21 September, 2020

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The Story Of Doing It In Our Own Language

By Mahesan Niranjan

Prof. Mahesan Niranjan

Yesterday, in the pub, my partner – the Sri Lankan Tamil fellow Sivapuranam Thevaram – and I discussed education. It is topical in Sri Lanka, because we hear a lot about senior appointments, killing dogs, private medical education, admissions and the cruel treatment of freshers. My friend has observed some of the good and bad in the system, and the comparisons he makes with institutions elsewhere make interesting topics of conversation. Today we drifted into the medium of instruction, educating in Sinhala and Tamil, known as Swabasha. Thevaram described to me his early encounters with this policy, from his childhood memories.

One evening, the Sivapuranam family were seated at their dining table for a candle-lit supper. “Candle-lit?” you ask. You are annoyed that the family suffered from a colonial subject mind-set, trying to keep up appearances. Pause, I beg you, electricity had not reached the northern village of Karainagar, so candles and kerosene lamps were the sources of light.

Yet the villagers – who had neither electricity nor running water – had a thirst for knowledge. Just the previous month, several had gathered round a radio, listened to the running commentary on short wave of the Apollo 11 Mission and cheered loudly when the moon-landing was announced. Sivapuranam, Thevaram’s father, had enlisted two guys to climb up coconut trees in the backyard and construct an antenna for the valve operated radio, powered by a car battery.

Their dinner conversation started with the classic middle-class Tamil mother’s daily question to the son: “Putha (son), what did you study at school today?”

“We studied about carbon-di-oxide, mummy,” Thevaram replied.

Now, Sivakami did not know any Chemistry. But, having attended the village posh school, she knew English. This was enough for her to grasp that there was something called carbon which is the stuff she burnt in the stove, something called oxygen, which was essential to keep the fuel burning and somehow you needed one of the former and two of the latter to make the substance of which her offspring had become knowledgeable. She was pleased, yet a little humbled because she herself had spent three years in Hilltop, studying Sanskrit.

“Of what use is that?” Thevaram often teased her of her Sanskrit education.

“That is what scholarship was all about,” she would reply. “The suddha went to the posh schools of Eaton and Winchester, followed by Oxford or Cambridge to read Latin. So we did the same. And why do we need the suddha’s dead language, when we have our own dead language?”

Suddha did, we did, and we did it in ours. But we were proud when we did it in ours!

Joining the conversation, Penelope, Thevaram’s grandmother, also wanted to know what it was the boy had studied. “Enna raasa (what darling)?” she inquired. Penelope loved her grandson dearly and was very proud of the little brat. She insisted the grandson was fair skinned, though no sensitive optical instrument could detect this. He was just the same as the village farmers who spent the whole day in the scorching sun.

She had in her mind a hierarchy that was black and white — a ranking maintained to this day the world over, including in the marriage advertisements of the Ceylon Daily Noise and the Virkesari.

Now grandma Penelope did not know any Chemistry. She did not know any English either. Thevaram wondered how he could explain this newly acquired knowledge to his grandma.

There was a solution to Thevaram’s problem. It came from Sri Lanka’s (then Ceylon) Official Languages Department, an outfit established to facilitate bringing modern knowledge to our people via our own languages.

“Out with the suddha (white man), suddha way of life, suddha dress and suddha values,” thundered the nationalist Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. “From this day on, it will be us first, our way of life first, our dress first and our values first.”

His name was Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike and he was educated in Oxford!

Oxford Solomon wrapped himself in local attire when attending Parliament, portraying himself as the “Simple Somapala in sarong” he never was, to our gullible masses.

He hired many pundits and set up a department to invent terminology in our local languages so our people can have access to knowledge. The creation of any advanced knowledge, however, was not to be our business. The suddha was to continue with the pursuit of new knowledge, leading to discoveries and inventions. We only needed to invent our very own terminology as a way of communicating in our very own languages. So, thanks to the pundits in Solomon’s service, Thevaram had a solution.

Ammamma (grandma), we studied about carboneeroxide,” replied Thevaram. Written hyphenated as carbon-eer-oxide, we note the Tamil prefix “eer” inserted before oxide says there had to be two oxygen atoms.

Penelope did not find this particularly helpful. She extracted the “neer” in the middle and thought this had something to do with water. She topped up Thevaram’s glass from the jug of water on the dining table. Sivakami gave her mother a disapproving look. Realising quickly that she got something wrong, Penelope repeated her question: “enna raasa?”

Such situations, too, have been thought through by Banda’s pundits. In a second line of defence, they had invented another term for the substance, focusing on a functional description.

Thevaram answered: “Ammamma, we studied about kariyamilavaayu.”

Penelope knew vaayu was gas, but the remainder didn’t make any sense. “What is kariyamilam?” she queried. “That – kari amilam — Ammamma, means kaachcal soda (fever soda),” he explained, referring to carbonated water, the fizzy drink Penelope would offer him whenever he had a common cold or fever – a drink made by dissolving carbondioxide in water.

There is no medical basis of carbonated water curing any illness, but Penelope was a talented salesman. It was well known in the village that she could sell ice cream to Eskimos. Had she lived in modern Britain, she could have been the salesman who took the British Labour party to power and the country to war. Such was her skill that she exploited placebo effects to the maximum and persuaded Thevaram that his fever was being cured by this magic medicine — carbonated water.

But what caught Penelope’s attention was the “kari” in “kariyamilam”, which meant black (or charcoal), and she was profoundly uncomfortable with this. How could her fair (skinned) grandson think she was feeding him some black liquid? “Illai raasa (no darling),” she objected, “kaachchal soda karuppu illai, athu vellai (the soda is not black, it is white).” Sivakami – with no knowledge of Chemistry, but with decent command of English – kept quiet.

She knew she was the lucky one.

Some forty years later, at a conference held at UpNawth University in Sri Lanka, two friends were seen in the audience, listening to a research paper being read. One of them – with balding head and payasam belly — was my drinking partner. The other was an adorable and energetic young teacher in that university, who had an admirable level of concern for the plight of the people around him. Listening to the seminar, the friends looked at each other, their eye contact speaking a thousand words. They then stared at their toes in embarrassment. The social science question the researcher was reporting was poorly posed, the statistical methodology flawed and his presentation appalling. “Where and when did it go wrong and where do we start to fix this,” the friends asked each other, without uttering a word.

The following day, with considerable sadness, Thevaram reported what he and his friend witnessed to Sivakami, in one of the last conversations he had with the mother, during which they also remembered the carbondioxide conversation with grandma Penelope.

“It started with Swabasha education, putha” Sivakami sighed, “the rot that set then, we had no chance of reversing.

“To know the hypocrisy of those who favour that step, all you need to do is to ask where Banda’s children schooled. It is all about recommending to others’ children what you don’t to your own.

“Gullible masses and adventurist nationalists fell for the tricks.

“Just the same way they sent thousands of kids to war and death.

“But never their own.”

Back in the pub, “but, you were judging from a single conference talk,” I objected. “What kind of statistical inference is that?”

