The textbooks for the second semester of Civil and Mechanical Engineering streams (Tamil medium) will be ready in a month's time. However, experts and students wonder if there should be an equivalent Tamil term that corresponds to every technical term used in engineering subjects in English.
The initiative to introduce Tamil as a medium of instruction was taken as students tend to understand concepts better and to ensure that those coming from Tamil medium of instruction in school do not drop out of college.
For M. Arunraj, a Civil Engineering student of the College of Engineering, Guindy, the ‘thooya Tamil' (pure Tamil) used in the text books has been difficult to follow. In spite of being a Tamil-medium student at school, he finds a drastic shift in the standard of the language used in the engineering college books. “Iyarpiyal was the word used for ‘Physics' at school-level, while in college we use Boudeegam. Similar is the case of Disai oli, a translation for the computer mouse.”
S. Kanmani, who studied in an English-medium school, on the other hand, finds it relatively easy to grasp concepts when conveyed in her mother tongue. “The classes are conducted in communicative Tamil and whenever we do not understand, we ask for an English explanation. The corresponding English words are given for most technical words,” she says.
According to M. Sekar, Dean, CEG, initially commonly used Tamil and English words will be applied for better understanding. “We use internationally accepted units such as ‘Newton'. But over the years, the curriculum can evolve to include more Tamil words that describe the function of the object and therefore become easy to comprehend.”
Former Vice-Chancellor of Anna University V.C. Kulandaisamy, who is currently the chairman of a committee involved in consolidating and compiling a 14-volume Tamil technical dictionary, says: “Most of these words were formed and have been in existence for decades.” Some words from the dictionary will also be used while drafting the textbook. “But flexibility and a healthy mix of colloquial and classical Tamilwords is essential to make the books user-friendly,” he says.
Most students, including Kanmani, have chosen Tamil medium following the assurance that they will be given government employment. “But students should also be acquainted with English words as Tamil will be a handicap for those who choose to pursue postgraduate programmes,” she says.
Most professors and Tamil language experts believe that the effectiveness of this system and the familiarity with the Tamil terms would only come with the continued usage of words over a period. “Any word can be created and their prolonged usage would make it a household term. A few years ago ‘paerundu' was not recognised as a bus, but now it is part of our conversations,” says V. Arasu, Head, Department of Tamil Literature, University of Madras.