Tamil Language Teachers

#1 May 28th, 2013, 18:41
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#1
Dear all,

I have been living in Ooty for the past couple of years and have decided to visit Chennai, at last, this summer (I'm aware it will be hot compared to Ooty!). My Tamil is still atrocious and, despite living here, I'm not given much opportunity to practice.

I have decided to go to Chennai/Pondi/surrounding places and focus on learning Tamil for two weeks and I am after a good teacher who will help me to learn the script, sort out my accent and help me to learn colloquial Tamil rather than formal Tamil which people claim not to understand...

As far as I understand it Chennai Tamil is more informal than Ooty Tamil (though Chennai folk who work here still give me formal phrases). I'm hoping to stay with Tamil-speaking colleagues (most of whom also speak better English than I do) to supplement lessons.

I know there have been similar posts but they are all quite old.

If anyone has any recommendations I'd be keen to hear them!

Many thanks (rhomba nandri!),

TT
#2 May 29th, 2013, 00:01
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#2
Check out the language lab at Auroville which works with the Tomatis Method
http://www.aurovillelanguagelab.org/htm/courses.htm

They have helpful material (audio-visual stuff) to assist in learning
Tamil.

Quote:
At any given point in time, there are classes in different languages at varying levels available at the lab, English, French, Tamil, Sanskrit and many more.

The doors of the lab are open six days a week, providing our students with world class learning material, access to a multi-media library, language instruction as a group and one to one sessions are also possible.
#3 May 29th, 2013, 11:06
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#3
Tamil, in all its glory, comes in many flavours. There is a street language, then there is a iyer version, then there is an iyengar version, then there is a literary version, just to name a few. Do NOT watch TV news etc to learn the language, that is the toughest way. Movies are okay, but then they'll fall into one of my mentioned versions.

the script for all versions is the same, and you can learn this by having your friends write down a set of letters each day, and practice wirting them over and over until you memorise the letter-sound mapping. there aren't that many of them, so may take you a week, if you are good at such tasks.

And then after you learn the script, and you try to read something that is written, you'll understand the quirks of the language, and you wonder, why am i subjecting myself to this torture?

what happens after this depends on the kind of person that you are

i do mean this in jest, but somewhat seriously too. This is my opinion, and I could be wrong.
#4 May 29th, 2013, 15:08
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#4
Not that many of the characters? Perhaps not, for the basic consonants and vowels, but then don't the combination characters take the count to well over a hundred? OK, that is nothing compared to Japanese, with its three alphabets and kanji characters counted in many, many thousands, but it is still pretty daunting
#5 May 29th, 2013, 19:46
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#5
Quote:
Originally Posted by TamilTraveller View Post As far as I understand it Chennai Tamil is more informal than Ooty Tamil (though Chennai folk who work here still give me formal phrases). I'm hoping to stay with Tamil-speaking colleagues (most of whom also speak better English than I do) to supplement lessons.
Madras Tamil is totally different than the way you would learn to write and read. You would learn grammatically correct Tamil which is helpful if you want to read and understand old Tamil Scripts. Most of the present Tamil magazines or newspapers don't enforce strict grammar or proper Tamil words. I wouldn't blame them when I don't remember the word for "computer" in Tamil. I mean these are new nouns and wonder who (which idiot) made the word for it in Tamil.

Though I speak Tamil, I never learned it as good as you would learn it now. It was difficult for me to learn good Tamil which I never use to communicate with others. The problem of learning Tamil is much of the usage which is grammatically correct is never used by a lot of others who speak Tamil. They add English words or colloquial words to supplement speaking faster. I hated learning it because of this though I know its one of the oldest languages.

