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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Language Debate

Charu of Indsight has made a post on some of the issues that I raised in my Tamil poem. As she has put it, this concern is not limited only to Tamil. It can be extended to other Indian languages as well. I don’t undermine the role English has played in bringing about the much-needed economic prosperity. If things continue to proceed this way, the vernacular languages might be history (atleast in their pure form). Our clothing and eating habits have changed a lot in the last few years. Language and culture are few more pieces of our identity and some of it might also get eroded. The question here is whether one wants that identity.

Even if the kids don’t have an opportunity to study their mother tongue in school, it is important that the parents take up this task and ensure that their kids learn their mother tongue atleast at home. The Srilankan Tamil’s are one bunch of people who are quite passionate about their mother tongue. They have set up Tamil schools all across Europe so that their kids get the opportunity to study their mother tongue (inspite of staying miles away from home). Their Tamil is unadulterated and the way they speak is a treat to our ears (as evident from the movie Tenali).

In the last few years, I have seen umpteen number of cases where the grandchildren don’t speak their mother tongue. When these grandchildren visit their grandparents, English becomes the mode of communication. The situation becomes worse if the grandparents are not well versed in English. These situations are becoming more common as more kids grow up overseas. English is also becoming the mode of communication between kids and their parents. If the vernacular language is not spoken at home, how can we expect people to speak the vernacular language outside home? Some upmarket schools do fine the kids if they speak in their native language. These kind of actions might lead the kid to shun the native language.

Vernacular is not so fashionable

One reason why people might not converse in their vernacular language is to do with the fact that it is not considered trendy. But what about people who don’t even know to read / write the language. There is a general belief that scoring marks in a vernacular language in Secondary School is quite difficult and hence people resort to studying French, German and Spanish. I’m not saying that studying a foreign language is wrong. Even if one doesn’t study his/her mother tongue as part of the school curriculum isn’t it important to read, write and speak the mother tongue?

My wish list (in order of priority)

1. People should know to speak their mother tongue

2. People should know to read / write in their mother tongue

3. People who speak in the vernacular language should not be looked down upon

PS: I’m not connected / related to this guy or his party


  • kaps, totally agree with you on ur wish list...

    but this is wht i've noticed...as long as we are in india, we emphasize on english bcoz the kid is gonna learn tamil anyway...inga vandha, we want our kids to learn tamil bcoz they are gonna learn english anyway...second thing, most kids growing up here speak tamil till they start going to school...but once they start school, they become confused initially & then quit talking the language even tho most of them understand their mother tongue...ellam circumstances me thinks...i want my sis's kid in india to study paatu & dance...she is planning to send her to golf classes!!

    By Blogger capriciously_me, at 2:29 PM  

  • Like your 3rd wish.

    By Blogger Maran, at 4:16 PM  

  • Kaps:

    I agree with all 3 of your wishes, but the fact is that atleast for the first two you have to start very early in life.

    Learning languages (especially tamizh) later in life is bloody difficult. I can speak but cannot read or write, tried learning in my late teens and completely gave up on it. The alphabet was just too difficult.

    By Blogger nmk, at 4:19 PM  

  • Hi Kaps
    I came to this post via Charu.
    I wanted to relate one anecdote about this. When I visit Chennai in 1995 with my wife to visit her parents they took us to some nice hotels and restaurants. The waiters insisted on speaking to my wife (who is Tamil) in English even when she spoke to them in Tamil. Isn't that odd?

    By Blogger Michael Higgins, at 5:04 PM  

  • LOL at the Post Script.

    Alright, I completely agree with your wishlist. I was born, bred and buttered in "Thamizh valartha Madurai" for 15 years, yet as a subject learnt it only for 3 years. And it totally irks me to see people who've learnt it for a longer time in school put up an act like they are clueless and don't know a word of thamizh. It is definitely important to learn to write in one's vernacular language. And when it comes to interacting with people, vernacular language impresses the listener the most. I've seen it happen many times.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:30 PM  

  • the thing is the whole mother tongue concept can be confusing,
    one of my cousins(a tamilian)
    married a urdu muslim, so now the kid speaks english....
    tough for the kid to pick up two languages...as the mom doesnt know urdu and the father doesnt know tamil.....
    so they all speak english....
    but otherwise, i think knowledge of a language will not be limited if the kids stay in a place where the language is being used..like capri says...as long as u r in TN, you will pick up the language..you may not be able to write poems in it..but you can write letters and communicate..that much, most tamilians here can do i beleive

    By Blogger monu, at 6:53 PM  

  • Couldnt agree more!
    Whn some1 speaks in their mother-tongue (esp a S.Indian language) whn they r in a grp...evn if evry1 thr undrstands tht lang... thy give him tht shitty-look...i've obsrvd tht many times.
    I've been in Bangalore all my life; but made it a pt to learn Tamil... my parents nvr askd me to learn the language...bt thy r so glad i did.

