தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Home > Tamil Language & Literature > Learning & Teaching Tamil

CONTENTS
OF THIS SECTION
Last updated
05/11/07

Google: English - Tamil Online Transliteration with Tamil Keyboard
Learning Tamil Online
Tamil Alphabet
Tamil Dictionaries & Reference - Books, On Line & Free Downloads
History of Tamil Dictionaries - Harold Schiffman, 1998

Tamil: Its Assets & Current Needs - Dr. R. Jegannath "...Interestingly, the Tamil word for vowels, Uyir means life, and the word for consonants, Mey means both body and reality. Neither life nor body can exist without the other. .."

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Learn Tamil Through English

- Sendhil Kumar Cheran

Mazalais - A Website for Children " An exclusive Tamil teaching section to guide children as well as adults to produce Tamil contents with all applications in the PC is  developed with extremely versatile Transliteration software Azhagi."
Tamil Paadanool - Elango Cheran  "Learn Tamil - an online version of a textbook to teach Tamil to those who know English" [also in PDF]
Talk Tamil - Audio
How to Write a Letter in Tamil
Tamil Script Book: Learner's Manual - Sankaran Radakrishnan together with 25 Questions for Learners to Check their Learning
IT for Education in Tamil at Tamil Internet 2003
Tamil Teaching through Information Technology at Tamil Internet 2001
Transliteration Rules: Tamil - English
Tamil Teaching via Distance Learning: Achievements and Prospects for the Future -  Harold F. Schiffman, 2002
Tamil Class
How to read and write Tamil characters
Tamil for Kids
Tongue tied in Singapore - Harold Schiffmann
Tamil Education - Singapore Primary Schools Content
E-Learning in Tamil- The Singapore Tamil Classroom Journey , Sandi Perumal  &
Kalyani Rajendran, 2002
Tamil Educational Multimedia Software Creation made Easy - An Experience - R. Kalaimani, National Institute of Education, Singapore, 2002
The Singapore Tamil Classroom Challenge - Teaching Strategies and Tamil Internet – Striking the Fine Balance, Mrs.Ravindran, 2002
Video Tamil Lessons at Tamil Language in Context

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Teaching Tamil
through the Internet

TalkTamil - Learn to speak in Tamil
Learn Tamil at Chennaibest
Learn Thamizh  "You can learn Thamizh language in two ways – written form and spoken form. The first course may be difficult for the beginner.Now you can learn Spoken Thamizh from home with an interactive CD.."
Know Your Mother Tongue - S.Vijayaraghavan
Subhashini's Tamil Digital Village "...Digital Village is a concept that enable Tamil kids and parents to learn computer technology through internet. Here I have created digital models for kids. It is always interesting to work in team to obtain technical skills..."
Tamil Language Syllabus - UK
Tamil On-line Lexicon
Tamil Teacher
How to write in Tamil using Anjal Font - Ram Ravindran
Tamil Learning Resources- Pulavan, Tagtamil, PCtamil, ArborTamil  Vasu Ranganathan, University of Pennsylvania, USA
A Proposal for a Web site to Teach Tamil - Harold  Schiffman, University of Pennsylvania,  USA
Unmoderated Mailing List on Tamil - University of Pennsylvania, USA
Tamil Language - Ilanko, New Zealand
Inventory of Tamil Learning Materials  - South Asia Gopher, Columbia University
Thamil Paadanool - Learn Tamil
Tamil Education Connection
Thamil Learning Resources - Sendhil Kumar Cheran
Tamil Language Textbooks -  Siddharthan Ramachandramurthi
Tamil Language Classes - Siddharthan Ramachandramurthi
Teachionary: Tamil Word Sets
Tamil-Deutsch
Shishubharati School in Burlington, MA
Learn Basic Tamil

Teaching Software


Let us Learn Tamil - CD

"Learning to read and write Tamil is easy. You can do it in just 45 days, if you spend at least 60 minutes a day"...
More

Learn to Read Tamil
Colloquial Tamil Compact Disc: The Complete Course for Beginners (Audio CD) by Ron Asher, E. Annamalai
TEEDOR Tamil Learning Software
Tamil Educational Multimedia Software Creation made Easy - An Experience - R. Kalaimani, National Institute of Education, Singapore, 2002


