Shorthand not an outdated skill in this age of computers

In the last few decades, Tamil shorthand seems to have lost much of its sheen though there are plenty of job opportunities for those who possess the skill. At the District Employment Exchange office in Santhome, candidates who register are routinely advised to learn the skill as it would improve their chances of being placed. Trained stenographers and tutors say only a few take this advice seriously.

R. Anitha is one of them. The 22-year-old, who is studying for a master's degree in English through the distance education mode, travels every day from Tindivanam to Chennai to learn Tamil shorthand. “Three of my friends who have landed government jobs said preference is accorded to candidates who know Tamil shorthand,” she says.

At the Stenographer's Guild, T. Nagar, one of the few organisations that impart the skill, 22 students are learning Tamil shorthand. Shorthand tutor R. Meena says many students have joined the course “as it gives them an added advantage” during placement. Despite computers, the skill is useful, says a stenographer at the Madras High Court. “In Sessions court, judges dictate the judgments in their office rooms. Knowledge of Tamil shorthand is necessary,” she says.

The Tamil version of shorthand, which is based on Sir Isaac Pitman's English shorthand, was developed in the late 19th century. In the mid-20th century, the skill was made a pre-requisite for State government jobs. G. S. Ananthanarayanan, who refined the Tamil version of shorthand, says fewer people learn the skill though job opportunities in the State government abound for those who have mastered it. The book authored by him was made the only prescribed textbook on the subject. A good knowledge of English and Tamil will make one proficient in Tamil shorthand, he adds. According to D. Raghupathy, former secretary of Stenographer's Guild and now part of the secretarial staff in the Chief Minister's office, the skill offers plenty of opportunities for those hailing from middle class families. With the government planning to revive the Legislative Council, those who have learnt the skill stand a better chance, he says.

Some students of Tamil shorthand say it is difficult to access the textbook, which is priced at Rs.50. Students also call for more exercise books. S. Mohanasundaram, who is studying for the high speed examination, suggests introducing shorthand and typewriting courses from Standard X. Qualified stenographers registered with the Employment Exchange could be posted as tutors in schools until they are provided placement in government departments.

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R. SujathaJune 28, 2012