“I was educated in Tamil medium, machan,” Thevaram retorted, “with our very own approach to scientific methodology of thousands of years. We don’t need the Suddha, no?”

“How so?” I asked.

“The state of a pot of rice, you can tell from a single grain,” he claimed with noticeable Tamil pride, translating an old proverb. 

“Cheers,” I said, raising my glass of Peroni.

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Latest comments

  • 10
    0

    Doing it in Tamil (or Sinhala) poses issues. The way we adapted mathematics and science was flawed owing to conflict between linguistic conservatism and modernism.

    The language of mathematics is based on the grammar dominant European languages.
    In Tamil or Sinhala, A=B will become A, B, =
    meaning A and B and (are) equal.
    And
    2, 5, 7= or desirably 2+ 5+ 7=
    meaning 2 and 5 and 7 equal.
    (Placing an ‘and’ after each item of a group is linguistically correct.)

    If South Asians had developed algebra before others, it would have been based on the logic of their languages following the Subject Object Verb (SOV) word order.
    The problem then would have been for the Europeans. But things did not happen that way.

    The challenge was to adapt to a European linguistic environment with a SVO structure.
    Things had to be thought through. There were lessons to learn. There were weaknesses in these matters.

    On the positive side, Tamils and Sinhalese (not other South Asians) fully adopted Roman numerals.
    (Tamil numerals are used only ritualistically; in North India or Karnataka an outsider cannot read number plates.)
    Tamil and Sinhala had no punctuation earlier, but adopted punctuation before science entered the scene. It was initially limited to a few symbols. Now we use the whole range, and rules are being clearly stipulated only now.

    Purists had lost the battle on basic issues. But traditionalism pervades all fields as an obstacle to modernity, especially in coinage of terms and formulation of scientific statements.

    I do not want to bore the reader with examples, but we could have learned a thing or two from the Japanese (whose language is SOV like ours) as well as the Chinese (with an SVO language) and other people with languages vastly different from European languages.

    • 4
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      Mr. SJ’
      “On the positive side, Tamils and Sinhalese (not other South Asians) fully adopted Roman numerals. (Tamil numerals are used only ritualistically; in North India or Karnataka an outsider cannot read number plates.)”
      You are mistaken.Sinhalese /Tamils never adopted Roman numerals (I, II,…X) What we have are Arabic (or Hindu) numerals.
      In India, all number plates currently use English letters and numbers, just as we and the Chinese do.

      • 3
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        Romani
        Thanks.
        It was a slip. I meant Arabic numerals.

        What I saw in India was as late as 2006.
        If a change has taken place, I am glad to hear.

      • 1
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        Romani
        I should correct myself. There was legislation in 1989 prescribing Roman letters + Arabic numerals. But it also allowed local languages.

        In many states a bi-lingual system was in operation. By now, it must have declined very much towards all Roman-Arabic.

        The point is that Tamils & Sinhalese, commendably, did it on their own decades before the rest.

    • 2
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      Prof. Mahesan Niranjan

      RE:The Story Of Doing It In Our Own Language
      (294 Words)

      “She was pleased, yet a little humbled because she herself had spent three years in Hilltop, studying Sanskrit.”

      “Of what use is that?” Thevaram often teased her of her Sanskrit education.

      “That is what scholarship was all about,” she would reply. “The suddha went …same. And why do we need the suddha’s dead language, when we have our own dead language?”

      “Suddha did, we did, and we did it in ours. But we were proud when we did it in ours!”

      Thanks for the write up on the Ego of the Para-Sinhala and Para-Tamils, based on the Ego of the Para-Suddha in their own dead ancient languages, Sanskrit (also Pali) and Latin. They all need those dead languages because that was part of their old cultures, but they do have their place, only on a relative basis, based on its utility. The utility was unfortunately, the Ego, the Sewabasha Ego.

      On the picture you had the quadratic equation, that was developed by Islamic mathematicians, and the used the Arabic letters for am b and c. The Greeks used the Greek letters for naming the Geometric Figures.

      Can you imagine the mess the Swabasha would do to calculus was no calculus when Sanskrit and Pali reigned supreme.

      ISLAMIC MATHEMATICS – AL-KHWARIZMI

      His book is considered the foundational text of modern algebra, although he did not employ the kind of algebraic notation used today (he used words to explain the problem, and diagrams to solve it But the book provided an exhaustive account of solving polynomial equations up to the second degree, and introduced for the first time the fundamental algebraic methods of “reduction” (rewriting an expression in a simpler form).

      http://www.storyofmathematics.com/islamic_alkhwarizmi.html

  • 8
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    European languages acquired many things in course of history. Deficit of symbols was met using simple and capital letters (a distinction that arrived rather late in many languages), and Greek symbols— now Gothic too.
    Universal symbols in mathematics and science (chemistry especially) was a modern development. We have no choice in this matter now.

    Thus I think there is much to rectify in science in Sinhala and Tamil. Some of which are the result of blindly following word order in English as well as sentence structure.

    Stringing of sentences together is fairly simple in English, but not in Sinhala or Tamil.
    Qualifiers pose an issue as Sinhala and Tamil have adverbs which precede the verb in contrast to English where it follows the verb.
    These make translation hard to one who desires to preserve phrase order.
    What are postfixes in Sinhala and Tamil are at times prefixes in English. That could confuse glossary work.
    Agglutination (junctural fusion of letters) is a bigger issue in Tamil than Sinhala.
    Scholars of language and scientists need to work together. But people who learned science in Sinhala and Tamil have survived, despite the difficulties.
    Our task is to make learning easy.
    We cannot dismiss lightly the effort that went into producing glossaries in many subjects from mid 1950s to mid-1960s. There are defects, but Tamil achieved far more here than in Tamilnadu.
    Revision of glossary terms to make them more comprehensible is important. It is easy to laugh at the efforts of people who worked under difficult conditions. We should appreciate their efforts while building on what has been achieved.
    Modernization demands adaptation, not imitation. That seems the challenge that we need to face.

    • 7
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      We must read, mark, and inwardly digest these comments. And also be grateful that there are acute minds like those of Dr SJ.

      Unless we can think of a way in which we can make something like 80% of our population fluent and confident in USING a World Language, we must continue to foster effective education in the two Swabasha streams. And the Sinhalese and the Tamils (who are genetically nearly identical) MUST learn each other’s language.

      My Belgian neighbour has just returned from Goma a town in the Congo, just a mile from the Rwandan border. He’d spent quite a few years in an area of the Congo in the close to the Atlantic about 40 years ago. Some of the problems remain the same, but all people below 50 now use good French. And in the case of French, the language has not allowed dialects to sprout. Spanish also is a more rational choice for a World Language.

      I’ve spent a lifetime teaching English. What a mess the language has become with it being used any old way right round the world! What a variety of dialects! Yet, Jacques and I are agreed on one thing: if anybody seriously suggests jettisoning English and teaching some other World Language in Sri Lanka, we ought to get a psychiatrist to certify that such a person is unable to assess the total situation in Sri Lanka (its history, the passive knowledge of English that 80% of the population do have, and the still growing dominance of “English” world-wide). Having so certified those lunatics, and locking them up in Angoda, we ought to set about implementing a scheme to teach just these three languages.

