Two weeks with Tamil

So, I'm two weeks into Tamil. I have done 5 chapters of Colloquial Tamil, found some amazing Tamil you tubers and instagrammers and learned a little more about Tamil culture around the world. I've also managed to find 3 Tamil speakers through social media who have wished me well and who I have exchanged a couple of words with.

 I also made a first foray into written Tamil which has been really exciting! I have always admired how it looks but with over 200 letters, I wasn't sure I would even get them to them in a month. In the end a lovely person on instagram triggered it by replying to me in Tamil on instagram comment. I couldn't translate it in app so I had to work out how to use the Tamil key board on iPhone to type the message into Google Translate. Suddenly, by doing it, all the different letters started to make more sense and i got a little flash of insight into the patterns - so very satisfying!

 I'm enjoying myself but I also only have a tiny bit more Tamil than I did last week and I'm getting a bit distracted learning about more general culture in India - so I need to refocus. Therefore, I have booked a italki class in Tamil tomorrow.

Wish me luck!

Tamil resources:
Verb table Colloquial 
Tamil audios

Tamil Youtubers
Steffi Ulagam 

Day one with Tamil

Vannakum to my first day in Tamil!

I spent a lot of time reading about the culture and relationships of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lankan Tamil communities. The answer... it's complicated, probably more so than I can get a handle on through a bit of googling. I found this article on Tamil community relations in India and Sri Lanka and this article on Chinese and Indian influence in northern Sri Lanka very interesting.

My other task this morning was (importantly) figuring out what Tamil foods I could try locally. Mutton rolls look promising.

I then remembered about the language and did the first chapter of Routledge Colloquial Tamil. I can see why these books don't get the best reviews, you have to be pretty intrepid to pick up all the words that get thrown at you later. The word for sugar cane juice comes up in a random dialogue once and you're meant to remember it forever. Right.

This chapter taught how to introduce ourselves, pronouns, suffixes and the future conjugation for some useful verbs like eat and drink. Interesting the future tense is used to describe habitual actions. Third person pronouns and conjugations are used to be polite, so that all feels familiar although learning new endings literally sends me to sleep - I actually had to have a couple of naps during this chapter.

Written language is being introduced very gradually and in a way that's more focused on recognising words on signs than writing, so it looks like I might be illiterate in Tamil by the end of the month! Recognising the spoken verb conjugations and working out what they are is pretty hard. But oh well, it's day one....

The challenge of retaining this information and adding to it is on!

New project; languages of Croydon

"Dabbling" with other languages that aren't Spanish has always made me feel strangely guilty and dirty. It is so hard to get a language into your brain and it is so easily dislodged that focusing on anything that isn't Spanish just seems dangerous! I also had a weird hang up for a long time that having language books for languages you didn't know yet or weren't actively studying is decadent and wasteful. I don't know why... and I guess I'm cured now because buying language books is one of my favourite hobbies...

Since the lockdown started and I've been spending a lot more time in the suburb of London I live in, I have been thinking more and more about learning languages spoken by my neighbours and local communities in my area. As I have been getting more adventurous with cooking, I have been more curious than ever about the languages and cultures of the food I'm eating. I live in one of the most diverse cities in the world and love my local shops that sell food from a huge variety of cultures, and I want to learn more about them. Ellen Jovin's nine year blog to learn the languages spoken in New York has inspired me a lot.

So, I've decided as long as I can keep up my Spanish, I am just going to go for it and spend a month getting to know the basics of the main languages of my town that I haven't studied before. But on top of the language I also want to educate myself about the culture, food and history associated with each of them.

Right, so what does that mean in practice? Well, the last time the UK did a census was 2011 and another is due next year, so I figure that I will arrange my schedule to try get familiar with the local languages that I don't know before the new results are in!

In 2011, the top languages spoken in Croydon after English were the following. The ones that I have never studied about are highlighted:

  1. Tamil
  2. Polish
  3. Gujarati
  4. Urdu
  5. French 
  6. Portuguese
  7. Turkish
  8. Malayalam
  9. Spanish
My plan is to spend four weeks (ish) with each until the end of the year. That's not much time and I need to keep my foot on the gas with Spanish too, so I am going to follow a very simple roadmap for language dabbling from Marco Camilo
  • Learnt to present myself
  • Follow starter grammar structures
  • Memorise the names of my most frequently used objects
  • Practice different verb forms with the objects from step 3
I also want to research and write about the history and culture, find some local restaurants that serve food from each culture, and blog about the resources I found, so it could be a busy six months.

Lastly, I'm going to play it by ear with speaking to people. I'm not sure if that is realistic after a month beyond saying thank you, and I'm not sure where I will find language partners. I assure you that I won't just be looking for people who look like they might speak the months language and accosting them...

I'm excited for this project, let's see what I can do!