    We all should b proud of our mother-tongue &must knw it.

    By Blogger viji, at 8:47 PM  

  • i strongly agree. i think "that guy" reduces the brand value of tamil a lot.

    being the oldest of the currently spoken indian languages, i find it sad that tamil is being ridiculed in other dravidian states. especially my two years in bangalore was a culture shock in terms of the way tamil and tamilians were so poorly looked down upon.

    even 2nd gen tamilians refuse to be identified with TN. think of 2nd gen tamils in north india. how many people are proud to say they are tamils. very few. they only refer to TN when they want to look down upon someone and feel good about themselves.

    - (artist formerly known as bharath :-) )

    By Blogger Hawkeye, at 9:30 PM  

  • kaps, am glad you made the disclaimer at the end - one thing that puts me off is this whole obsessive behavior (esp politically motivated) regarding language, my Tamil, my moochu, everyone else is a worm sentiment... :)

    By Anonymous charu, at 9:39 PM  

  • Dear Kaps, it s not just Tamil that is being mangled. You will have to look at the other regional channels in India. They never speak the language. It is a mix of English and the regional language.
    Thats a nice wish list you got. But what a pity! The media which influences every Indian's life today very much has no time to think for their language betterment. Vikatan, SUN TV and FM channels are best examples in this regard.

    By Blogger Guruprasad, at 10:31 PM  

  • I'll never understand how people can write huge blogs so patiently !! I can't find time to do that :(

    By Blogger Jayan, at 10:59 PM  

  • 1st and 3rd wish I say aye aye.

    2nd is hard especially for ppl learning it mid of their lives!

    I've pointed this out many a times. Why in Chennai itself Tamil is put down. It still shocks me! Yes English is important but so is your mother tongue. I would say learn both, you will never regret it. My brother never took the innitiative to learn how to read in Tamil though, we were both sent to tuiton, today he regrets it.

    If a person looks down at you for being Tamil, don't do business with them and make sure they know why also highnose them. Sadly this are normally done by Tamils itself!

    Hummm I'm taking over ur comment box - ill post it on my blog instead ;p errr

    By Blogger visithra, at 9:33 AM  

  • hello sambar mafia.

    I think there's a conspiracy btwn the s'pore govt and the indian one ever since tamil was made compulsory in schools.

    That sucks.

    Anyway, my 2 cents worth. Tamil is useless and pointless. Its only gd in chennai. not even india per se. When the national language of a country with a population of nearly 2billion people is hindi, i wonder why the chennai ppl try and be different.

    Once tamil comes overseas, it dies a brutal death amongst the new g kids like me.

    I suggest you guys quit lamenting and start adapting to changing times.

    Cuz i dont think anyone in his right minds gg to give a damn abt a confused state with a confused fat actress for its leader.

    By Blogger indilove, at 12:14 PM  

  • @Capri,
    agree with what u say. if u r living abroad, parents spend more energy to ensure that the kid learns the mother tongue.

    The 3rd wish might take more time to achieve as it is a societal thing

    As you said it becomes difficult to learn the language unless u pick it up early on in life

    Thanks for dropping by. if the situation in 1995 was so bad, it wud be worser in 2005

    The sad part is that even people who hv learnt the language think that speaking in the vernacular language is not cool

    the kind of confusion which you have pointed out will happen only in very few families. it is unfair to expect the kid to pick up so many languages.

    glad 2 know that there are more people who think like me.

    agree with the part on the 2nd gen people. but i have noticed that if somebody stays away from home they start developing more affinity towards the language and the land

    The politicians are projecting as if they are the safe keepers of the language and culture. ask any of them to show their progress report and u'll see them running in search of a shelter.

    the post applies to other vernacular languages as well.

    Should I take it as a compliment? I don't know to write short posts.

    the best thing is to learn it early on in life. otherwise it becomes difficult to catch up.

    In which school is Tamil compulsory? this is not the case in India.
    I'm just saying that if lesser people use the language, the language might become die soon. I don't agree with the point that Tamil is useless and pointless. it is one of the ancient languages and is often seen as the mother of other south indian languages. Lot of Tamils living overseas are more passionate about the language.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 11:21 AM  

  • Thaai mozhiyai marappadhu thavarallavaa
    Thaaiyaiye marappadhu polallavaa

    Aangila moham makkalidam endru theerum
    Appadi ninaikkum varai eppadi therum

    By Blogger thennavan, at 1:59 PM  

  • I totally agree with you in this issue. It is essential to learn good English these days, proper training is needed to speak English fluently in our schools. But mostly people forget their own language and speak bad English too. I think if someone learned their own language very well, it would be easy for him to learn any language. Nice post.