      Do, we allow other languages to be taught? Certainly, but don’t allow that to subvert our effort to teach the three National Languages effectively.

      It’s not going to be easy, but there has been no consistent political policy on this. Let us committed academics work out the implementation. Scholars will always disagree on details, but we must listen to those, like SJ, who are intelligent and logical in their thinking on these matters. I’m younger than he is, but still a bit over the hill. We need younger people to undertake the work, but I’m sure that SJ and I can contribute something. And there’s now all the new technology available; but again, it has to be intelligently applied.

      Thanks, Niranjan, for so effectively highlighting the problems we face. Your brother, Nirmalan, and you, are certainly doing us a lot of good, and let’s be grateful that Sivakami and Penelope brought you up the way they did.

      • 2
        2

        SM: Why set your fairness threshold for English at 80%, when you can only afford to have some 6-8% of the population in tertiary education anyway? Isn’t streaming some 3% or so into English medium at an earlier age (without testing for prior competence in English) a better alternative?

        • 6
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          Sorry, Nag A. Nanthi,

          I have to disagree with you on all counts, but I’m glad you’ve responded.

          Most glaringly, how can you stream as few as 3% into the English medium at a very early age? Is it on the basis of wealth or social standing? If you arbitrarily shut out 97% from “World Education”, you’ll be sitting on a volcano of resentment.

          Internet use is spreading, but unfortunately more through the superficial use of mobile phones than than with desk-top computers. There’s so much English that could be accessed through large, comfortable to use, desk-top computers. My experience is that people ought to get themselves slightly outdated desk-top components which are now so incredibly cheap. What I find is that the “Mother-boards” of well known brands last a long while, whereas if you assemble a supposedly up-to-date computer with the parts purchased here and assembled, the mother boards give way.

          I have a very honest and sincere computer guy who’s been guiding me. About seven years ago, he did assemble for me, and now he is nice enough to accept the mistake. This is a bit of digression!

          More to the point: English is something that ALL (I didn’t want to insert an unrealistic 100%) our people will need. All four skills – and I could give you links to guide all towards a fuller life! At this moment, I’ve been downloading in to pen drives lots of the music of Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert. You can play them on smart T.Vs. Also lots of interesting speakers of English. My only problem is that I can’t make money once I give away these secrets!

          I learnt a great deal of English from BBC radio. How much more is now available.

          I see the main problem that we’ve had with teaching English is that tuition masters have got people imagining that they should learn the rules of grammar, in terribly boring contexts. Also, vocabulary cannot be properly learnt from lists of words; they should be assimilated through usage. I know what would thus get developed thus are the passive skills. We may have to discuss Writing and Speaking separately.

          Prof Mahesh Niranjan’s field is computing. His observations, please?

          • 6
            0

            SM:

            When I suggested throwing 3% into English medium, I wasn’t saying the other 97% should not study English. Of course they should study English, too; but need not study advanced topics in the English medium. They don’t now, anyway.

            At present, you have 8% going into university (may be a bit more). I estimate just under 3% goes into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Medicine) and other research based subjects in which access to modern knowledge is better available via English. It is to these people, I want a better deal than what Swabasha now offers.

            And there are examples of people who had access to such good knowledge — particularly via their good English skills — who are back in Sri Lanka today, and have established successful companies (in computing!) that employ hundreds of Swabasha educated graduates.

            So — you can test at 16 on science and maths aptitude (not English or social background), filter out 3% and offer 16-18 education in the English medium. That will help them ramp up and achieve high standards in science and technology, and they might become the next generation lecturers and CEOs of startup companies. The plan also has the added benefit that this nutter Mr Thevara and his “adorable friend UpNawth” need not feel embarrassed to see a talk based on flawed research and poor presentation.

            Make sense now?

            • 2
              0

              Yes, now that you have specified “earlier age” as not something like 5 years; and in fact you’ve got your social perspectives right by stating clearly that prior knowledge of English, and social status do not count. It makes sense, but as a man who’s been teaching English, there are a few counter observations that I’d like to make. I’m not making out that ALL that I’m saying has to be accepted. You may be able to suggest ways of overcoming what I see as obstacles.

              A lot of effort went in to the writing of a “different” sort of book for Grades 12 & 13 in 1999. It is going to be replaced only in August this year. I don’t do school teaching any more, but I’ve seen something of the excellent efforts to replace, three months from now. Unfortunately, bureaucracy is messing it up. What do you make of the fact that a “Teachers’ Guide” was written in December 2016, without the Course Book (the actual teaching material) having been even thought of – and that task was going to be assigned to other writers. I haven’t done any checking on this since then. I’m a guy who feels that teachers should have their chores reduced by incorporating a reliable “Answer Book” into the “Guide”. Instead, the Guide will provide challenges for the teachers to work out lots of theory and apply them to the texts.

              Those writing the Guide were NOT wanting to be so sadistic. This was a decree issued by those above, who have done no teaching of English, and wh seem to imagine that the task before us in not promoting learning, but getting teachers to work.

              I look forward to hearing more from you (and making more observations myself), but may I make this point which almost all in the schools system know: competition at A. Levels in the three “main subjects” is so keen, that few students put much effort in to English learning at this stage.

              What I feel could and should be done, is to let the kids relax for three weeks after their exertions at A. Level exams, and then show them how they could set about acquiring English from all the technological resources that are now available. These resources
              are now available to the majority (unless conservative parents have imposed bans). I know that up to 20% of the population may not have them, but let’s hope the IDEAS percolate.

              More to follow, Nag A. Nanthi, after you make your comments, hopefully!

              • 1
                0

                SM:
                How best to teach English, or how best to teach with English as medium of instruction, is not within my area of expertise. But I know for sure the cost of trying to do it in “our language(s)”, driven by a false sense of nationalism, and that is, much modern knowledge is inaccessible to those in our society who can benefit from such knowledge and make life better for the rest of us — the university lecturers, the people who can form high-tech start up companies etc. And if we look around, English medium education is all around us — there is a significant population, from the more affluent section of the SL society, who are educating their children in the English medium, targeting higher education overseas. Some of those children are actually back in SL, and I know they have had access to much better knowledge than our Swabasha graduates. So all I am saying is, give such opportunities to our poor as well — the small percentage that can benefit from it, instead of hiding behind slogans of how old and wonderful our own languages are, and how clever and hard working we have been in inventing Sinhala and Tamil words for all those advancements the Suddha has come up with.

          • 3
            0

            Sinhala Man,
            ” What I find is that the “Mother-boards” of well known brands last a long while, whereas if you assemble a supposedly up-to-date computer with the parts purchased here and assembled, the mother boards give way.”
            I am surprised that you (presumably a non-techie)made this very valid observation. The reason is that though all computers nowadays are made in China, they supply parts whose quality depends on how much the customer is prepared to pay. So a used computer from Australia may last longer than a brand new one bought here. Why not then import cheap used computers? This is against the interests of :
            1. Microsoft, which regularly upgrades its software so that you are forced to buy a new PC
            2. The importers of new computers, who have convinced the government that old PC’s cause pollution.