Tamil Teaching Software -   Softech

Visit the
Learning Tamil Section and
Dictionaries & Reference

Tamil
nation Library
Library

Universities
Teaching Tamil

Tamil Studies at University of Toronto
University of California at Berkeley
Tamil at Boston Language Institute
University of Pennsylvania 
University of Chicago
University of Heidelberg 
University of Cologne
University of London
Uppasala University, Sweden
Tamil Virtual University
Tamil-Online
Exploring a Non-Western Culture: The Tamils - Colorado University
Educational Institutions in Tamil Nadu and Tamil Eelam
Tamil To Be Taught At Yale University, 2004 "..Yale's connection to South Asia goes back to its naming after its patron Elihu Yale, governor of the British East  India Company's Fort St. George from 1687 to 1692 in what is today Chennai, the capital of  Tamil Nadu..."
Madurai Kamaraj University Study Center USA

 

Learning & Teaching Tamil

 " A language is more than just a means of communication. It is a repository of a community’s collective history and heritage. It also provides an identity and a focus that binds together a community for social togetherness, that makes individual accomplishments that much easier. Well aware of this, Tamils of North America, made a commitment to themselves to perpetuate the learning of Tamil in the Americas. Towards that primary goal, the UCB Tamil Chair was conceived in 1991, and a formal committee was formed in 1992 to provide focus to the fund raising efforts and to manage the logistics with UCB..." Kumar Kumarappan on the Endowment of the Tamil Chair at University of California, Berkeley, 2001


The University of Pennsylvania Web Site for Learning and Teaching Tamil is a project of the Penn Language Center and is funded partially by a grant from the Consortium for Language Teaching and Learning, with the joint participation of Tamil-teaching faculty at the Universities of Chicago, Cornell, and Pennsylvania. The Project members are Prof. Harold F. Schiffman and Dr. Vasu Renganathan

The comprehensive teaching modules include a Tamil Writing Project, an Invocation on Tamil Goddess, an Introduction to the Tamil Alphabet that can be used to practice making the various characters that make up the Tamil alphabet, exercises based on Reader lessons,   some simple Conversational Exchanges, and Modern Short Stories for reading comprehension.

Learn Tamil Through English by Sendhil Kumar Cheran, a second generation Tamil born and raised in the United States, contains PDF-formatted lessons for teaching Tamil to English-speaking second generation Tamils. The lessons are based on the method used to teach Tamil as a foreign language at universities in the United States.

The site is a valuable learning resource for second-generation  Tamils. It does not simply concentrate on teaching the alphabet and vocabulary words but contains lessons that are designed specifically for teaching sentence formation. In his Introduction, Sendhil Kumar Cheran writes:

"The human brain is hard-wired to learn language from birth. Young children have an innate ability to absorb and internalize the language(s) being spoken around them. As children get older and become teenagers, their ability to quickly learn new languages diminishes greatly. Whereas a language immersion environment is all that is needed to “teach” language to a young child, the older child and teenager needs to learn new languages through a more structured approach. The lessons found at this website will provide the structure for learning Thamil through English.  By learning the grammar contained in the lessons, learners will be able to use their knowledge of English to produce sentences in Thamil.

These lessons are based on the highly effective method used to teach Thamil at universities and colleges in the United States of America. The method was developed by linguists fluent in English and Thamil, and it makes use of the student's fluency in English to teach written Thamil. This knowledge of written Thamil can then be very easily applied to learn the spoken language. I was born and raised in the United States and never spoke Thamil until I was nearly 18 years old. I was first introduced to this method during the summer of 1997, and I had achieved fluency in the written and spoken language by the summer of 1999. To get an idea of my level of language proficiency, read my articles in Thamil."

How to write in Tamil using Anjal Font  website is maintained by Ram Ravindran

The multi media Kalvi Tamil Learning Software by Softech Creations teaches Tamil through English. It includes  programs for teaching (with sound pronunciation) the Tamil vowels (a... au), consonants (ka, nga, cha...na), how compound letters are formed, numbers, a word game and three letter words in a variety of game/video formats.

Tamil has been taught as part of Indological Studies at Uppasala University, Sweden since 1967. Other Universities where Tamil is taught include Heidelberg , Cologne and London

The Tamil Eelam Economic Development Organisation has made a beginning in making available Tamil Learning Software free on the web. Siddharthan Ramachandramurthi's Learning Tamil page contains useful information about Tamil Classes, Tamil Educational Software and Tamil Textbooks


Tamil: Its Assets & Current Needs

Dr. R. Jegannath

"...Interestingly, the Tamil word for vowels, Uyir means life, and the word for consonants, Mey means both body and reality. Neither life nor body can exist without the other. .."

