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Colloquial-Written Tamil

Janahan Sivaraman
Janahan Sivaraman
2 min read
Colloquial-Written Tamil
Photo by Saud Edum / Unsplash

People want to connect with each other.

The easiest way is to speak the language, the way people do, colloquially.

I want to minimize the time it takes to accomplish that in Tamil.

When I first started learning Tamil, I concentrated on the formal flavor. I didn’t realize the chasm between the formal and colloquial flavors. Sabtha, my Tamil teacher at the time, told me how her comments and DMs on Instagram were full of angry words because she had chosen to share the colloquial flavor instead of the formal flavor of a word or phrase.

They maintain only “pure” formal Tamil should ever be written down.

This resistance to seeing the colloquial flavor of words written down makes it difficult for those who want to learn abroad and asynchronously.

Even with a teacher, I had one 1 hour class, 1x week, to speak synchronously.

That is not nearly enough to pick up a new language.

When I spoke with my family, at first they were taken aback. It sounded pretentious to them - think about someone learning English and sounding like a BBC newscaster.

I got the impression that them speaking Tamil to me was more of a novelty. And I wasn’t accomplishing the goal I had - to connect with them in our language. I could feel the distance.

I realized that it’s necessary to represent colloquial in written form if I was going to learn it abroad and asynchronously.

Colloquial-Written is necessary to learn abroad and asynchronously.

It doesn’t denigrate the language to write down the colloquial form.

It opens it up to others who want to learn and connect.

It’s imperative to me to document this as I’m doing it, so the spirit of learning is not lost. I will figure this out and I don’t want to suffer the curse of expertise. In my Twitter bio, it says தமிழ் மாணவர் (Tamil student), not தமிழ் ஆசிரியர் (Tamil teacher) because the best way to keep growing is to keep learning.

I’ve realized recently that my niche isn’t “How You Can Learn Tamil”.

The formal flavor is well-documented. I’ve even shared the resources I used.

My niche is “How You Can Learn A Colloquial Flavor of Tamil From The Northern Province of Sri Lanka”.

All colloquial flavors of Tamil share the same formal rules as a foundation. This blueprint can be used for any other regional colloquial flavor.

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