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Mixing English with Tamil

K. Pitchai

TAMIL TRIBUNE, June 2010 (ID. 2010-06-01)
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OUTLINE

1. Introduction

2. My Visit to Panama and Mexico

3. Chinese and Vietnamese Television in America

4. Tamil TV Shows

1. Introduction

Tamil people of Tamil Nadu are mixing English words in their Tamil conversations in ever increasing numbers. When I was growing up just a few decades ago in a small village, the only English words my neighbors and friends used in their conversations were bus, police, cinema, and may be just a few more. Then I moved to a city for my college studies. Even there students did not mix too many English words with Tamil. Today it is a different story. English words like son, daughter, father, mother, uncle, aunt, night, morning, and hundreds of others are mixed in Tamil conversations. More so in cities than in villages but villages are also seeing the pinch.

2. My Visit to Panama and Mexico

Last year I went to Panama and Mexico on consulting assignments. Although the engineers I dealt with knew English well, I noticed that they talked among themselves in their mother tongue Spanish (unless the conversation included me). Interestingly their conversations among themselves were not mixed with English words. I mentioned this to a group of engineers in Mexico, and one of them replied, "We have our own language. Why do we want to use English words?" Tamil people can learn a few things from them.

3. Chinese and Vietnamese Television in America

After finishing my business visit to Panama and Mexico, I visited United States of America (USA) for sight seeing and to meet some family members living there. While sampling the various TV shows on American television, I came across some foreign language programmes. There was a cable/satellite channel devoted to Chinese programs and another for Vietnamese programs. Obviously that city had sufficient Chinese and Vietnamese population to make these channels viable and profitable. I sampled a few of these programs for a few minutes out of curiosity. It struck me that there was not a single English word in the programs I sampled. I watched more and I did not hear any English.

Some of these programmes were produced in their native lands (China, Vietnam) and broadcast by local American channels. Compare them to Tamil programmes produced in Tamilnadu. So many English words mixed with Tamil. Some of the Chinese and Vietnamese programs were produced in America itself. They were usually talk shows (interviews) or music/dance contests. I did not hear any English words even in these shows produced by American Chinese and Vietnamese. In music/dance contests the contestants were introduced by hosts in Chinese/Vietnamese without mixing English although these hosts might have been born in America or living there for many years. People also did not mix English with Vietnamese or Chinese in talk shows either, although the hosts and most guests are American born or living in America for a long time. Compare this with Tamil talk shows and contest shows produced in Tamil Nadu. So many English words mixed with Tamil. Our Tamil TV producers can learn a lot from the Chinese and Vietnamese TV producers.

4. Tamil TV Shows

Tamil TV shows are the biggest culprits in propagating the practice of mixing English words with Tamil. Tamil movies are not that bad but they do mix some amount of English unnecessarily. A song in a Tamil movie says, "Karuppu thaan enakku pidichcha colouru" (Black is the colour I like). What a pathetic situation. Newspapers and magazines also mix English words unnecessarily. "Fail aana maanavarkal" (students who failed), writes a newspaper.

I should mention that there are a few magazines, movies and TV shows that do make it a practice not to mix English words and use only Tamil words. They need recognition and our gratitude. Late Poet Perunjchiththiranar's Thenmozhi and Tamil Nilam, late Professor Ilakkuvanar's Kural Neri and presently Pazha Nedumaran's Then Seithi are examples of magazines that do not mix English with Tamil (as best as they could). The movie Vazhthukal directed by Seeman is said to have no English words in its dialogue or songs. Programmes on Makkal Tholaikatchi (Makkal TV) are almost free of English words although occasionally a guest in an interview show might mix a few English words with Tamil. There used to be a debate show "Tamil Pechchu Engal Muchchu" (Tamil Pechu Engal Moochu) on Vijay TV. I used to watch this show regularly and do not remember hearing any English words mixed with Tamil. Thus there are examples of a few magazines, movies and TV shows that protect the purity of Tamil. They deserve the support of Tamil people from around the world. [Editor's Note: If our readers know of other magazines, movies and TV programmes that promote pure Tamil, please write us.]

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