Vegam Vegam Malayalam

Lesson #2

So, you've arrived in Kerala. If you're coming by plane (which would be most likely), you would end up in the airports of Kozhikode (Calicut), Kochi (Cochin), or Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), since those are, of course, the only airports in all of Kerala! But remember, the airport employees don't always speak Malayalam (they often come from different parts of India, and keep in mind that India has about 16-17 official languages, including English and Malayalam), so it's best to communicate in English (at least initially)!

Most likely, however, you would have to travel some distance from the airport in order to get to whatever is your destination in Kerala. Therefore, unless somebody's picking you up, you'd obviously need some kind of transportation...hmm... The most common mode of transportation--that is, if you're trying to travel inside the city, of course--is the autorickshaw.

(You can find a really good picture of an autorickshaw at http://www.cs.berkeley.edu/~karthik/pics/2004-06-1-Kerala/web/html/dscf0031.html.)

Known by many Indians as the "auto" for short, this motorized pedicab is basically like a very cheap and reasonably convenient taxi powered by the driver's feet. However, be aware that:

1. the middle of your seat is probably the safest place to sit, and

2. you must always grab on to the handle just in front of your seat, because otherwise you'll fall off if the autorickshaw moves too fast. And believe me, people in India drive very, very fast, though with remarkable skill!

Of course, in an autorickshaw, as with any public transportation, you'll have to pay for the ride (and the drivers usually don't speak that much English), so it's a pretty good idea to learn some numbers first!


First, for the sake of the curious who want to know how to say that number apparently invented by Indians (or just need it to be able to say their phone number in Malayalam!), this is how you say "zero" in Malayalam:

0. puujyam                                               c Listen!

Secondly, if you want to say "a/an," or "one" before a noun, NEVER use "onnu!" Always use the word /oru/. Listen! And now for all of the numbers:


1. onn                                                                                                    K Listen!

2. raNT                                                                                                 I Listen!

3. muunn                                                                                               K Listen!

4. naal(u)                                                                                   Listen!

5. anjch                                                                                                  F Listen!

6. aarr(u)                                    Listen!

7. Ezh(u)                                    Listen!

8. eTT                                    G Listen!

9. ombath                                  X Listen!

10. pathth                                                        J Listen!

Wow, that must've been quite a lot of numbers...and, if you're not Indian, it shouldn't be surprising about how difficult they must be to remember! But here are some helpful tips for remembering the Malayalam numbers you just learned:

1. onn and eTT (one and eight) sound similar to their equivalents in English, and

2. ombath(u) literally means "one before ten," just like the Romans would write "IX" for nine and "X" for ten!

Have you memorized those numbers? Well, if you have, then you can go on to the numbers 11-20! Actually, these numbers follow a rather regular pattern, i.e.:

If second digit begins with a consonant (e.g. muunn): pathi- + second digit (e.g. pathi- + muunnu = pathimuunnu (13))

If second digit begins with a vowel (e.g. onnu): pathin- + second digit (e.g. pathi- + onnu = pathinonnu (11))

The only exceptions to this rule among the numbers 11-20 are 12, 19, and, well, 20!

Just to make sure you understand (and so that you can learn the numbers 12 and 20), I'll put down all numbers 11-20!


11. pathinonn                                                                                    K Listen!

12. panthraNT                                          dLI Listen!

13. pathimuunn                                        K Listen!

14. pathinaal(u)                                          Listen!

15. pathinanjch                                        F Listen!

16. pathinaarr(u)                                          Listen!

17. pathinEzh(u)                                          Listen!

18. pathineTT                                          G Listen!

19. paththombath(u)                                       JX Listen!

20. irupath                                             Listen!

Irupath literally means "2 x 10," because that is exactly what it is!

The numbers 21-30 are a little more logical than 11-20, with all of the numbers beginning with a stem irupathth(i)-:


21. irupaththonn                                                                         JK Listen!


21. irupaththiyonn                        JK Listen!

22. irupaththiraNT                                     JI Listen!

23. irupaththimuunn                                   JK Listen!

24. irupaththinaal(u)                                    J Listen!

25. irupaththanjch                                  JF Listen!

26. irupaththaarr(u)                                   J Listen!

27. irupaththEzh(u)                                   J Listen!

28. irupaththeTT                                   JG Listen!

29. irupaththombath                                  JX Listen!

30. muppath                                         M Listen!

So, this is the rule for all numbers 21-29:

Attach the stem irupathth(i)- to your number (irupaththi- if the next digit begins with a consonant), but for 21, you can use a stem irupaththiy-.

This same rule applies, more or less, with all numbers 31-89 as well, except for (of course) the multiples of ten!

Therefore, the numbers 31-39 also work like this:

31. muppaththonn                                    MJK Listen!

or muppaththiyonn                             MJK Listen!

32. muppaththiraNT                                     MJI Listen!


I think you get the idea, so now I'll just write down the other multiples of ten. The numbers for 40 and 50 follow a regular pattern (naal(u) + pathth, anjch + pathth):

40. naalpath                                                                                        W Listen!

50. anpath                                              X Listen!

60, 70, and 80 are a little different:

60. arrupath                                            Listen!

70. ezhupath                                            Listen!

80. eNpath                                             Y Listen!

But then what about 90? Well, 90 doesn't even end with "-pathu" (like 20, 30...80), because the word for "ninety" literally means something like "one (ten) before a hundred" (just like "nine" is "one before ten"):

90. thoNNuurr(u)                                          H Listen!

And then, for numbers 91-99, the word "thoNNuurru" is changed to a stem "thoNNuuti(y)-" (Hx-) and followed by the next digit. (thoNNuuti- before digits beginning with consonants, thoNNuutiy- before digits beginning with vowels. That sound pretty logical to me!) Therefore, the numbers 91-99 ALWAYS follow this specific pattern (no exceptions, for once!):

thoNNuuti(y) + (name of second digit) = 90 + (second digit)

So, the numbers 91-99 are like this:

91. thoNNuutiyonn                                         HxK Listen!

92. thoNNuutiraNT                                          HxI   Listen!


Wow! That was a LOT of numbers!!! Did you actually get through all of those??!?!?!?!?! FANTASTIC!!!

How about testing yourself once you're ready? (Don't tell me you expected me to give you the test! What would I write? "Say all the numbers 0-99 in Malayalam!" ? "Forwards AND backwards!" ?)