1. Tamil is a more logical language than most other languages. For instance,

a) there is no arbitrary assignment of gender to inanimate things as in Latin, French or the Sanskrit-based languages. Just imagine having to memorize whether a stone or a book is masculine or feminine!

b) declination of verbs: the verb-ending in Tamil depends on the number, gender and person, invariably. The middle depends on the tense. In most other languages there are too many categories of verb-endings, which one simply has to memorize. (English, of course, has hardly a method to its madness in this matter and rightly dubbed as one of the most illogical of languages by Bernard Shaw)

c) all case- endings follow similar sets of rules; eg: when the word is only two-letters-long and starts with a short letter, it inserts a vowel or doubles the consonant in all case- endings, so that the identity of the word is not lost. Eg: Avan  becomes avanai or avanaal, but Kan, instead of becoming kanai or kanaal, becomes kannai or kannaal

d) common alteration of vowels and consonants leads to an ease of production by the vocal apparatus and to a euphonic sound. Consonant clusters such as seen in the Scandinavian languages are clumsy and call for a bit of gymnastics by the vocal apparatus. The Japanese language is very particular about this, always alternating the vowels and the consonants. Even when it borrows words from other languages, it naturalizes them suitably: eg. Pikkunikku (the cn calls for an awkward jump), domokurashy .

Tamil too generally does this, avoiding the gymnastics of Prakriti, naturalizing it into Pirakiruti.

Interestingly, the Tamil word for vowels, Uyir means life, and the word for consonants, Mey means both body and reality. Neither life nor body can exist without the other.

Uyir by itself, such as aeoui, will be all ethereal, with no solidity, while consonant clusters such as brkjtp will be all hard and lifeless as stones without the enlivening vowels. So the logical need for their alternation.

e) not ending a word with a plosive consonant (like k,ch,t,p etc) which would entail the effort of a sudden break .and stiffness. (Even languages which allow it often add a vowel at the end while singing, which promotes relaxation: Dost dost na raha becomes Dostu dostu na raha)

f) avoiding insertion of plosive sounds in the middle of a word _ for instance, the normal tendency of the language will be to pronounce as Sedhu rather than as Sethu.

Nasal consonants are followed by the corresponding consonant that originates at the same location in the vocal apparatus: nga (back of the throat – guttural), nja (palatal), nda (tongue bent on palate), mba (bilabial-both lips) and so on, again generally avoiding the need for vocal gymnastics. (These four tendencies of the language given in d, e, f and g give the euphonic sound to it.)

g) Tamil has perhaps the most extensive, scientific and intricate system of prosody. While the Sanskrit prosody is much more extensive and intricate than that of English, it pales in comparison to that of Tamil.

2. In spite of being spoken by a whole race of people including the illiterate among them, Tamil has maintained such a continuity and uniformity that literature written 2000 years ago can be understood by the educated readers of the present. This is unusual.

Languages spoken by the common man generally undergo a great deal of change from region to region and with the passage of time. For instance, English changed so much in a thousand years that the works such as those of Chaucer's need to be almost rewritten in order to be understood by the readers of today.

This is not applicable to Latin and Sanskrit, since they have always been languages of the court and scholars only and not of daily usage by the people. In this respect, Tamil has managed to keep the cake and eat it too, by keeping the written form unchanged while the spoken has been changing with time, and in addition has variations based on region and community. The result is a spoken language markedly distinct from the written. This is a source of great trouble for non-Tamils who wish to learn to speak and read Tamil, but can be overcome by learning the written form and then the general lines and principles on which it is distorted when spoken. However, the aforesaid great advantage remains, namely, the written form does not change too much with time.

3. The great difficulty faced by those who do most of their learning through the medium of Tamil  is the difficulty in consistently representing certain alien sounds in Tamil. It is not unusual to hear some of them say Bagisdhan for Pakisthan or gaali when they actually want to say kaali (empty), a word naturalized into Tamil.

The unfortunate thing is that to use B or G at the beginning of a word is entirely alien to the Tamil language, yet many Tamils whose learning of these words is through the medium of Tamil, make such errors because of confusion. The word Pakisthan illustrates their plight: written in Tamil, the first consonant could be B or P, the second G or K, and the third Th or Dh, leading to eight possibilities in pronouncing the word written in Tamil.

When our Tamil medium students need to communicate with those of other languages in later life, they frequently encounter such pitfalls as Bagisdhan for Pakisthan. Thus, they are exposed to ridicule by others and lose all self- confidence and start getting a feeling that their language is in some way inferior.

In this age when we are constantly in contact with matters pertaining to the whole world, if we do not address this great difficulty, those who learn in Tamil medium will face a great disadvantage. In due course of time, when the Tamil parents realize this, they will not want to send their children to Tamil medium schools; the language will languish. That would be a pity, since Tamil is such a wonderful language and can be practically effective in the present world too if it overcomes this limitation.

