Lanka, established the Island Hermitage there and ordained several western monks. Western monks who studied in the island hermitage such as Nanamoli Bhikkhu and Ven. Nyanaponika (who established the Buddhist Publication Society along with Bhikkhu Bodhi) were responsible for many important translations of the Pali Canon and other texts on Buddhism in English and German.”—Wikipedia

Hela: shorten form for Sinhala
Akuru: characters.

There are a few apps with the Sinhala script keyboards.