Thursday, March 18, 2010

Forms of Language - Tulika Blogathon

My 2 cents for the Tulika's blogathon topic

(click on the topic to take you to the details)

How different are the written and spoken forms of your first language?

I speak Tamil. I read Tamil and I can write in Tamil as well. And yes, my mother tongue is Tamizh. The last time I wrote in Tamil was 6 months back, a letter to my MIL. This is after a gap of (cant count the number of years) very many long years. My MIL was very happy and she complemented me on my Tamil. I think she was surprised both by my letter and the fact that I wrote fairly good Tamil.

But can I claim to be an expert in Tamil ? No way. I cannot understand the classics in its purest form. I might need guidance to understand the same. Tamizh is a beautiful language with its own set of intricacies and complexity. The written/classical form is so much different from the spoken form. In fact the spoken form also varies based on several factors. The Tamizh language has so many dialects based on the 

- Region - You should just compare the language spoken in Madurai, Tanjavur , Chennai, Tirunelveli etc. Each would have its own distinct flavor

- Caste - The chettinads, Brahmins, Goundar etc have their own way of speaking

-  Immigrants - Telugu Naikars, Naidus, Palagat Brahmins etc

and then there might be many others which I am not aware of. A person arriving from down South to Chennai may take considerable time to even understand the "Madrasi" lingo. I am not even sure if an ordinary tamizh speaking teenager today watches movies of P. U. Chinnappa and M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar , he/she can even understand the dialogues. Thats how far we have come from the original form of the language.
Which brings us to the point that none of these are exactly the same as the formal version of the language. Modernization has played a role in language development as well.

If you want children to become familiar with their first language, which form would you look for in children books - formal or informal? Why?

We speak only Tamizh at home and I definitely want my kid to learn tamizh and be fluent (in all forms) in it as well. In my opinion, the children books for beginners should be colloquial so that their interest is aroused in reading Tamizh books. Lots of kids and even adults these days stick to English only because the difference is not so marked between both the forms. Interest would wane if they see a completely different set of words from what is used in daily life. And then slowly start introducing the formal words along with the in formal with the help of picture illustrations so that kids can co-relate easily. Bilingual books also go a long way in improving the kids vocabulary.

Also, Audio -Visuals is another option because seeing first helps kids in registering and then co-relating with the audio becomes very easier.

I have several of Tulika books and others at home. The picture illustrations are brilliant in Tulika books making the kids easily co-relate and understand. The stories are also about everyday normal things that one would see at home and use instead of some far away happenings which the kids might not be able to relate.

I am yet to buy one of those famous bilingual Tulika books which I plan to do so very soon. Thank you Tulika and I hope we get more and more such fun filled, color filled books for our kids to read and enjoy.

Disclaimer : These are just my thoughts on the various forms the language has evolved and how it stands today. The intent is not to criticize or offend anyone.


Tulika Publishers said...

Nice! Also, I'm jealous of your MIL now. She gets the letter in Tamil while Tulika gets a blogathon post in English. Not fair at all.

Satish N said...

The best way to make your kid be fluent in all forms of your mother tongue is by you reading a tamil book to her. Listening makes a kid more sharper, than they reading on their own, for the words she cannot understand, she will imdly ask you the meaning and hence he scope of learning new words are high.

Advance thamizh course ku, Satish maamaa kitta annupu - Ilakana kuripu, maathirai, yaralavazhala, nyaganannamana, kachadathapara ellaam solli kuduthu asathiruvom :)

Anu said...

well written, Lavanya..... the dialects are so different in each district... esp to us who speak a totally different kind of Tamil..mixed with other languages..... i remember watching old films with my mom and irritating her with my questions..... these days we hardly watch any tamil movies, so samhith has no opportunity to do that.... but all said and done, i really wish i had learnt the language.... shall do so soon....

Lavanya Sriram said...

@Tulika : :)..there's a lot of diff in writing a letter in Tamizh to my MIL and blogging abt language differences here in Tamizh. I guess my Tamizh is not thaaat good. But will try if an opportunity arises again :)

@Satish : Sure a.. un kitte anuparen...but neenga rendu perum mudhalla friends aanum adhukku :)

@Anu : Thank you. Probably you and samhit could learn together :)