Long back I saw a Russian speaking Tamil on TV and was impressed by the way he spoke much much better than how I would "ever" speak and had difficulty understanding the words he used though he was correct in his usage.
#6 May 30th, 2013, 11:30
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#6
well, the consonants get vowel attachments based on the sound you want to make. Once you get the basic vowel sounds, and consonants figured out, i mean for reading and writing, then rest becomes easy.

same method for all south indian languages, or hindi for that matter. Basic consonants, with vowel attachments. where the attachments go for each consonant is also set...

speaking is an entirely different proposition, and since OP seems to have some familiarity with it, i would comment only on the versions of the spoken word/language....script is the same for all the versions/dialects anyway.

there is a suprise, i think, in store when learning to read and write this language. Something queer, i never came across in any other language. I will let the OP figure this one out.
#7 Jun 1st, 2013, 15:39
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#7
I've been studying Hindi whilst I've got a bit of free time in preparation for a North India trip and in one week I've gained confidence in reading and writing, not so much speaking and have a reasonable vocabulary. Tamil has been evading me for two years. I had this long, frustrating conversation with some Tamil speakers from all over the state with regards to the use of 'kalapai', which I thought meant 'tired' so I was using it and getting blank looks from people when saying 'I am tired'. They then said 'we just use the English word' but they all know the Tamil word from TV or literature but just don't seem to understand it when it is spoken.

It doesn't seem to matter if I say I want to learn colloquial Tamil or, at least, whatever is spoken on the streets, people still teach me the 'proper' phrases and words. I'm not aiming to be able to read classical Tamil poetry (maybe in the future). For example, with fruits I learnt mango as 'malm pazham' and it took me a while to realise the zh isn't a j-like sound but really an l so I now say 'malm pallam'. It's a similar sort of situation with chicken (kozhi vs. kolli).

Because I remain perpetually confused about where to use English words and where to use Tamil words as well as how things are pronounced. It seems that unless I get the pronunciation spot-on perfect I am not understood. Even my colleagues say they have difficulty understanding people from other parts of the state so often communicate in English instead.

I genuinely don't think I've ever heard the word 'vannakam' uttered anywhere (apart from on the news), I greet people with vannakam and get a hello in reply. I was on my motorbike in a rural part of the Nilgiris a few weeks ago and a policeman stopped me and started machine-gunning off Tamil at me, none of which I understood. I eventually realised he wanted to check my licence, which was fine. I kept hearing lots of 'pani, pani' so I figured he was asking for water (though he wasn't saying anything like 'yennaku pani venum', which is what I've learnt) so I offered him some water which he rejected. It took me a while to interpret his hand gestures as wanting an alcoholic drink. He just would not slow down despite the fact I asked him to and so I just could not follow him. I decided to phone a colleague who speaks Tamil and English very well. I handed the policeman my phone and the first word he said was 'hello?', not 'vannakam', which I found strangely hilarious. I eventually had to pay Rs150 for no reason whatsoever and give him a lift to the main road so he and his mates could buy lunch with my money. An experience I care not to repeat. I wonder what would have happened if I had just ridden off...though I'd already told him where I work so probably not a good idea.

Baffled...but I've got a few leads I am pursuing at the moment. Hopefully something will come of this and I can surprise everyone with my Tamil! I am resuming my study of the script. The basics are fine but when it comes to joining different consonants it begins to get very formiddable.

My great uncle was raised in Chennai but he says he has forgotten all of the Tamil he learnt on the streets. His parents were fluent speakers and conducted medical lectures in Tamil. As such, I know it is possible!

Many thanks for the replies! They are appreciated!
#8 Jun 1st, 2013, 19:21
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#8
water is spelt with a "t" not a "p" --- tani. Not to be confused with cloth or a percussion solo in a classical concert

Yes, I hear "vanakam" quite regularly, but "hello" just as often, and "namaskaram" only rarely. Although it is more cultural than linguistic, having learnt my Indian-music-student good manners in London, I find that, here, apart from the elder elders, a hi-and-a-handshake is expected rather than a namaskaram...

Love the story about the policeman. Maybe he was actually telling you to buy him dinner!
#9 Jun 2nd, 2013, 11:34
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#9
then, @tamiltraveller, the first sentence you ought to learn is " ennaku tamil puriyadu, englisle pesungo".

That says i do not understand tamil, speak in english. If you want, you can add the english word "please" in the middle.

ah, you are confused with tanglish. there are no rules for mixed language speaking. Water is tanni, and tanni in slang form means liquor.

and mango is Maambazham. you have hit on one of the unique sounds of that language. Same sound goes for "mazhai" - rain, vazhapazham - banana. and in many other places. But that is not street tamil, street tamil uses the ll instead of the zh, but if you use the ll in mazhai, as mallai - hill (single l, as malai, but close when spoken).