      • 2
        0

        SM thanks for the qualified compliment. But there is nothing that ‘intellectuals’ can do until the public wakes up to the crisis.
        1
        Under Napoleon, not just dialects of French were suppressed, but also Breton and Norman. The French state still follows an oppressive policy in contrast to the tolerant language policies of the USSR and China, and now the more progressive countries of Latin America.
        In Britain, the killing was subtle on the main island but openly cruel in Ireland.
        2
        The attitude of Tamil scholars for long towards the lack of symbols for the modern phonemes of Tamil (distinct units of sound that can distinguish one word from another) was to deny the existence of a problem.
        The scattering of the Sri Lankan Tamils across the globe should have driven home the point. But response id slow. An interim solution was proposed in 1976 and later in a long paper co-authored by Prof T Kandiah around 1982.
        One or two adopt the proposals. Dr Sumathi Sivamohan has used the letter “B” the way one would any Tamil consonant symbol to represent the ‘b’ sound.

        Things take time, but are happening nevertheless.
        Recent revisions in some of the Tamil glossaries made under the Canada-funded Tri-Lingual Project of the Official Languages Department are healthy moves. Sinhala will benefit sooner than Tamil, which has tremendous inertia in the land mass to the north of Jaffna.

        • 1
          0

          // Recent revisions in some of the Tamil glossaries […] are healthy moves.//

          Would you know where one can find these, please?

          • 1
            0

            The Official Language Department at Rajagiriya has them as soft copy.
            It maintained a website with the glossaries for comment but that may not be around.
            I will make inquiries and get back to you soon.

          • 0
            0

            Vanthi A. Thevan
            The following is the website
            http://giclk.info/live/web/

            Tri-lingual glossaries for Tamil Literature, Law, IT, Civil & Mechanical Engineering, Building Construction, Mathematics, Physics, and Botany are among the items there. The project ended some 5 years ago.

            • 1
              0

              SJ: Many thanks. This is very useful.

        • 1
          0

          Dear SJ,

          That was meant to be a full-blooded compliment; nothing is qualified by me in THIS context.

          You might well NOW exclaim, “there comes the qualification”! Correct, but do we have to drag UoJ V.C. Elections in to every conversation that we have?

          • 0
            0

            SM
            You do when you introduce qualifiers.

          • 0
            0

            BTW
            Where did I drag in anything?
            I only wondered about the implications of “…these matters”.
            I think that you can do without unduly complimenting some of us.

          • 1
            0

            I don’t know why SJ is hanging the munthani (saree) of Miss Vasanti? Congratulations for SJ’s service as other stooges in University of Jaffna doing.

            • 0
              0

              SM
              You started this—
              and *** **** seems to follow to destroy serious comment.

              • 1
                0

                SJ,

                My apologies. Let’s see what we can do more constructively!

  • 2
    1

    “Out with the suddha (white man), suddha way of life, suddha dress and suddha values,” thundered the nationalist Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. “From this day on, it will be us first, our way of life first, our dress first and our values first.”

    The oppressed and the oppressor are fools. Why should the oppressor care about the unquestioning oppressed? GGP, SWRD, MR, to name a few political leaders, wanted to fool their followers and they exploited the situation in their favour.

    Can you name a Sri Lankan leader in the past or present with a vision or compassion?

    The oppressed are incapable of knowing why they are in poverty and backward while countries that gained independence long after Sri Lanka are prosperous and are advancing.

    Even today the middle class or affluent educate their children in the language of ‘sudha’ while the masses send theirs to swabasha medium schools only to lengthen the queues of unemployed graduates.

    Who cares?

  • 3
    0

    TAMIL DIASPORA IS DOING TIRELESS WORK FOR THE POLITICAL RIGHTS OF NORTH AND EAST OF SRILANKA. THANKS TO THEIR EFFORTS.
    IT TAKES ONLY A FRACTION OF THAT EFFORT TO ENHANCE THE EDUCATION AMONG TAMILS IN S.L. AT THE MOMENT NORTHERN PROVINCE HAS THE WORST GCE EXAM RESULTS IN THE ISLAND. CAN I APPEAL TO OUR DIASPORA INCLUDING THE AUTHOR OF THIS ARTICLE TO FOCUS ON THE EDUCATION AND JOB CREATION IN NORTH AND EAST.

    • 4
      0

      Ramesh go ahead and introduce Prof. Niranjan any specific programs he can work on to improve Tamils well being.

      I would recommend for him(Prof:Niranjan) to submit his Resume if the election was cancelled at UOJ and if the VC position advertised. Not just me, a big quantity from CT would like a new blood in UOJ. It is the activists jobs to see the election get cancelled when it was not satisfactory. Suppose… suppose… suppose, then it will be a No.1 opportunity for a neutral person to turn around the education there.

      • 1
        0

        Ramesh,

        Can you be more specific on what can be done to “TO ENHANCE THE EDUCATION AMONG TAMILS IN S.L.”.

        I give you an example of failure of Dispora’s efforts. We gave material and educational facilities to a school in a disadvantaged village. We built class rooms, science lab, computers (also dept of Education helped) , computer lab, additional tutors and teachers to teach Maths, English and Sc. (to teach during and off normal hours) and Tamil newspapers. We could not find IT teachers.

        The principal has stopped the tutors teaching out of school hours because no one is prepared to stay on to supervise, converted the reading room into a class room to teach Maths to ‘slow learners of Maths)saying the department wanted him to divide the maths class of year 11 into two and no other other room is available. IT is not taught because of lack of teachers.

        Parents with transport facilities take their children to nearby schools. The numbers are falling year by year, for example, this year they lost 47 children including 12 just after 5th year – scholarship exam) which leaves the total number at 157.

        Please spell out how the Diaspora can help?

        • 1
          0

          Was the feasibility of the project discussed with the school and the local educational authorities before launching the project? Without getting the community involved not much can be achieved.

          What happened to the science lab?

          Did any of the sponsors of the project inquire from the principal and find ways to keeping the project going?

          • 0
            0

            SJ,

            Yes, the project was discussed and the approved. New principal and a new Zonal Director of Education were appointed since then.

            Before the NPC election we were advised to get permission from the provincial governor to build anything in the school premises. Before building of the science lab the secretary to the governor said their priority was to resettle the IDPs (difficult to comprehend the connection between their priority and utilisation of foreign money for the construction of the lab). To overcome the blockade former Zonal Director advised us to contact the services of Sewa Lanka which built a hall at a cost of Rs.24,00,000 which was later furnished and equipped by the old-students of the school. Local builders estimated the cost of the building at nearly 9,00,000.

            After the NPC election several buildings were constructed without much fuss.

