Like English, the Thamil language contains a myriad
of spoken forms. The diversity of dialects is based on geography,
social class, and a number of other factors. These lessons do not
include complete information about the spoken language for precisely
that reason. It would be far too difficult to cover all the different
ways of speaking Thamil. Luckily, the vast majority of spoken Thamil
can be derived directly from written Thamil
Those students who dont
already know how to speak will start by speaking in grammatical
Thamil. It may sound funny to hear someone speaking in formal Thamil
all the time, but its a great way for the learner to practice
using the grammar. Usually the rules for converting grammatical
Thamil to spoken Thamil are fairly simple, involving the deletion
of certain syllables or changing of sounds. As learners gains more
and more speaking experience and listen carefully to how others
speak, they will learn how to translate the formal,
grammatical Thamil to colloquial, spoken Thamil.
Accent: Pronunciation and Intonation
Learning the proper accent is very important. Accent
is made up of a combination of things like pronunciation and intonation.
Pronunciation is how each syllable and word is formed. Intonation
is the emphasis or stress given to particular words or syllables
in a sentence when speaking.
For example, contrast
the intonation of the following two English sentences. Notice that
both are written exactly the same, but their intonation when spoken
acts to convey different meanings:
WHAT were you thinking? (or WHAT were you
What were YOU thinking?
English speakers in the Western world are used to hearing English
spoken in a variety of accents that reflect the mother tongues of
those speakers. Native speakers of Thamil are, however, not as familiar
with hearing Thamil spoken with different accents. For example,
the average Thamil person has never heard Thamil spoken with an
American accent. As a result, native Thamil speakers may find it
difficult to understand a learner whose accent reflects that of
a foreign language.
The best ways to master the Thamil accent are repetition and listening.
When using these lessons, read everything out loud to a native speaker.
Ask the native speaker to correct your pronunciation and intonation.
Then repeat the sentence out loud until you get it right. Also,
listen closely to the way people talk by memorizing the pronunciation
of every syllable and the pattern of intonation of the sentences.
Then, as soon as you are done hearing that phrase or sentence, say
it out loud and attempt to mimic what you just heard. If you can
reproduce the phrase or sentence exactly as it was said, then you
are well on your way to mastering the accent.
Accent is also a potential stumbling block for the learner. Unfortunately,
native speakers sometimes make fun of learners who speak Thamil
with a foreign accent. This can be very painful for the learner.
The best advice for the learner in this situation is to work harder
on your accent. Practice your pronunciation out loud when you are
by yourself. If certain words, phrases, or sounds are especially
troublesome, then say them out loud repeatedly until you can get
it to sound right. I once saw a poster of a dancer with the words,
Learn Tamil: Teach Your Tongue to Dance. The tongue
movements required of Thamil can be quite complex and seem very
rapid for the English speaker. It is unrealistic to expect to master
these tongue movements without a lot of practice.
One way to minimize teasing is to speak in a safe and protected
environment. You can start by speaking only at home with your parents,
family members, or with friends. Ask these people you trust to help
you improve your accent. When your accent gets better and you have
acquired more self-confidence, you can start speaking with others.
In conclusion, if someone makes fun of your accent, do not let it
bother you. Think of it as a challenge that can be overcome by hard
work. Keep practicing the pronunciation, intonation, and accent
until you correct your mistake.