Welcome to the Tamil language program webpage at Syracuse University. Syracuse University has offered Tamil language courses since 2003. In 2005 the program expanded to offer Tamil 101/102 and Tamil 201/202, as well as Advanced Tamil.
Students are encouraged to study abroad in India to gain a better understanding of the culture and lifestyle. For more information, visit the SU Abroad page here.
India has a vast array of spoken languages among different groups of people. At least 30 different languages and around 2000 dialects have been identified. Tamil is one of 22 recognized national languages of the country. It belongs to the Dravidian language family, which includes over 25 other languages spoken primarily in south India. Malayalam, Telugu, and Kannada are the other national languages of India in this language family.
Over 74 million people around the world speak Tamil. It is the official language of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, as well as an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore. There are significant communities of Tamil speakers in Malaysia, Mauritius, and South Africa, as well as groups of more recent Tamil speaking emigrants--refugees from the Sri Lankan civil war, as well as economic migrants such as engineering, IT, medical professionals and academics--living in Canada (especially Toronto), Australia, the USA and most western European countries.
Tamil is a unique language to study for a number of reasons. First, Tamil is a diglossic language. The informal spoken style of the lanugage is different than the formal writing-based style. Students of the language, then, must learn both spoken and written Tamil.
There are 13 vowels and 24 consonants in the Tamil alphabet. In words, though, these consonants and vowels can stand alone as well as be combined, for a total of 349 different letters. Many of the sounds in the Tamil language are difficult for native English speakers to hear and speak, especially the retroflex letters. Learning to differentiate among these sounds can be practiced in this curriculum.