            The new principal wants financial help to do everything his way but not prepared to supervise external tutors coaching the students after school hours.

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    Prof Mahesan Niranjan
    In the proverb you stated the pot of rice(UpNawth uni)- not multiple pots with various kinds of rice- has all the variables constant ie probably most or almost all the lecturers are Tamil medium educated, appointments are made according to political affiliations and personal contacts and not based on merits, products from war traumatised community studied under very difficult conditions with very limited access to books and modern technology. So just the taste of a single rice is enough to infer about the quality of the rice of the whole pot. Also, Thevaram would have read and heard about the quality of teaching in UPNawth Uni from various reliable & disgruntled sources and could have inferred the same qualitatively after listening to one conference talk. It is an accepted form of research methodology in analysing behavioural patterns. Hence it can be inferred that the thousand year old Tamil approach to scientific methodology in the stated proverb is in relation to qualitative research. You were referring to quantitative or conclusive assessment and as Ramesh advised rather than keep pondering on the methodology diaspora intellectuals can do well in contributing to improve the educational system.

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    Niranjan,
    Bandas and Ponnas were our political leaders and they belong to 0.1% of elite & super rich class of the country. I guess it was correct, when they set national policies, Bandas and Ponnas did use requirements of 99% of general public instead of their super rich children’s requirements. Because whether they implement “Swabasha” & education policies or NOT, those Banda-Ponna rich children would get best education in SUDDA language.. Weren’t they?
    Bandas and Ponnas supposed to setup policies, that was their responsibly but they were NOT subject matter specialists of education, languages, human physiology. These Subject matter experts were supposed to find best practices and most effective ways to implement those policies for the betterment of general public which they belong too . You correctly identify this group as “the rot that set then”… But who was that “rot”? Weren’t they your fathers and my fathers who were middle class elites, subject mater experts and bureaucrats..
    I think it is time to stop putting 100% of the blame on past & current politicians and wait till political messiah would appear and save us all. We should try to understand the contribution & responsibility of our fathers in the past to this mess and our contribution to the same today and fix our issues.

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    Prof Niranjan
    “Suddha out We do it our way”
    I have no comments for the Sinhala equation. But in relation to the Tamil example I am pleasantly surprised that you have chosen a triangle to illustrate your point. Deliberate or Coincidence? Probably the latter. Triangle symbolises akkanna (akathiyam) in Tamil alphabets as ayutha ezhuthu. Left dot indicates vowel;Right dot consonant & the centre dot vibration eg A+kk= Ka. Akkanna The triangular letter is an all important alphabet in Tamil language. “The Soul of Tholkappiam – A new theory on Valluvam” published by American Journal of Engineering Research. American Journal of Engineering Research (AJER)
    e-ISSN : 2320-0847 p-ISSN : 2320-0936 Volume-03, Issue-12, pp-23-33 I thought you will appreciate the beauty of the language and the scientific approach by the philosophers to the wisdom embedded in the language thousands and thousands of years ago more than myself since you are in an intellectual environment and in possession of the necessary knowledge to understand the analysis. Tamil language is based on logical approach. That much I can deduce. I truly wish that you will take interest, collaborate with Tamil scholars in various fields in the Western world and do write-ups so that we shall learn more. Karunanidhi of Tamilnadu has failed us miserably, in not encouraging and funding Tamil scholars to honour the language its place it deserves.
    daya – descendant of Nakkeran

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    I think It is Bertrand russle who talked very high about Sanskrit over English. I heard NASA is using Sanskrit for some other ourposes, one reason being Sankrit is good for programming purposes. Magadhi the Mother language of Sanakrit is said to be the oldest language which does not die.

    One problem, in building maths in other languages is peoples inabilioty or mostly dislike to adapt to something new.

    It is like Tamils can talk the majority language in Trinidad, Camaron. they migrated to Europe, Norway like countries after 1983 and now they talk very good in those languiages. Yet, they can not talk in sinhala because Tamils are a majority in south India.

    Again, when I Read Karainagar did not have light instead had only Kerosene oil, but looking at the school, it looks very different.

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      Jimmy,
      Can you name one software which is written in Sanskrit? I am curious.

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        yusuf:

        You are a dumb pig. Generally pige are intelligent.

        NASA is meddling with Sanskrit.

        How about your language Arabic ?

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        Yusuf:

        I know you are a journalist.

        Becasue of the question you asked,

        Now I know yu are a mottaya journalist, who doe snot know much, but, when you donkeys write, you make your article written by a smart as.

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          Mr. Jimmy
          It is better to be a smart ass than dumb ass, no?

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        Dear Yusuf,

        I can use computers only in a basic sort of way, and I don’t know any Sanskrit. But see if this link contains anything that interests you:

        https://medium.com/@dmitrypavluk/we-should-thank-sanskrit-for-the-21st-century-e771b6c12f14

        I can’t help you beyond that. It so happens that my father gave me the first name, Panini; so I’ve been pretending all my life to be a pundit!

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          Thank you Mr.S Man.

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            Yusuf
            Developing software in Arabic will be a easier than in South Asian Languages.
            The letters are alphabetic (although there is some merging which is not a big issue) and the grammar is not very different from Hebrew or European languages I guess.
            If they can print using computers in Arabic, programming is no issue. It is a matter of market demand.

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      Here we are looking at two different aspect- programming language and Natural language.
      All programming high level languages follow English grammar. I do not know if Germans, Russians…… Japanese have something for them. But they are still mathematical formulae- not a language, in the sense we use. Now they have passed more generations and I do not know their stages. (Mine is early 1990s, and I gave up at there).
      Programing languages are like raw materials. It is like one use the brick to build a house. Then the command language comes (Natural). Let us assume that is the langue the occupants of the house going to use. So you can build a house with brick, wood, concrete, mud….. But the occupants are going to have decided what at this house they want to speak .i.e Sanskrit or Sinhala or Tamil or English.

      English is modern, scientific, business language. What that means is the amount of the books, amount of the people using it, available translation…..None of them really is touching how the language constructed. Let me exaggerate on this a bit. English is notorious in its grammar, notorious in its pronunciation, notorious in of over simplified consonants. Letters have only about 20 consonants but language may be having more than 100. Vowels are only 5 but the language is using more than 20. There are many problems in grammar, pronunciation and writing. I cannot bring all here.

      If we say “do you eat?” that is a question. But if want to say please go ahead and you start to eat, I can say “Do – you eat!” To bring out the 2nd meaning I use the voice tone in the form of command and not in the form of inquiring.

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        Mallaiyuran,
        Programming languages have a VERY strict grammar, unlike spoken languages where you get the drift in spite of grammatical mistakes.
        For example, in BASIC, which is very close to normal English, you can write: IF x=5 THEN y=0 , which works. But IF x=5 , y=0 doesn’t work. IF is always followed by THEN
        Here the English words are only tokens which are interpreted by the computer into its own language. I hear there ARE Chinese and Hindi versions of various languages.
        If you think English is complicated, try Chinese. The same word or syllable might have six different meanings depending on the tone you use it in.

