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Updated: March 8, 2014 13:00 IST

Kerala’s official lingo gets an English twist

Staff Reporter
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The Malayalam-English official language dictionary compiled by R. Sivakumar and A.R. Smita Shreyas. Photo: S. Mahinsha
The Hindu The Malayalam-English official language dictionary compiled by R. Sivakumar and A.R. Smita Shreyas. Photo: S. Mahinsha

Language expert R. Sivakumar has compiled an English-Malayalam official language dictionary

R. Sivakumar, a language expert at the Government Secretariat, has to attend flurry of calls on a daily basis, all of them from officers in various departments asking for the exact English translation of Malayalam words commonly used in official communication. He noted down in his diary, whenever he encountered a new word.

“There has been no set standard for translating words to English, which led to several confusing possibilities. A phrase like ‘minnal panimudakku’ used to get translated as ‘lightning strike’, though the accurate one is ‘flash strike,’” says Mr. Sivakumar.

This habit of noting down in his diary later led him to compile an English-Malayalam official language dictionary.

Helping him in compiling the dictionary was A.R. Smita Shreyas, an employee of the Land Revenue Commissionerate, who says she has been cultivating a ‘habit of collecting words’, ever since her college days.

Second edition

The dictionary, which was released last month by the Kerala Bhasha Institute, is already going into its second edition, having sold out the first imprint of 1,000 copies.

“The response from various departments has been very good, including the Secretariat. Though we have had many Malayalam-English dictionaries, this is the first one to compile all words used in official communication. But this is not a comprehensive work, as we had to limit the number of pages to make it useful as a handbook. Price considerations were also there,” says Ms. Smita.

One of the new translations that they claim to have introduced is the one for ‘dies-non’, which becomes ‘vethana vilakku’ in Malayalam.

Another one is ‘flagship programme’, which becomes ‘kaalika pradhanyamulla paripaadi’.

“But we have retained English words for some of the very commonly used words like ‘Director’.

We have also retained old Malayalam variants of the same,” points out Mr. Sivakumar.

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