The Maldives is one of the top favourite vacation destinations for honeymooners and divers. The island nation also caters to plenty of family vacationers and solo explorers as the sparkling white sands and the idyllic lifestyle attract them. All private island properties have staff fluent in English. However, it helps to learn a bit of Dhivehi – the local language of The Maldives, if you plan to explore some remote local villages.
Maldives is located south-west of Sri Lanka and India, in the Indian Ocean and there are almost 1,200 islands in The Maldives. While a majority of the islands are dedicated to tourists, and follow the one-island-one-resort philosophy, there are about 200 odd public islands which are inhabited by the local Maldivians.
Maldives’ weather is largely warm and humid as it is a tropical country. November to January is the best time of the year to visit The Maldives. While May to October sees a lot of rain, these are great months for off-season rates at the particularly expensive overwater villas in Maldives.
A cool way to spread out your Maldives vacation budget evenly is to stay in a luxurious private island resort for a few days, and spend the rest of your time at an affordable guesthouse in a local island. Basic English will help you get by in most of the tourist islands, but some knowledge of Dhivehi certainly goes a long way in forging a deeper connection with the villagers and spending a more meaningful holiday.
What is Dhivehi?
While it may sound like the name of an island or a popular delicacy, Dhivehi – the local language of The Maldives, is also its official language. Apart from this tropical archipelago in the Indian Ocean, Dhivehi is also spoken in Minicoy, an island of Lakshadweep which is a union territory of India.
Also known as Divehi, this language literally means ‘islanders’ language’. Aptly titled, Dhivehi is widely spoken across the islands of The Maldives. This Indo Aryan language bears some similarity with Sinhalese, which is the local language of Sri Lanka. Nevertheless, Dhivehi is quite distinct and cannot be comprehended only through the knowledge of Sinhalese.
Dhivehi is thought to be a derivative of Elu Prakrit. But it is influenced by multiple other languages such as Arabic, Persian, Hindustani, French, Portuguese and English. Many word roots in Dhivehi can be traced back to the ancient language of Sanskrit.
Interestingly, Dhivehi can be written in two scripts. The traditional Maldivian script of Thaana is used for most local transcriptions. This is written in the Islamic style of right to left. The other script is Male Latin. Also known as Nasiri Latin, this script aims to Romanize Dhivehi so that global readers can find it readable.
Is Dhivehi Spoken the Same Way Everywhere?
As with most languages, there is no single correct way of speaking Dhivehi. Local dialects, dictions, slangs and accents are prevalent in Dhivehi – the local language of The Maldives. Another factor behind this trend, which cannot be ignored, is the fact that this country is so spread apart, with more than a thousand tiny islands which are grouped into umpteen atolls.
Since inter-island interaction is limited, except for trade, the local variations of Dhivehi have evolved independently in most islands, especially those which are very distant from the others. Male dialect is the most common, as it is the capital of The Maldives and a central contact point to the rest of the world. The Velana International Airport, which is in the Hulhule Island of Male, is the Maldivian international airport.
Marking a stark distinction from the Male style of Dhivehi, the southern atolls of Fuvahmulah, Huvadhu and Addu speak a dialect that is almost unrecognizable by their northern counterparts. Laamu Atoll is another part of The Maldives with its own Haddhunmathee dialect of Dhivehi. Apart from the Maldivian islands, the isle of Minicoy in India’s Lakshadweep uses its own Maliku or Mahl dialect.
Common Dhivehi Phrases for Visitors
If you are a true traveller at heart, you will love to learn some words of Dhivehi – the local language of The Maldives. Even if you are not very keen on picking up a new language, knowing some basic phrases prove to be quite helpful when you need assistance or wish to make some friends.
It is a little hard to come across online translation services or apps for the Dhivehi language. So, this guide will go a long way in aiding you through your personal interactions with the Maldivians, especially when you stay in a public island where English may not be properly understood by most locals.
Nice to meet you!
Baddhalu vee thi varah ufavejje!
How are you?
Fine, thank you.
Where is the toilet?
Do you speak English?
Ingireysin vaahaka dhakkan ingeytha?
Is there someone here who speaks English?
Mithaa ingireysin vahaka dhakan ingey mehaku eba huri tha?
I don’t understand.
I can’t speak Dhivehi well.
ahannakha Dhivehi eh negey maa rangalhakah.
I need your help.
ahannah ehee beynun.
aharen miulhenee balive.
I’ve been injured.
aharennah haanikka vejje.
I need a doctor.
aharen doctareh beynunvey.
It’s an emergency.
mee kulli haalatheh.
Can I use your phone?
ahannah thi phoanu beynun kollevi dhaane tha?
I lost my wallet.
aharenge laari-dhabas gellijje.
I lost my bag.
aharen ge dhabas gellijje.
aharen miulhenee gelligen.
Where is the boat to _____?
______ ah dhaa boatu kobaa?
How much is a ticket to _____?
_____ ah ticket eh kihaavara kah?
Does this boat stop in _____?
_____ah mi boat huttaa tha?
How long does it take?
Kihaa ireh nagaanee?
One ticket to _____, please.
_____ ah ticket eh, libidhaane tha.
How much does it cost to get to _____?
____ ah dhaan kihaavareh nagaa tha?
Take me to _____, please.
aharen gengos faanan tha _____ ah.
What time are we leaving?
Aharemen furanee kon irakun?
Take me there, please.
ethanah gengos dheefanan tha?
Where does this go?
mi dhany kon thaakah?
What is your name?
Kon nameh tha kiyanee?
My name is ______ .
Aharenge namakee ______.
How do I get to _____ ?
kihene aharen _____ ah dhanee?
…the _____ hotel?
…airport ah or vaige bandharah?
Where are there a lot of ______?
konthaaku emme gina _______ hunnanee?
…sites to see?
Can you show me on the map?
mi chaatun aharenah dhakabala?
Do you accept credit cards?
Mithaa, credit card gaboolu kureytha?
Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)?
Kobaa faisaa nagaa mashinu (ATM)?
Where can I get money changed?
Konthaakun, aharen faisaa maarukuraanee?
Can you change money for me?
ahannah faisaa maarukoh dheefaanantha?
What is the exchange rate?
Faisaa maaru kuraa reytakee kobaa?
Do you have any rooms available?
Evves kotarieh liben ebahuri tha?
How much is a room for one person/two people?
ekakah/dhemeehunah, kotari huree kihaavarkah tha?
Does the room come with…
Kotariaai eku veytha…
May I see the room first?
Furathama ahannah kotari balaa levidhaanetha?
Do you have anything quieter?
Miah vure hama himeyn thaneh neytha?
OK, I’ll take this room.
Massala eh ney, aharen mikotari nagaanan.
Can you suggest another hotel?
ehen hotaleh bunedheefaanantha?
I will stay for _____ night(s).
Aharen hunnaanee _____ rey vandhen.
Do you have a safe?
Thijooree eh hureytha?
What time are meals?
Kaa gadi thakakee kobaa?
Is breakfast/supper included?
Hedhunuge naasthaa’aa/reygandu keyumaai ekkohtha?
Can you wake me at _____?
ahannah govaa dheefaanantha _____ iru?
I want to check out.
Aharen mithanun dhaan beynun
kuri ah hure seedhalah
past the _____
ethan dhookoh fa _____
towards the _____
before the _____
While these may only be a handful of phrases, they’ll help you get out of sticky situations and also bond better with the Maldivians. Even if you cannot get the pronunciation right, just speak with a smile and make use of body language, especially gestures, to get along. It won’t take long before you feel at home in The Maldives!