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          Codger,

          I was replying to Jim softy who said NASA was trying to use Sanskrit. I was replying to him that NASA was not looking at the programming part of the computers. Computers don’t have any languages. They just know on/off. Low level programming can go without any language at all- that is 0101010101010— I am not sure but Intel and other may not have stated to manufacture processors work with Hindi or Chinese. Those who use those languages may still have to feed to Intel, Micro Computers’ chip with Hindi- English mapping. To use language with computers first step is to develop ASCII for their language. The ASCII I have come across so far is only for English. If Hindi programmers had named their ASCII in different way, of cause it will not clique on my google fishing.
          NASA wanted the computers start to think like human being. That is far away from programming. Of cause Sanskrit which died 2000 years ago never did know what a basic algebraic formula is, though the word we use சூத்திரம் comes from Sanskrit. NASA was looking into two options; one is to create a perfect language from zero or adopted a language near perfection and fixes it. Both had their advantages and disadvantages. That was the time they were evaluating Sanskrit and dropped it out. It was for just using a language like you and me using English now, that is expressing ideas. Let’s say computer got hungry and wanted to call mother and say it is hungry. There is no x=5 or y=2… It would call “Mama I am Hungry”. Computer has to speak up the sound after it synthesized the sentence, so mother can understand it.

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          That sentence has to be synthesized from words. Words have to be synthesized from letters. Grammar has to obey the subject, predicate and object format. Computer has to know to use the present tense, because it is hungry now. It is not he-or she. So it has to know its gender “it”. The game here is those should not be mapped, but be synthesized on the fly. One has to know what is on the fly and what is mapping. Say you have headache then take aspirin. You have diarrhea then Imodium. Here the medicine is mapped for the kind of the pain you experience. (Remember here we not looking at expertsystems, which diagnose and treat a patient, the advanced software). But when you touch the fire “pull the hand out” is on the fly. In English-Tamil translation, GO get mapped to POO; COME get mapped to VAA. Word to word Translation in between two languages always gets mapped. So the translated use gets mapped and natural use come out of synthesis. So computer to start naturally synthesis sentences, it need a perfect language. Now we know there are fuzzy logic computers, Nero logic computers, and artificial intelligence computers. They attempt to imitate human brain at their level of sophistication. If NASA’s project had gone well, all what we have to do is learn the mother tongue and NASA tongue. We don’t have to worry about SWRD’s Sinhala only. If you go to Timbuktu, you just start pull out your NASA tongue, Timbuktuans will perfectly understand you. That is beyond the computer world.

          I learned COBOL, FORTRAN, BASIC and RPGII in Lankawe in the end of 1970s. I never had chance to use it. In Canada I bought an 8086 (in 1986) clone. It came with GWBASIC. It was not good.

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          IBM would not allow BASIC to run on clones. I got a Chance to learn ALPHA BASIC. It was good only with ALPHA Micros. But it was imitating COBOL- A hybrid of COBOL and BASIC. Practically nothing you cannot do with it in a business environment. When I got the ERP license, I learned the Visual Basic. Visual languages are capable of working with pictures, unlike High Level Languages Basic or COBOL. That is a gift in GUI. The ERP I specialized was capable of using VBA (Visual Basic for Application). I Dropped off ALPHABASIC, ALPHACALC and ALPHAWrite and got into Excel VBA, ERP VBA. That time, Microsoft had released its MS DOS version. I learned basic DOS programming to keep PC’s get automated with ERP. That time IBM had released Warp. I noticed Warp gets extremely smooth with Novell. Microsoft used MS DOS to resist loading Novell. Then I got into Novell’s VBA. Novell was extremely powerful server in its days. If one has to automate workstations with ERPs, they have to manage Novell. Further ERPs has to talk with others ERPs. So I got into EDI. By that time I had learned Windows and Windows servers management, SQL server Management, Exchange Server Management. I registered with Microsoft and had my license to write and sell application on Visual studio. …Middle of 2000s Novell lost all its majesty. Microsoft killed many famous software. I was trying to get into higher end like SAP, Oracle. It did not go well. By middle of 2000s I gave up on that computer’s direction and returned back to hang on my core field.

          Though I am left behind in the purana period, I know we have travelled a long way from High Level languages and now we are in java, Hypertext versions……

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            Mallaiyuran,
            Thanks for the write-up.
            Yes, artificial intelligence is a very interesting thing. To implement it, we have first to figure out how we ourselves think/make decisions.
            However, I am not that advanced. I still use BASIC and Linux.

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          OC
          Thanks for the point about programming languages.

          Yes, in Chinese it is the ‘same word’ when written in Roman characters.
          When written in Chinese characters there is no ambiguity.
          The Japanese resort to Chinese characters (Kanji) to address ambiguity. They did not have (or lost) tonal speech long ago, I suspect.

          (“Sinhalese Buddhist” far below has a different view.
          He is right too, because Chinese does not have several of the redundancies that European and Indian languages have)

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      In writing I cannot change my voice tone, so I put a “?” and “!”. So this punctuation marks and voice tones are very important part of English grammar, imitating them in computer is not easy. They cannot transcend from one to other. They rigidly stuck in the medium for which they are designed for.
      When we use the word “Do” we say it as “Du”. But when we see the “So” we say it “Sau”. So, we using “O” sound to mean something, but we cannot generate that sound in computer, but only we can map it word by word. It gives a massive storage load to computers because it has no way of going by letters, it must go word by word. So you can do nothing with 26 letters, you have to map 300,000-400,000 thousand words. Remember, these only for the existing ones, new ones are left in the air. Because English evolved as colloquial language, it’s very notorious in mathematical precision in its structure.

      The earliest grammatical books Panni and Tholkappiyam appeared in Sanskrit and Tamil. They tend to follow the mathematical logic to their construction. Languages eventually evolved from them from a colloquial form are missing that accuracy. Tamil can claim the proud of having supplied grammar even to Sanskrit, but after Kalapriya time this mathematical precision was not maintained. It is believed that Sanskrit was not a spoken language. So it maintained its precision. Sanskrit does not have its writing. So it its uses recent Devanagari to write. But Tamil is trying to muddle through this. Apparently after Tholkappiyar no eminent figure has touched that subject until now. Arumuga Navalar did some cosmetics, but nothing great. We can see some very basics on that.

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      Tamils alphabets are tabulated and it is called as “Nedunkanakku”. We call all mathematical problems as Kanakku. So, it gives a meaning of long Math or Long Theorem or something long in math….(But I tell my non-Tamil speaking friends it as the World First Spreadsheet working.) It is attempting to load vowels on “X” axis and loading the consonants in “Y” axis. Then it is trying to connect the sound, letter format and other properties. If we dropped the idea of “Spreadsheet”, then we can think of it behaves like Periodic Table in Chemistry. Just like the periodic Table, Nedunkkanankku is also 85-90% success in that, but not perfect(100%). In the old form, about 40 years ago, they had problems with letters “Nai”, “ Lai” formats. MGR initiated a correction, and now they have sorted it out. But there are others. If one look at it, they would prefer letter க to க் sound and vise vera. Further, It is showing properly அ moving into ஆ. But they still cannot show how the letters form க்+அ=க being generated. We would like to see அ fused into க் and க coming out of it. But what is happening is க் is just losing the dot on the top it and becoming க….. Additional problems are in “AA” அ-ஆ moving into “KAA”க கா.

