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Dhivehi is the spoken language throughout the Maldives. It has its roots in old South Asian languages, intermingling with Arabic, Hindi and English words. Maldives has a very high literacy rate - 98%, to be precise. English was introduced as the medium of instruction in most schools in the 1960s, while Dhivehi is still the language used for the overall administration.

The Script
After the Portuguese were vanquished, about 4 centuries ago, the Thaana script was introduced. It consists of Arabic- style letters written from right to left and the vowels are indicated below and above the letters in the form of dashes. There is no precise relation between the Thaana and Roman script, which leads to the same word or name being spelt in many different ways.

Different dialects
Owing to the distance between the islands, differences in pronunciation and vocabulary have cropped up, especially between the north and south atolls, so much so that people in Malé cannot understand the dialect used by the people of Seenu Atoll.

The Three Clases in Dhivehi
A peculiar form of class distinction is inherent in the Dhivehi language and it is expressed through three levels:

The members of the upper class were and are still addressed with the first level, the “reethi bas” or nice language. Nowadays, it has found wide application on national radio and TV. The second level is used to show respect for elders, officials and strangers. The more informal last level is meant to be used by most of the people in every day life.

Peculiarities of Dhivehi
There is an interesting fusion of the English language and Dhivehi. Every English word is suffixed with an “u”, for instance, computer becomes computaru.

You will be surprised to know that “Hello” and “Good bye” are not used in Dhivehi. Instead you might be greeted with a smile or the raising of the eyebrow and just ask “kihineh?” (how are you?). Or they might just ask you where you are going, “kon thaakah dhanee?”
Goodbyes are usually expressed by announcing “dhanee!” (I’m going). “Thank you” is not really a part of the language, but has been introduced recently through the Indian word “Shukriyya”. Maldivians are hospitable and generous by nature.

A majority of the islanders can converse in English, so tourists do not encounter any serious communication problem.