Sri Lanka

Sinhala or Sinhalese and Tamil are the official languages of the South Asian island nation of Sri Lanka. Sinhala is primarily spoken in the southern, western and central parts of Sri Lanka, while Tamil is almost exclusively spoken in the  eastern and northern parts of the island.

Sinhala is the native language of the Sinhalese people, who comprise about 70% of the total population of Sri Lanka. This translates to around 13 million people. Sinhala is the most widely spoken in Sri Lanka, as it is also spoken among other ethnic groups within the island as a second language. The language was heavily influenced by the liturgical language of Sri Lankan Buddhists, Pali. Moreover, Sinhala has adopted many English, Portuguese and Dutch loanwords over the years, as a result of the centuries of colonial rule in Sri Lanka. Sinhala has also borrowed a number of words from Tamil as well.

Tamil is the second official language of Sri Lanka, spoken by about five million people all over the island, or about 15% of the total population. The Tamil language belongs to the Dravidian language family, which is predominant in southern India, particularly in the state of Tamil Nadu. Tamil was brought to Sri Lanka by ancient settlers, invaders, immigrants and tradesmen, and as such, has existed as a spoken language on the island for centuries.

Aside from Sinhala and Tamil, there are many minority languages which are spoken by small communities of people that can be found in Sri Lanka as well. Some of these include Veddah, which is spoken by the Veddah people. The Veddah people are a group of tribal hunter gatherers living in the forests of central Sri Lanka. Veddah is closely related to Sinhala. Moreover, the Rodiya community living in the Hill Country speaks their own language which is sometimes considered to be a dialect of Sinhala. Also, the Sri Lankan Moors speak a variant of Tamil heavily influenced by Arabic, while the Malay Muslims in Sri Lanka speak Creole Malay, a mixture of Bahasa Malaysia, Sinhala, Arabic and Tamil.

The majority of Sri Lankans possess conversional knowledge of English as they learn it as a second language at school from the first grade. Essentially, Sri Lankan English is British English infused with local words and phrases. Due to the accent and loanwords from local languages, Sri Lankan English might not be fully comprehensible to native English speakers.


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