      There are many issues to make a computer use the natural language from basic grammar, basic sounds and basic letter forms. If a language follows a perfect logic, it just needs 100 basic sounds, 100 basic shapes, 10 lines of grammar. With that, even at ENIAC time a high schooler might have finished computerizing that language. Now, after volumes of mapping tables created, still none of the natural language can work properly on computer.

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    The author who is highly educated & who thinks he knows every thing about Tamils & looks for an opportunity to run down Tamils at every opportunity, not sure how he missed putha and Suttha are not Tamil words. They are his masters/employer’s language Singhalese.

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      What’s wrong? He is not from Tamil Nadu to confine himself to the Tamil Madu language.

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      “…to run down Tamils…”

      You thinging Pandaranayaka Tamil?

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    I recently visited Manipay Hindu College and spoke to the Vice Principal. I was shocked that most students were not education oriented and results had dropped. I was shocked as this school had produced eminent persons like B.R. Devarajan (CCS and UN and father of the Chief Economist MEA region, World Bank), Albert Page Chartered Accountant and Chairman of Cargills, Ceylon Theaters and Majestic City and many others. The VP attributed that most of the students now are the children of labourers and only a handful were the children of government servants. I kindly urge Mr. Sivapuranam!, Mr. Thevaram! and Professor Mahesan Niranjan to help to revive the North to the old glory.

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    I speak 4 languages, and have found that chinese is the most efficient in conveying ideas. It does not differentiate masculine or feminine and does not have the gazillion tenses, cases and pre-and su-fixes found in the Indo-European language family.

    Furthermore, thanks to the standardization of its writing system almost 3000 years ago, the written form can be deciphered in any region of that vast empire, regardless of the local language or dialect.

    The only downside to chinese, atleast to us phonetic-language speakers, is that it is a tonal language, and thus the same syllable can be pronounced in many different ways altering the meaning completely!

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      Very true.
      But it has a few problems too.
      Try translating “If I were you, I would have acted differently”.
      I am told that the translation will go something like. “I am not you. But etc. etc.

      The Chinese script was very awkward at one time with an order of 10,000 characters. The communists government got rid of many redundant characters and hence the 3000. The government in Taiwan was more reluctant. But may have yielded by now.
      There is however a problem in writing foreign names unless they invoke the more recent ‘phonetic characters’.

      Learning the script and the tonal speech are challenges to learners.

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      sinhalese buddhist

      I know only Tamil, in addition to that Basic English.

      Some languages with minimum grammar provide maximum understanding. Others may not. At the same time, some attempt to come out with redundant ideas, for the purpose of minimizing the mis-interpretation. In Tamil the Thinai is one like that. Nothing parallel to Thinai is in English. But conscious Tamil user notes, Thinai is not going that far enough to solve many problems. In the Song “Thara Thara Vanthara” the Thinai is telling who really came (a man, not the duck). But in the joke “Naai rachchi thinurathoo”, even the Thinai could not help. So it has two meanings, “Does a dog eat meat” and “Is dog meat edible”

      There are 100 and 1000 of examples called “Siladaies”(Double meaning -jokes) they pick on how the Tamil grammar is going wrong in simple construction of Tamil sentences. That problem is aggravated by word join. Tamil allows any word to be joining with any word. Then the usual suffixes and prefixes come. This allows the original words to lose their meaning drastically and user misidentifies everything. It led to a writing style called gobbledygook. There is song called”Muththai thiru” written only to confuse readers. That style was famous until recently.

      In addition to grammar, there are conventions. In English you may say a ship “she”. Same system exists in Tamil too. “Aahupeyar” is another area.

      They all have their purpose, but contributing the problem too.

      The complexity of the natural languages not just ends there.

      The question is, how much of the perfection is needed. Human brain has the capacity of associating something with something, so it quickly deciphers any grammatical faults. Until the Chips’ power grows up to mimic the brain, the computers will have problem with natural languages.

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    // that most of the students now are the children of labourers and only a handful were the children of government servants. //

    He said that? How disgusting.
    But in a sense, all he is referring to is a middle-class depletion in the North. Tamil government servants who used to leave their families in Jaffna and traveled to work in the South have moved their families to the South during the war (and after it, too). And Tamil emigration out of Sri Lanka has also been largely from the middle class. Instead of waiting for the government servants’ children to come back, you could tell him he is being paid to teach laborers’ children, too.

    [BTW, I have visited MHC once in 1966, when one of the characters in this story (Sivapuranam) taught there. His English class acted out a Shakespere play in Petromax lighting. Well, as they say in Ireland (or at least in The Eagle has Landed), “we have known the days!”]

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    Can only guess what Mahesan Niranjan is targetting.

    Evidently his friend Sivapuranam Thevaram was at a social science seminar. “The …. reporting was poorly posed, the statistical methodology flawed and his presentation appalling”. It is possible Thevaram did not understand a thing! Anyway where is the fault?

    “It started with Swabasha education, putha” Sivakami sighed, “the rot that set then, we had no chance of reversing.

    Mahesan has not contested this and so it is safe to assume that he is a swabasha-skeptic.

    The other day I met my teacher who is retiree for a while. I asked him whether my previous generation was in anyway advantaged because they studied in English medium. He said “If I posed the question “What is an isosceles triangle?” 98% in your class will give the correct answer but your past generation only 2%”. Why? Because most of them knew the answer but could not formulate the answer in English!

    What the hell was the equations for? The sqrt sign is not Tamil nor is the plus or minus symbol. We used Roman letters and later even Greek symbols. We used ABC for a triangle and the Einstein equation E = m c*c

    By the way Sivapuranam Thevaram is a classic Hindu-Tamil name. His mother Sivakami calls him putha! His grandmother is Penelope. Strange even by Karainagar traditions.

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      There is a difference, Pillai, in knowing some properties of geometric shapes and doing social science research with significant quantitative analytic component (factor analysis, regression models, quantifying uncertainty, imputing missing observations, selection of variables, subspace representations to visualize data, robust methods to reject outliers in data are all necessary tools, which hopefully you will agree to be slightly more advanced than the two sides of a triangle being of equal length or not).
      The former, you can teach a large number of people in Swabasha, inventing as many technical terms as you like, and feel good about yourself, but the latter is what is urgently needed for our development. The point being made here is that the researcher at UofJ did not have the opportunity to gain access to modern knowledge: how to do good research and to communicate it well. There is a lot of knowledge out there, you see. Our people — especially those who teach in our universities and those who have the potential to form high tech startups here — should have the opportunity to access that knowledge and thereby help raise the standards here. Currently, competence in English IS a bottleneck and the root cause of it is Swabasha education! No amount of burying our heads in the sand, driven by cheap nationalism — as pioneered by SWRD and very well matched on the Tamil side — will make it better for us. Of course it is very nice of us to say to each other how wonderful our own languages are (music in our ears), argue about which of them came to the island first and even send our kids to die in their name. We have done that experiment and observed it hasn’t advanced our people.