A simple scheme and some guidelines are proposed in this connection and I hope that it will lead to a wider discussion and action in this matter. (sorry, not yet written down)

4. The representation of Tamil through the English alphabet:

It can be shown that the representation naturally followed by a Tamil is logically superior to that followed by the Sanskrit based languages, which were obliged to adopt that scheme because of the aspirant sounds in their alphabet (kha, chha, pha etc}.

Writing Geetha is certainly more logical than Gita or Geeta, from the point of view of English and Tamil, and to a large extent, even from the point of view of Sanskrit. The current scheme was proposed for Sanskrit, probably by the missionaries, with a view to accommodating the aspirant letters even there they woukd have done better to keep t for and th for .

The current scheme is not in accordance with the natural sound pattern of Tamil, or English and is not the best even from the Sanskrit point of view. The Sanskrit-based languages use the same letter, t for two different vargas or categories, namely, for and for . In any case, the representation th as in think gives a sound more akin to than does the letter t.

The Tamilians' writing of words such as Dhivya, Dheepak, Ajith, Sumathi, Thaj is thought by many North-Indians to be owing to ignorance, but it is they who need to be enlightened. Unfortunately we have accepted the representation handed to us by those who formulated it for Sanskrit and continue to write Tamil instead of Thamil; is it too late to do anything about it?

5. We Tamils need to have a clear understanding of the way our language works. Most of us go about it instinctively, but at times, it leads to avoidable inconsistencies:

a) At the beginning of a word the hard consonants are always hard, unless it is a word from another language that starts with a soft sound and is not yet fully naturalized into Tamil: thittam (plan) should not be pronounced as dhittam, nor kudhirai as gudhirai since they are original Tamil words. While gunam or bayam may be pronounced as such, since it is from the Sanskrit word of that sound and has not yet fully naturalized into kunam or payam.

b) When we represent Tamil words in English, the Tamil rules of sound must be respected. For instance, the letters க, த, ட, unless preceded by a வல்லினம் மெய், is always pronouned as ga, dha or da and not as ka, tha or ta. So புதிய, செந்தில், மகன் should always be pudhiya, sendhil, and magan and not puthiya, senthil or makan. One will not hear them normally spoken thus, and the sound of the word must be represented, not that of each letter.

c) The choice betweenand shuld be clear. is used at the beginning of a word and at other places. There are 2 exceptions:

i) with the combination of  ந்த,  ந்து etc.

(ii) when a word starting with  takes a prefix to supplement or reverse or modify its meaning. In these cases, either or may be used, ie. either following the original rule or indicating the root of the word. Therefore, we may write அநீதி or அனீதி, விநாயகர் or  வினாயகர், அந்நியன் or அன்னியன் (This is from Sanskrit, niyam meaning self, or one's own, anniyan being the antonym.). There is a recent trend to write இயக்குநர், ஓட்டுநர் etc., instead of இயக்குனர், ஓட்டுனர். The tendency should be discouraged.

6. A living language must change and grow in order to survive and thrive, or else it will lose usage and become extinct. Why is it that such a logical, euphonic, ancient yet living language with a rich literature is today facing the ignominy of the elite of its own people preferring to educate their children through an alien medium? This is not so in Japan, Russia, Germany or China.

The primary reasons are two.

i) The difficulty of articulating alien sounds as outlined above. Though Tamil in itself may be able to express most concepts without the aid of other languages, in the present world, it is increasingly necessary to communicate with people of other languages, and consistent representations of sounds unusual to Tamil is an inevitable necessity.

This is easily attainable; we need a discussion on this to arrive at the most practical solutions. Tamil can weather these minor modifications and take them in its stride. The changes introduced into the Tamil script by the European missionaries have not jeopardized the language in any way; nor have the changes introduced by Periyaar to achieve unifornity in the representation of lai, nai, naa, raa etc.

ii) Coining of new words as necessary. Here a few points are worth keeping in mind.

a) If there is an existing Tamil word that would be naturally suitable for a new concept, we should jump at it and use it.

b) If there are naturalized substitutes from other languages already established in common use, they should be readily accepted as a part of the language, without any qualms such as those felt by Thanithamil Iyakkamists. Tamil has the capacity to absorb, digest and assimilate them all without being lost in them. (Such willingness and flexibility is the only reason why a comparatively primitive language that English was a thousand years ago, has now become a very rich language.)

c) while coining new words, we need not always follow the line on which the original word was coined; if an innovative, short, apt Tamilic form can be coined, that would be more acceptable even if it is not a literal translation of the word but represents the object better.

d) no need to make lengthy explanatory descriptions instead of new words because of the fear that people may not understand what thy stand for. No need to underestimate people, they are capable of arrving at the right target in due course of time, quicker than we think, if the coinage is apt. மென்பொருள், வலையம், கணினி are some beautiful examples.

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