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Friday, February 03, 2006

An expat tries to learn Tamil

Chennai has no dearth of expat bloggers. Their experiences suggest that they are trying their best to get to know India better. Julia’s blog is no different. She pens down her observations and experiences in the process of learning Tamil:

One of the things I’ve been doing in my free time is taking classes in Tamil, the local language. People are always asking me why I’m learning Tamil, since it isn’t something I’ll be able to use when I return home. I decided to take classes for a few reasons, partly because learning a new language is mentally challenging and interesting, partly because it helps with my volunteer work, and partly because I needed things to do during the day. But once I started learning I found out the best reason to speak Tamil: the look on people’s faces when they hear me speak their language. Uttering even the simplest phrase, “how much?” to the auto driver or the Tamil equivalent of “see you later” causes people’s eyes to widen as they ask me, “you know Tamil?” When I reply that I’m studing Tamil, or that I know a little, everyone starts beaming and telling me that I speak very well (romba nalla Tamil payseringeh.) I have had hundreds of people in this city tell me that I speak Tamil well, which is bit of an overstatement but nice nonetheless.

Random facts about Tamil:-

The word for “think” and “feel” are the same.

There’s a sound in Tamil, the American “r”, which is difficult for some people here to pronounce. They are very impressed when they hear me say it.

One Tamil term of endearment translates to “the pupil of your eye.”

We all know about all of the Eskimo words for snow. Tamil is like that with family members (it might be like this for all Indian languagues, I’m not sure.) There are separate words not only for big brother and little brother but the big brother of your dad, his wife, her family, and on and on. I even have a word scribbled in my notebook that says “a woman who lives in another house,” but I have no idea what it means.


  • What's the word for "a woman who lives in another house"? I'm curious to know.

    Pakkathu veettukkaari? Aduththa veettukkaari? Marumagal?

    By Anonymous Vijay Krishna, at 9:25 PM  

  • Vijay: Adutha veetu penn ;) Pazhaya padam illa adhu?

    By Blogger anantha, at 11:44 PM  

  • ha ha.. funny..

    By Blogger Ajit, at 3:25 AM  

  • sir and ma'am - true of all schools and colleges in India. but standing up when the prof enters the room is not anymore. it is in almost all schools but not in all places of higher education.

    your blog is fascinating. it is as if i'm learning new things about the place i have known all my life.

    By Blogger consumerdemon, at 9:43 PM  

  • u have a fascinating blog kaps...have to come back and read ur archives

    By Blogger ashok, at 12:41 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger revatechnic, at 1:28 AM  

  • i swear i dont remember any controversial term for the above statement!..Could u enlighten us please?!

    By Blogger Vikram H, at 6:59 PM  

  • @VK,
    I think she is referring to a single word...could be it be Anniyan or something?

    Your film knowledge is good


    @Consumer Demon,
    Thanks for dropping by

    glad to know that you found it interesting...do come back

    There is no controversial statement here....

    By Blogger Kaps, at 10:15 PM  

  • woman who lives in another house could be "parasthree", which though is sanskrit derived

    By Blogger raj, at 2:26 PM  

  • @Raj,
    She was referring to tamil and hence parasthree may not be the word.

    By Blogger Kaps, at 10:16 PM  

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