      By the way, I fully agree with you nobody by the name Penelope could have ever lived in Karainagar. A brilliant observation indeed. My congratulations!

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    Thanks Mallaiyuran for you explanation. I found it intriguing. I am trying to learn Tamil, and sometimes am frustrated with the long constructions you allude to – especially with the multiple double consonants in the written form, that are not always pronounced.

    The question you pose is important: How do you judge a language? I would say, if it serves its speakers well with what they want to communicate and to do, then it’s perfect.

    For example, I have heard that the Inuits (Eskimos) have tens of different words for snow! It probably is important for them to differentiate the different types of snow, perhaps as a matter of survival in such a harsh climate?

    Many Asian languages including Sinhala, Tamil and Japanese have many different “levels” of speech (the polite vs impolite vs respectful etc.). Are these redundancies or essential for the culture in which it’s spoken? How does that need change with time?

    How can one judge a language?

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      SB
      Tamil and Sinhala grammar are almost identical in structure.
      The script takes a while and in the absence of voiced and unvoiced ‘hard’ consonants distinctions like K-G C-J P-B T-D and Th-Dh are not explicit. The saiunds vary according to the letter preceding the hard consonant. But that will not take time to master. The way vowels sound vary slightly with the the consonant that follows. This variation is crucial to distinguish between n& N, r&R, l&L etc. (In Sinhala, only the ‘a’ sound is slightly muted in the final or penultimate position.)
      Despite problems in the articulation of certain consonants (L & N exist in Sinhala but rarely differentiated in speech from l & n; and R, and the Zh which even the Tamils rarely get right) a native Sinhalka speaker can seldom be misunderstood, although the ‘Sinhala accent’ will be unmistakable.

      Do not be discouraged.
      Tamil is about the easiest language for a Sinhalese to learn and vice versa.
      The problem is that the spoken language is somewhat unlike the written— far more than in Sinhala.
      Decide on what you want: To make an oration? To express yourself fairly clearly in ‘standard’ Tamil? To work with Jaffna Tamils or Batticaloa Tamils or Muslims or Hill Country Tamils?

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        Dear SB,

        SJ has urged: “Decide on what you want”.

        It must surely be what he has last mentioned: ” To work with Jaffna Tamils or Batticaloa Tamils or Muslims or Hill Country Tamils?”

        Other benefits could follow, but so few of us (Colombo Telegraph types) can communicate with those Sri Lankans who know Tamil only.

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          Dear SM
          Tamil dialects differ vastly, far more than anyone who knows only Sinhala can appreciate. (It was a similar situation in English up to early 20th Century; and some dialects are gradually giving way to a more standard speech, but accents exist.)
          Sinhala has got unified to some degree, thanks to greater literacy levels and audio and visual media. ‘Standard’ Sinhala is as tough as ‘standard’ Tamil. But has been far more effectively modernized than Tamil in the last century.
          Today’s mass media are de-educating users of Sinhala I am told.

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      Tamil is a phonetic language. Anything you put in writing gets pronounced, without exception. One variation – a wide one. When you get a hard consonant in the middle of a word, you don’t not stress it; or don’t bend the tongue to complete the pronunciation; but you pronounce it softly. Just allow it to float or freely allow it to flow. You will recognize that you are not pronouncing the consonant correct, but that is grammatically correct. It is said Agasthiyar attempted a phonetic editing very long ago(2500 years). The ha, sha, tha, ga letters were removed, thinking those not good to start words, but the sounds are not. The crow is written as “Kaakam”. But pronounced as Kaaham. Because the ha letter is not in Tamil, you never can start a word with ha. But it is allowed where it naturally creep in. Further if you notice that if you pronounce the word Kaakam (காகம்) as it written is, you only would ending up saying Kaakkam காக்கம் Say, that you don’t want to say Kaaham, but Kaakkam then you write ka-ik-kam. That is (காக்கம்). The trick is they are allowing the way the tongue rolls, rather than rigidly creating sounds. So if you compare the case of Kaakam, Kaakkam and Kaa-ik-kam, the non-pronounceable is Kaakkam. So that kind of words are not in Tamil; either you have kaakam or kaa-ik-kam. The K changes to H only in Kaakam not in Kaa-ik-kam. I write it as Kaa-ik-kam, not as Kaaikkam because I Don’t wanted you confuse it with காய்க்கம்.

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      I can write காககம்; that is not double consonant. Though that sound is possible, that type words unknown-not popular. But, a hidden A is there; it doubles only when I write காக்க்ம். The க or கா are not really consonants. They are vowel-consonants. They have the vowel embedded within them. When you are talking about it, it is confusing, but you start to talk, you will find it easy. The trick is they are allowing the way the tongue rolls, rather than rigidly creating sounds.

      So the rules are:
      1.All consonants in the words are pronounced.
      2.Wherever consonants create rubbernecking, it is smoothed and flow created.
      3.If a consonant has to be repeated, relevant vowel is introduced and sound smoothed out.

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    How can one judge a language?
    It is unfortunate that in Srilanka Science graduates have no provision to offer languages as a subject beyond Grade 10 and therefore fail to appreciate the usefulness of the command of the language in the real world. Languages are not just for the purpose of communication.I realised that my linguistic skills are appalling in both Tamil & English languages only when I began to study for a Graduate Certificate in interpreting. I have come to the conclusion that a language module must be offered as a core subject even for the science students. Probably, this must be the reason why even eminent scholars in this forum are unable to appreciate that thriving languages have logical approach to the structure and grammar of the language like the way science do. They have a framework, follow patterns and if mastered one could not fail to marvel at the wisdom of our ancestors. If a language, for that matter a religion as well, has withstood the onslaught of intrusions and foreignisations, has maintained its uniqueness and individuality then we will be able to infer that the language has solid rock foundation. Neither a language nor a religion will have continuity if they are of no use, not able to attract the speakers or followers with acceptable, realistic morals and values in its literature to establish the collective survival of the relevant community. Latin & Sanskrit are not dead languages. They are scholarly languages. They are key languages to understand the evolution of human civilisation. The following article by Varatharajan,M about Tamil language is very interesting and will answer many questions. http://tamilelibrary.org/teli/tamil7.html

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    // Latin & Sanskrit are not dead languages. They are scholarly languages. //

    For the first claim to be true, you need to be able to say how many people actually communicate in these languages. True, they are used by the intermediaries between man and stone, but are they in use foe any other form of communication? For the second claim to be true, you need to show some scholarly material being written in these languages. I think it is over a hundred years since scholarly material was written in Latin, and much more for Sanskrit.
    Hence they are both dead. There is nothing wrong in studying them. But they are still dead.

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