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Tamil

Here are a few words, chosen for their usefulness to the traveler.  Keep your sentence structure simple.  Practice with friendly locals, and polish up your pronunciation.  You'll be surprised at the results, and will be able to pick up new words as you need them.  The polite forms have been given here, and you can also add "Sir", often pronounced "Saar".  or Madam to requests or questions.  The "~" symbol indicates where the object will go.  Usually before the verb.

greetings
yes
vanakam
aama
no
don't have
I don't have a book
illay
illay
book illay
is there (do you have) ~
Do you have a room?
there is (I have) ~
Yes, I have a room
~ idikaa ?
room idikaa?
~ idikay
aama, room idikay
Where is ~
Where is the station?
~ yengay ?
Station yengay?
how much is ~
How much is a room?
this
that
~ yevalam
Room yevalam?
idhi
adhi
How much is this?
How much is that?
please give ~
Please give coffee
Idhi yevalam?
Adhi yevalam?
~ kudingay
coffee kudingay
(I) want ~
don't want~
I want black coffee
~ vernu
~ vandaam
black coffee vernu
I don't want sugar
a little
a little sugar
sugar vandaam
kunjum
sugar kunjum
big ~
small ~
big car
small book
periya ~
chinna ~
periya car
chinna book
I know ~
I don't know ~
I know a little Tamil
I don't know Tamil
~ terriyam
~ terriyaadhu
Tamil kunjum terriyaam
Tamil terriyaadhu
please go
please come
don't you have
don't you have a room?
pongay
vaangay
~ illayaa ?
room illayaa?
Thank you
English "thanks" is common
Goodbye (I go and come)
(Said when you are leaving)
Goodbye (please go & come)
(Said when the other is leaving)
nandri / thanks

poyit vareen

poyit vaangay

NUMBERS

one
two
three
four
five
six
seven
eight
nine
ten
unu
rennu
murnu
naallu
anji
aaru
yerlu
yettu
wombathi
pathi

Pronunciation Simplified

Indian languages use a few more sounds than most Western languages.  Some of the constants, like "d" or "t" have a harder and a softer version than the ones in English.  There are also long and short vowel sounds, and you will be more easily understood if you greatly exaggerate the length of your long vowels.  For example, to say "yes" in Tamil you would say "aama", but it would not be wrong to pronounce it 'aaaaaaama'.  It would be very hard to over lengthen long vowel sounds.

The vowels are pronounced as follows.
The short "a" is like the sound in "aha".  
The long form - "aa" - sounds like the drawn out sound of "ah, yes"

The short "i" is like the sound in "ill".
The long form - "ii" - sounds like the drawn out sound of "eel"

The short "e" is like the sound in "hey".  
The long "ee" is like the drawn out sound of "hale"

The short "o" is like the sound in "snow".
The long "oo" is like the drawn out sound of "pole"

The short "u" is like the sound in "rue".
The long "uu" is like the drawn out sound of "rule"

The short sound "ai" is like the sound in "height".
There is no long form.

Rather than give you further complex explanations of pronunciations, we suggest you take a few minutes with a friendly waiter or room boy and ask him how to pronounce the words.  There are a few sounds in Indian languages that do not exist in Western languages, and you have to learn to hear and say them for yourself.

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