Mother Language Day today. If you want to delve into Dhivehi for a taste of local culture, it’s often fun to do it with a partner to both learn with as well as to practice with. SAii Lagoon’s Le Be Well spa offers a “Dhivehi for Couples” experience”:
“Love, after all, is one of the classic motivations for picking up a new language. When you learn a new language with your partner, it’s a bonding understand one of the most rewarding aspects of you try to communicate with them in their own language – Dhivehi, while fostering an appreciation for the traditions, religions, arts, and history of the Maldivians.”
You might wonder what would be the use of a relatively obscure language aside from impressing Maldivian staff on your resort visits? One possibility is to have your own personal code back home to converse in. We always remember meeting good friends for dinner years ago who we knew would try to pay for the meal and we wanted to pay. During the meal, they had a chat in Chinese which they said was just a family matter, but it turns out it was them scheming how to get the bill. Another example of such a shared secret language is the “Divine” language in the film “The Fifth Element”. Writer/Director Luc Besson invented the 400-word language for the character Leeloo (played by Milla Jovovich) to speak. Only Beeson and Jovovich learned the language and practiced it regularly to help it become natural for Jovovich. They ended up getting married after the film’s release so maybe a private shared language does have romantic effect.
If you do find yourself staying for an extended period or are just looking for some other project to embrace in the final months of lockdown, then why not learn the local language of the Maldives, Dhivehi? I reached out to the stars of this fun and helpful vlog, Kate and Hambe, who gave Maldives Complete an exclusive interview about their project:
What prompted you to make the Dhivehi lesson video? – I personally couldn’t find a strong source for learning Dhivehi online, so I thought, why not create online lessons with both a fluent Dhivehi speaker and non-Dhivehi speaker? I thought this would ease the learning and through bite-sized and theme-focused lessons that are around 5 minutes each, we hope to provide a quick and fun learning experience!
What’s your favourite Dhivehi word or phrase?– I like the phrase “iru ossey manzaru varah reethi” which means “the sunset is very beautiful”.
Can Kate read Dhivehi too?– I am learning how to read, it takes more time and practice. We would potentially start writing lessons in the future too.
Are there any special sounds in the Dhivehi language (that might be a bit unfamiliar to a new speaker)? – Not that I can think of. Most of the syllables / vowels are the same sound and it is quite a basic language with little complications.
What do you do for your day jobs? – Hambe and Kate are both working as freelancers, in the aim of putting aside enough time for Maldives Secrets to truly blossom as tourism starts to pick up in the Maldives over the next few months. Hambe is a musician and Kate works in Marketing and by being based in Hulhumale, they have the flexibility of being able to travel easily to all islands in the Maldives.
What are your top 3 tips for choosing a guesthouse? / What is your top tip for choosing a guesthouse? – The Island: When choosing a guesthouse, it’s important to understand the island you’ll be staying on. With thousands of islands in the Maldives, it may seem challenging to pick the right one… but trust me, there is definitely a local island that will suit your needs. Head to Dhigurah for the once in a lifetime experience of swimming with whale sharks, or explore the lush agricultural farms of Thoddhoo… Or go to the eco-friendly paradise of Hanimadhoo in the very north of The Maldives and do yoga every morning on the beach. These experiences are tailored to the island you’ll be staying on… so pick wisely!
How well do people who run guesthouses speak English? – Usually very well, Maldivians in general tend to have a good level of English as it is a requirement to learn it at school.
What are the most useful phrases when staying at a guesthouse or visiting a local island?
What type of food would you like?: Koaccheh kaan beynumi?
I want to try Maldivian food: Aharen kaan beynumi dhivehi keun
No spice: Miroos naala
A little spice: Kuda kuda koh kulhikoh
A lot of spice: Varah kulhikoh
Can we have the bill?: Bill genes dheebah?
Where are the toilets?: Koba fahana?
Food is great: Varah meeru
I need some water: Aharen fen fodheh beynun
Thank you for the service: Varah bodah shukuriyyaa
Today is UN Mother Language Day. Time for a bit more Dhivehi tutorial. The country itself has an evocative etymology in native Dhivehi…
The name Maldives may derive from the Malayalam words ‘maala’ (garland) and ‘dweepu’ (island) or the Tamil maalai (garland / evening) and theevu (island), or මාලදිවයිනMaala Divaina(“Necklace Islands ) in Sinhala. The Maldivian people are called Dhivehin. The word Theevu (archaic Dheevu, related to Tamil தீவுdheevu) means “island”, and Dhives (Dhivehin) means “islanders” (i.e., Maldivians).”
The individual beads on that jewelled strand also take description names from the local tongue. The chart above illustrates a few of the most common topological terms…
Thila – underwater pillar
Giri – underwater pillar close to surface
Faru – above water reef edge enclosing a lagoon
Fushi – island
And there are a few other common terms you see constantly in dive site names…
Bodu – “large”
Kandu – “channel”
Kuda – “little”
Beyru – “outside”
Rah – “island”
In fact, below is a list in order of the most popular terms by number of dive sites that include them…
Q: On this so-dubbed “Blue Planet”, what is the earliest and most prevalent word for a colour in early ancient langages?
Q: Buzzzz…A bit of a misleading set-up there, but linguists have actually found that the word for the color “blue” is almost universally the last color to enter a language.
As a result, researchers have even questioned if these earlier generations possibly even perceived colours differently to modern peoples. With the sea around and the sky above, such a conjecture certainly would have limited the descriptive capacity of people living in the Maldives. Fortunately, at leas today, the Dhivehi language does have a word for blue – “noo.”
While the Maldives is renowned for romantic islands and underwater reefs, the unique reef bottomology (as opposed to “topology”) has also made it one of the world’s top surfing destination. Not for Hawaiian monsters waves, but for long, gently breaking ones (great for the increasing popular trick riding not to mention beginner learning).
One of the top surf spots is Fuvamulah. So much so that the wave richness has infiltrated their language. Like “snow” to Eskimos and “rice” to Japanese, the Maldivians on Fuvamulah have more words for “wave” than any other language. And like the Eskimos and Japanese, the wave words on not simple straight synonyms, but rather designations for subtle variations.
“Fuvahmulah has just one and one quarter of miles of reef around the island – resulting in huge ocean waves battering the island unchecked. A wave is not just a wave to the people of Fuvahmulah, who assigned specific names to different types of waves (ralho) – based on their size and the current. This made it easier for the fishermen of the island in the olden days – as they knew just what to do when they heard the name of the type of wave they would be facing that day.”
Eighteen different words have been coined and examples include…
hudhu ralho – waves that produce more white foam than regular waves
kalho ralho – waves that break at the point where ocean and lagoon meet.
vago ralho – waves that appear as if out of nowhere.
beessaa ralho – waves that do not form curves but flow smoothly toward the beach.
gunburaas ralho – the biggest waves that break on Bilhifeyshi Olhu
Greetings are always a curious part of any language. The Hawaiians have ‘aloha’ which means ‘hello’ and ‘good bye’ as does the Italians’ ‘ciao’. The English – as in what people in England speak – have an all purpose word ‘cheers’ which can not only be used as ‘hello’ and ‘good bye’, but also ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’.