    By Blogger Jo, at 4:46 PM  

  • When I was working in a company where I worked as an project administrator, our MD was a youngster, but not good in speaking English. First he didn't notice me, but after I started attending calls from our US client, his attitude changed. He started to rely on me for communication.

    The thing is, the now generation is not interested in their native language because the parents are proud to say that their children don't speak Malayalam and only speak English. This should change.

    By Blogger Jo, at 4:49 PM  

  • The first one in ur wish list could be acheived by the parents at home.they should urge their children to speak their mother tongue.but the irony is that these parents insist their children to speak in english bcos they think speaking english make them intelligent.i could not stand this kind of attitude.shcools punish children speaking tamil.that makes the situation even worse.the children are the worse affected,they jus go into a state of confusion.the only way to save the vernacular languages from becoming extinct,is to counsel parents that english is jus another language.speaking it alone doesnot make people intellectual.tamil should be taught compulsorily at school.students should be taught that tamil is a very interesting language and there is no wrong in speaking it properly(no more tanglish please)

    By Blogger வேதா, at 12:29 PM  

  • Very difficult for kids from mixed marriages...they end up learning neither of the two..especially if relatives make them feel left out:((

    By Blogger Sangeeta, at 2:20 PM  

  • 1) I think people avoid speaking Tamil because formerly, inability to speak English was associated with illiteracy.

    2) Proliferation of English language internet does not help matters.

    3) Educated people like us should all strive to speak Tamil socially. We can make a change.

    By Blogger learnfromme, at 8:50 AM  

  • lol, well in order to preserve the lang, tamils been made compulsory in all singaporean schools. if you're indian you do tamil as your 2nd language. and you have to get a min pass to get into e U

    By Blogger indilove, at 8:15 PM  

  • The central govt in Delhi has plans to wantonly ignore other languages and pave the way for their decline by sole use of Hindi and by the portrial of India to the outside world as Hindia. Except for some sentiments raised by Tamils, other language speakers are simply taking it for granted to accept Hindi as their officated mother tongue.

    Some examples of Hindian propoganda by both the Hindian central government and large MNCs:
    1>Gas books across India printed only in Hindi and English
    2>Air Hindia, Hindian Airlines, S(J)et(h) Airway etc having announcements only in English and Hindi.
    3>Hindi being compulsory in CBSE schools while Hindian can choose to skip the state language in favour of Sanskrit
    4>Lack of opportunity of native Tamils in the north leave alone North Indians to learn Tamil and other southern languages in their areas
    5>Tamil being portrayed with lude 'comical' roles in Hindian films
    6>Hindian railways train tickets skipping the state language
    7>Airports (like in Madras) hiring Hindians who cant speak Tamil/state language
    8>Hindian Railway and other Hindian institution websites restricted to only Hindi and English
    9>Hindian movies only being sent to the Oscars and other cultural events ignoring other languages
    10>Hindian bank passbooks skipping the state language
    11>ATMs of most banks (Citibank, Hindian Bank etc restricting to Hindi and English)
    12>Looking down on states of Tamil Nadu because of refusal to prescribe to "accept-Hindi-as-your-language" attitude
    13. The very use of the term "Regional language" to non-Hindi languages
    14. The use of Hindian stickers in trains and else portaying "speaking Hindi is nationalism" and other propoganda messages stating use of English or non-Hindi as not being nationalistic.
    15. The very absence of languages other than Hindi on the symbol of citizenship of the country-- the passport

    The above is a part of a sinister policy create to transform India to simply Hindia or Hindistan.

    These remarks are taken as fascist...but you need to ask yourself whether the National Language policy of India itself isnt fascist.

    If you trace the history since independence regarding the use of language apart from Hindi, you can foretell the future plan for this fascist policy.

    ->This Hindian fascism should not make it a big mistake for India to be a lingual union. The last thing for the country is encouragement a colonial attitude by speakers of the "elevated" lingo.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:22 PM  

  • An opportunity has arisen at my workplace for a transfer to an office in Poland, its not for a couple of months so I have decided to learn Polish. My reasoning is that if I can speak Polish it will give me a massive advantage over my competition. The thing is I don’t know how to go about learning a new language is it best learning from someone who already speaks the language or should I attempt learning language online? Is it difficult with no one to speak to? Any help I can get will be greatly appreciated.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:13 PM  

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