The initial greeting is a complicated thing, the word "vanakkam" along with the namaste gesture is understood by most people...but they may not respond the same way. If you want to be greeted on the street in tamil, you might have better luck when you say "eppidi ikkire", which is slangified for "eppidi irrukeengo", meaning how are you. the second one is somewhat respectable.

I would not use any of the greetings, except when i know the people. Strangers, just see if they start with a namaste, then respond, otherwise, just straight to business. Niceties work only when both parties have a lot of time on their hands.

It is not a difficult language to learn, an idiot like me can do it...and by the way, panni means pig.
#10 Jun 2nd, 2013, 20:01
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#10
I realised I got Hindi and Tamil confused there...oops...! Thanks for pointing that out! I was looking at my photos from my trekking trip in Nepal. One of the places we visited was Tatopani (literally 'hot water', I'm led to believe). I've made a similar mistake in mispronouncing aama (yes) as amar (mother). I'd do well not to remember not ask for a pig...

It's funny reading 'eppidi irrukeengo' for 'how are you'. I've learnt several forms for that - 'neengl nala irrukingala', 'eppudi irrukinga' and 'saokyimaa' meaning 'are you good', 'how are you' and 'are you healthy'. Everything always seems subtely different to what I had learnt before!

I've got a bit of free time at the moment so I'm working on the script and learning vocabulary. I'm doing some work at a local government school in August, Tamil-medium where I am teaching English so I need to improve my vocabulary dramatically before them. I'm able to converse in a basic manner already but teaching...that's another thing entirely.
#11 Jun 2nd, 2013, 23:25
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#11
Quote:
nala irrukingala
Is all my wife says, but it sounds like nalurkingla. That's seven (?) syllables reduced to four? Or is it just that my bad hearing isn't capable of resolving the others as they are so short?

Sowkyama? Mrs N says this is old-fashioned, and discourages me from using it (I learnt it long ago from the film song)
#12 Jun 3rd, 2013, 09:51
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#12
it is actually nalla - not nala. note the double l. which means it needs to be stressed at that point.

This is going to turn out worse than chinese, where the same word can be pronounced 4 different ways, leading to entirely different meanings

amma or thai is mother. amar is something like the british would say, who seem to add the letter 'r' to a few english words, or maybe my ears are shot.

Bringing you back, melai - up or above, malai - hill, maalai - garland ( note the double a, which means you have to elongate the 'a' sound) .

I am sure at some point, you are going to ask for a pig, and people are going to wonder what you want to do with it, or you will be left to wonder what to do with the pig you got as a gift.
#13 Jun 3rd, 2013, 14:37
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#13
Asking for a pig in a pure veg restaurant might cause a stir --- especially if you ask for a warm pig!
Quote:
it is actually nalla - not nala. note the double l. which means it needs to be stressed at that point.
Ahh! I never knew that the doubled consonant means it should be stressed. Nalla nai! (or should I say nalla panni!) and all that.

I don't think that Brits have trouble with words like amma or require a terminal 'r.' A problem for me is words that carry stress on the last syllable (eg names like Sudha, Suguna...) which feels extremely odd. Might be easier for Australians?
#14 Jun 3rd, 2013, 16:49
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#14
ah, Nick-H, i meant to say that the british seem to add an unnecessary 'r' at the end of some words (english), or maybe my ears are broken. I have heard some TV sitcom characters as well as people in real life talk that way. and needless to say, that word list example eludes me in my time of need

and for your enjoyment - bring a hot pig - soodana/sudu panni kondu vaango.
#15 Jun 4th, 2013, 10:50
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#15
@Nick-h, after racking my brains, i found one word. data. I have heard britishers/englishmen to be specific, say it as "datar". I cannot understand the scotsman when he speaks, the irish, well, i get lsot in their lilting music, and the welsh, i haven't met any yet.

I have come across this way of pronounciation in some tv sitcoms, and in real life too.

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