Before finding out how to say Thank you in Sinhala, can we first explore WHY you want to say Thank you in Sinhala?
In fact, why do we say “Thank you” at all, in any language?
Apart from the “To sincerely express my gratitude and appreciation blah blah…” type of answer, one main reason, and this alone is a good enough reason for me, is to avoid coming across as an obnoxious and impolite jerk.
No one wants that, right?
I personally have always had a phobia of being called rude or impolite, probably because starting from a very early age, my parents instilled in me the importance of being a well-mannered little boy (and taught me to always use an asterisk when I say “sh*t”).
That’s why whenever I travel to a new country, I try to at least find out how to say “Thank You”, “Sorry”, and “Please” in that language… in addition to the obvious “Where the hell is the toilet, I’m about to burst”.
But when it comes to Sri Lanka, I must point out that I find it very hard to imagine a Sri Lankan person who will ever get offended just because you didn’t say thank you, especially if you’re a foreigner. That’s how friendly and easy-going my countrymen and women are.
But that’s no reason to knowingly be impolite, albeit passively, especially when all you need to do is just memorize a few weird sounding syllables, don’t you think?
So therefore, I thought I’d give you this “all-you-need-to-know” collection of polite words that you could say to a Sinhala speaker whenever you want to ‘sincerely express your gratitude and appreciation’ and all the other stuff.
Thank You in Sinhala:
“Thank you very much”
“Sorry” and “Excuse me”
It’s one word for both. Pretty simple.
“Sorry” & “Excuse me”
I have some notes on this:
Its literal meaning is something to the effect of “Be kind and…”, so therefore it always needs to be linked to a request for a specific action.
Let me explain this with some examples:
- “Please show this to me” (where ‘show’ is the specific action you’re requesting):
- ka∙ru∙naa kȧ∙rȧ∙la ma∙tȧ mḗ∙kȧ pén∙nan∙nȧ (lit: “Be kind and show this to me”)
- “Please give me something to eat/drink” (where ‘give’ is the specific action you’re requesting):
- ka∙ru∙naa kȧ∙rȧ∙la ma∙tȧ kan∙nȧ mo∙nȧ∙va ha∙ri dhén∙nȧ (“Be kind and give me something to eat”)
It doesn’t work in the following line since you’re not really requesting any specific action.
- “I want food, please”:
- ma∙tȧ kǣ∙mȧ ōné,
- ma∙tȧ kǣ∙mȧ ōné,
You’re requesting food, but not a specific action. Therefore, including ka∙ru∙naa kȧ∙rȧ∙la here doesn’t make sense.
Instead you could say it as:
- “Please give me food” (where ‘give’ is the specific action you’re requesting):
- ka∙ru∙naa kȧ∙rȧ∙la ma∙tȧ kǣ∙mȧ dhén∙nȧ (lit: “Be kind and give me food”)
(Post a question in the comments below if you didn’t totally get this)
Regarding its placement in a sentence, you can place ka∙ru∙naa kȧ∙rȧ∙la anywhere but I’d recommend you continue to put it at the beginning (like in the above examples). Chances of you messing up are low that way.
Politely refusing something
If you’ve ever been invited to dinner in a Sri Lankan home you might be able to relate to this.
Let me set the scene for you:
You’ve met the sincere but painfully-generous host of the evening (perhaps it’s your future mother-in-law, perhaps it’s an aunt of your partner, sometimes an uncle who’s had a few many ‘shots’ of Arrack) who just cannot understand that your stomach is full and you can’t eat anymore.
And they’ll insist on giving you one more serving of rice before finally your partner has to intervene, sometimes even physically having to intercept that spoon of rice that is headed towards your plate.
For those instances, here’s a polite way of refusing when someone wants to erm… generously stuff food down your throat.
ma∙tȧ é∙paa, bo∙ho∙mȧ sthoo∙thi
“I don’t want (it), thank you very much” (equivalent to “no, thank you”)
But not just for monster-in-laws, you could also use this for whenever you want to politely refuse anything, be it when approached by street vendors who want to sell you something that you’re not interested in, or when tuk-tuk drivers repeatedly ask you “Taxi?… Taxi?… Want Taxi?”
And there you go.
In addition to saying Thank you in Sinhala, I think that’s all you need to know to make a good impression and avoid making enemies unnecessarily.
But of course, these words can only do so much…
You see, despite using them, deep down you still could be an obnoxious A-grade A-hole… but at least thanks to these words, it’ll be a while before people figure it out.
Sa∙maa vén∙nȧ if I’ve not included a specific polite expression that you had in mind. Ka∙ru∙naa kȧ∙rȧ∙la mention it in the comments below so that I can translate it for you. Bo∙ho∙mȧ sthoo∙thi in advance.