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Language + Common Dhivehi Phrases in the Maldives

The national language of the Maldives is Dhivehi, a pidgin language that combines the basic syntax of the Sri Lankan language Sinhala with words, phrases and grammar borrowed from every nationality that has used the island nation as an anchorage over the centuries. Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Dravidian, French, Portuguese and English influences can all be found in Dhivehi.

Dhivehi is written right to left, and the spoken language has some interesting differences from the written language. Word sequence, for example, is critical in the written language but unimportant in the spoken idiom.

Practically every Maldivian speaks English because it’s the language used in Maldivian schools. English is the Maldives’ unofficial second language. Many Dhivehi "loaner" words have English roots. For example, the word for “waiter,” a useful word in the Maldives’ tourism-driven economy, is “veitar,” while the word for “doctor” is “doctor.” A few Dhivehi words have also migrated into the English language. “Atoll”, the term we use for a ring of coral reefs, is an Anglicized version of the Dhivehi word “Atoḷu.”

When traveling, it’s always a lot more fun to be able to speak with people in their own language. Here are some phrases that will come in handy on your trip to the Maldives.

Basic Expressions

Let’s start with some elementary phrases that every traveler uses a lot. Please: “Adhes kohfa.” Thank you: “Shukuriyaa.” You’re welcome: “Maruhabaa.” I’m so sorry, please excuse me: “Ma-aaf kurey.”

Hello: “Assalaa mu alaikum.” This variation on the standard Arabic greeting reflects the Maldives’ Islam heritage.

How are you? The formal way to phrase this question is “Haalu kihineh?” In less formal situations, the phrase is frequently shortened to “Kihineh.”

I am fine, thank you: “Ran'galhu, shukuriyaa.” In the Maldives, as in most places, this phrase is not a request for an in-depth description of your day, but rather part of the exchange of pleasantries.

What’s your name? “Kon nameh kiyanee?” My name is _____: “Aharenge namakee _____.”

Useful Questions

Tourists may find the most useful question in the Dhivehi language to be “Faahanaa kobaitha?” Where is the toilet? Unfortunately, they may not always understand the answer!

Other useful questions include:

Do you speak English? “Ingireysin vaahaka dhakkan ingeytha?”

Does anybody here speak English? “Mithaa ingireysin vahaka dhakan ingey mehaku eba huri tha?”

What island is that? “E-ee kon rasheh?”

What time is it? “Gadin kihaa ireh?”

How much does that cost? “Agu kihaavareh?.”

How do I get to _____? “Kehene aharen _____ ah dhanee?”

Can you show me on the map? “Mi chaatun aharen dhakaba?”

Does your hotel have rooms available? “Evves kotarieh liben ebahuri tha?’

How much is a room? “Ekakah/ dhemeehunah kotari huree kihaavarkah tha?”

Finally, when boarding a bus or some other means of public transportation, you’ll want to know the answer to “Mi dhany kon thaakah?” Where does this go?

Safety

In general, the Maldives is a safe place. The country’s adherence to Islamic tenets means that alcohol is strictly forbidden and theft is punished severely. If you do suspect your wallet or handbag has been stolen, keep in mind that the consequences for theft in the Maldives are harsher than they are in the UK. The Maldives does not practice Sharia law, but Islamic fundamentalism is a growing movement. Unless you think the theft of the few pounds in your wallet really deserves to be punished with amputation, it might be wisest to couch the theft as a regrettable loss.

I lost my wallet: “Aharenge laari bole han.”

I lost my handbag: “Aharen ge dhabas gelije.”

Most threats to safety are physical accidents that occur while tourists are swimming or walking near the coral reefs. It’s inadvisable to go barefoot on Maldivian beaches because they’re littered with razor-sharp bits of broken coral. It’s also wisest to wear some kind of foot protection when you go diving since subterranean ocean beds are also rife with shattered coral.

If you do injure yourself, these phrases will come in handy:

I need your help: “Ahanah thibaage eheetheri kan beynun.”

It’s an emergency: “Mee kulli haalatheh.”

I’ve been injured: “Aharennah haanika vejje.”

I am feeling ill: “Aharen miulhenee balive.”

I need a doctor: “Paharen doctor eh beynun.”

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