Literary Review

Language waves

Singapore recently celebrated the Tamil Language Festival, spearheaded by the Tamil Language Council. The festival, now into its ninth year, helps create avenues for Tamil Society to celebrate and enrich the language and to ‘Love Tamil and Speak Tamil’. The month-long festival was officially launched by S. Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister’s office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry.

The increasing westernisation has raised questions about the long-term existence of Tamil.  Against this backdrop, Singapore is the only country to hold a month-long festival for the language. When asked about the role of the Government in making this possible, Iswaran said, “The Government is committed to allocating the necessary resources to ensure the language continues to thrive in Singapore. The Tamil Language Council (TLC) was formed in 2000 under the auspices of the then Ministry of Information, Communication and Arts (MICA). The Council comprises representatives from the education sector, major community organisations, arts groups and the media who provide valuable inputs on matters pertaining to the language. Today, the National Heritage Board (NHB), under Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth (MCCY) provides secretariat support for TLC.”

The festival aimed at promoting functional use of Tamil via 40 programmes — carefully designed to remember the past, reflect on the present and think of the future — targeting all age groups. R. Rajaram, President, Tamil Language Council, said, “Each year, the Festival has evolved with more participation from the younger generation. It is important that we reach out to them through innovative programmes to make them like and speak the language so that the language lives over generations.” 

Vanna Tamil (Colourful Tamil) aimed to teach the Tamil alphabet to the kindergarten students through a competition of colouring the alphabets.  Ninaivukalodu kuthugalam (Fun with Memories), organised by the Sirpigal Mandram, took place in the old Hill Street police station and focused on teaching history through technology. Five themes based on Singapore history were given to 10 groups of schoolchildren. Each group had an iPad with the relevant links. The competition was to prepare a ‘Television News Segment’ in Tamil with an introduction, an interview with a historical character and a conclusion. 

‘Tamil Through Futuristic Technologies’ by S. Gunasegaran, a New Media Developer/Programmer, was about helping those who were keen on developing e-books and exposed students to usage of Tamil with latest technological advancements.

Scholars from Tamil Nadu — award-winning poet Mu Metha, Suki Sivam and Kudavayil Balasubramaniam — also spoke at the various events. Metha said, “In order to make language live, first we must make Tamilians live. Then, Tamil will automatically live.”

Innovative programmes like the use of Tamil in the commercial world, the dominance of Tamil in the computer, the importance of Tamil in the industrial sector were also a part of the festival. Other events included the staging of Kavi Charal based on Ka.Thu.Mu. Iqbal’s poems by the Avant Drama Group; tributes to Tamil scholars like Tiruvalluvar and Maraimalai Adigalar, cinema, story and screenplay writing workshops for children.

Asked for suggestions to enhance the TLF in the future, Iswaran said, “Activities that promote the language must be creative, fun-filled and enjoyable. They will build the students’ confidence to use the language beyond school. It is the attitude of the youth that will determine the relevance and importance of the language in the future.”

The writer is the editor of the e-magazine >Online Voice.


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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 10:53:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/literary-review/language-waves/article7164466.ece

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