The two official languages of Sri Lanka are Sinhala — since the 1956 “Sinhala Only” Act — and, since 1987, Tamil. Some Sri Lankan Burghers speak Portuguese, Creole and Dutch and some Malay speak Sri Lankan creole Malay.
The Tamil language is several thousand years old and is considered one of India’s true classical languages. Sri Lankan Tamils are proud of their dialect of Tamil, and of their historical and cultural distinction from the Indian Tamils. Sri Lankan Tamils (sometimes known as Ceylon Tamils) are descendants of the Tamils from the old Jaffna Kingdom and other east coast “chieftancies.” Indian Tamils who live in Sri Lanka (also called Hill Country Tamils) came to Ceylon in the 19th century from India’s Tamil Nadu region as bonded laborers to work on British tea plantations.