A real area of concern

Today, Bharathi day was celebrated at my almamater PSBB School, Chennai and I had been to the event to watch my sons get their first prizes for various competitions.

When I reached the venue, a debate in Tamil on the topic “Have we created the India that Mahakavi Subramanya Bharati dreamed of?” was underway.  My elder son Anirudh was just then speaking that ‘although we are not there yet, we are on the way’. While he was very forceful and made some real valid points, I could sense his discomfort with Tamil phrases and choice of words.  The flow wasn’t there and the difficulty was visible.  But when he was adjudged the best speaker of the debate from his side,  I wondered about the fluency of the other speakers.

The students of Xth standard then conducted a quiz program in Tamil for those students who were not formally educated in tamil language.  While they did a good job of the event, I could again observe the halting manner in which they spoke in Tamil.

The chief guest of the event, a powerful orator in Tamil and an alumnus of the school read out a poem that he had composed for the event but it was sad that even he switched to English midway during his speech.

I could immediately relate to the status quo because my son and his classmates  seldom speak in Tamil to each other except in Tanglish phrases and hence when faced with the situation of having to speak only in Tamil, they found the going difficult.  And it is going to be worse in the days to come because once they complete Xth standard, they can drop the language totally from the curriculum.  Then, even the little exposure to the language would be lost.

I am deeply concerned about this because I believe that fluency in one’s mother tongue adds to one’s self-expression and can never be replaced by fluency in English.

Any suggestions?



  1. M Venglat said,

    December 12, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    I love first person shooter games and the weapons that a player is allowed to carry is limited. As you advance in the game, better weapons are unlocked and the strategy to win is to discard lower powered weapons and arm yourself with what will provide you the best defense and offense advantage!

    So it is with life! Tamil is wonderful and so are other languages.. But we have limited time and need to maximize our impact at work and socially in a global economy. We therefore pick a language that has wider acceptance. That is the essence of survival.

    Agreed, we lose touch with our cultural heritage but we make up by reading translations of works by great Tamil authors. We miss out on contemporary literature but that is a price we choose to pay.

    • badrirag said,

      December 13, 2011 at 1:50 am


      You have touched upon one more area that i intended to, in the post. And that is the habit of reading in one’s own native tongue, which is slowly fading away thanks to the preoccupations with the internet and computer games besides the intense competitive pressure brought upon on students. In fact, reading itself has come down a lot as we can in ourselves and in our own families. Reading a translation of a tamil book in english for example will anyway be a vicarious experience compared to reading the original.

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