If there was a Venn Diagram of the people who attended Tamil Class vs the people who hated it, it’d probably look like a circle.
But at the same time, the average Tamil Person’s Spotify Wrapped probably looks like this.
(Not my Wrapped - unless you thought it was cool and love my taste in music, in which case hmu)
The point is, although they hate learning it - people love Tamil.
So, why the divide? And more importantly - why should you care?
5000 years old - Tamil is one of the, if not, the oldest language in the world.
Over 70 Million people speak Tamil - with members of the diaspora contributing to a sizeable chunk of this number. So all’s good, right?
Take a look under the hood though, and you’ll find a deeper problem.
The average Tamil in the Diaspora can’t read, or write Tamil - and even worse, doesn’t see a reason to.
Take this for example.
“எருமைக்கு கூட Blue Cross இருக்கு
எனக்காக யோசிக்க உயிரா இருக்கு ”
I bet most of us can’t read the above two lines, even though we sing them all the time.
Confused? Here they are.
Don’t beat yourself up if you couldn’t pass the test - most of us haven’t had to read Tamil since elementary school.
And even worse, a lot of us don’t even recognize what makes Tamil special - or why we should be able to read it.
Here’s something cool about Tamil you’ve probably never noticed.
For most, if not all English words - if you split a word into its letters, you probably aren’t getting the same pronunciation.
Here’s an example.
And: A (a) - N (en) - D (dee)
Angel: A (a) - N (en) - G (gee) - E (e) - L (el)
But with Tamil, you can nail the pronunciation of any word with just its letters.
Here’s an example.
வணக்கம்: வ (Va) - ண (Na) - க் (ik) - க (Ka) - ம் (I'm)
Credit: Tamil Chinthanayalar Peravai
Every language has something that makes it special, but Tamil’s filled with all kinds of these gems.
The problem is that the older we get - the fewer opportunities we have to learn and practice Tamil. While Tamils an official language in countries like Singapore, here in the western diaspora, our time spent with Tamil's limited to watching the latest Vijay movie or jamming out to Anirudh’s latest track.
Even worse, we leave learning Tamil to others, telling ourselves it no longer has a place in the modern world.
I went to a Tamil Book launch the other day and only saw a couple people my age there (not that I was counting..)
Our ancestors didn’t carry along our mother tongue for 5000 years just for it to get lost because we were too busy binging Netflix to care.
While I’m sure we’ve all worried about how our kids are going to learn Tamil and even care enough to want to - we aren’t doing enough about it.
For all the people who worry about who the Tamil class teachers for our kids’ll be - how many have signed up to be a Tamil class teacher themselves?
For all the people who worry about whether their kids’ll understand Tamil or not - how many make an effort to learn its importance themselves?
We all complain about traffic, not realizing that we’re literally traffic too.
While it’s a responsibility to be the caretaker of the world’s oldest language - it’s certainly a privilege too.
One day someone is going to ask (hopefully in Tamil) what you did to help one of the world’s oldest languages survive, make sure your answers one that you’re proud of.
Besides, if you don’t know Tamil - how are you going to jam out to this with me?
இனி நீயும் நானும்
காதல் இரண்டு எழுத்து…