With World Classical Tamil Conference getting off to a gala start, Tamil enthusiasts are hoping that this conference would take steps towards creating an inter-governmental body to take the language to the next level.
“If the Conference is to be beneficial for Tamils, efforts should be made to set up an inter-governmental body for promotion of the language,” says K. Sachithanandan, formerly a consultant with UN, now writer, and founder of the publishing house Kaanthalakam and www.tamilnool.com.
There are 44 French speaking nations and they have such a body - Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, Mr. Sachithananthan says.
“So do countries that speak Spanish. The Association of Spanish Language, which regulates the Spanish language, was created in Mexico in 1951.”
He continues: “The Comunidade dos Países de Língua Portuguesa is the inter-governmental organisation for friendship among nations where Portuguese is an official language.”
Other major language groups like Arabic, (with 23 governments), and even Swahili and Malay, spoken in fewer nations, have similar bodies.
It is the reasoning of Tamil scholars that a language that has over 10 crore people speaking it in across 62 countries must also have a pan-national organisation.
V.Arasu, head of the department, Tamil, Madras University, says large groups of people, particularly in the South East Asian region, speak Tamil.
However, there are issues regarding standardisation of the language, its teaching and further development in the business and technology spheres.
Multiple commercial efforts are providing several varying inputs to the language and the lack of a standard, for instance, in the IT field is a big impediment, he says.
Mr. Sachithanandan explains that standardisation of technical terms in Tamil and regulating random development of web-tools are among areas of concern.
While the Virtual University is doing some of this, concerted efforts have to be made the world over. Teaching Tamil as a second language is another issue.
A pan-national body could resolve them, Dr. Arasu adds.
A.K.Perumal, former professor of Tamil, Aringnar Anna College of Tamil, Aralvaimozhi, says, “It is not as if this has never been attempted before. In the 18th and 19th centuries, missionaries who were fascinated by Tamil made efforts to set up such bodies.”
In the 1950s, Xavier Thaninayagam, a priest from Sri Lanka, tried to set up such an organisation in Europe.
However, after his death, there was no one to take it up. In fact, Dr. Perumal says, if there had been such a body in place it could have checked the propagation of myths that the Westerners took back home about India.
Translation of Tamil works into other languages could also be governed by such a Committee which will be empowered by virtue of the presence of governmental representatives on its board.
“These inter-governmental bodies (for other languages) work on a development agenda, meet regularly to look at problems and thrash them out to benefit the language. They are recognised and supported by UNESCO. Their decisions are implemented by member countries,” Mr. Sachithanandan says.
The hope is the Conference would facilitate the formation of such an institution and that Tamil would then reap the benefits of such a functional institution.