« Uraiyaadal | உரையாடல் : On Tamil and language learning in general » by Dominic Ester

Uraiyaadal – உரையாடல் –  is a Tamil word meaning conversation.

I’m a student from the UK and have been learning Tamil for just over a year, first in London and now in Sri Lanka. The experience of studying a language outside the classroom has made me rethink the problems I faced while completing an undergraduate language degree a few years ago. Now at an intermediate level, I want to share my thoughts and start a conversation about Tamil and language learning in general.

Recently I have also been inspired by autodidact polyglot Benny Lewis, whose blog I would recommend to everyone. I share with him the belief that we are held back not just by the way in which we learn languages, but by the way we think about learning languages. These questions are especially important for those who are trying to learn languages for which few materials and formal training are available.

The blog won’t be a dry, A-Z list of cases, tenses and conjunctions. Instead it will draw on personal experience to bring together a range of different topics – practical, motivational, etymological, grammatical – which I hope will spark people’s interest and get them thinking about the differences and similarities between Tamil and English.

The idea of conversation is doubly important because I want to foreground spoken forms of Tamil. These are often neglected in Tamil teaching, but are crucial for learners who actually want to participate in everyday life!

I’m most familiar with the Tamil spoken in Jaffna, and it’s inevitable that my posts will reflect this. But Uraiyaadal is intended as an interactive space where we can build a fuller picture of all the varieties of Tamil in use. In that spirit I encourage those who speak or are learning other kinds of Tamil – Sri Lankan, Indian or otherwise – to comment wherever they can. Please also feel free to email me feedback or suggestions for topics worth covering.

Being based in Sri Lanka, I hope that Sinhala speakers learning Tamil will gain something from the blog. Unfortunately my knowledge of Sinhala is too limited to offer anything other than basic comparisons, so if you speak Sinhala please feel free to contribute. In the future I plan to set up a guest post system to properly engage with this and other issues.

Otherwise, study well and good luck!

link to the blog: http://uraiyaadal.wordpress.com/

« Kaffirs: the Sri Lankan African descendants » by Delon Madavan

The Kaffirs,  Sri Lankan African descendants, were brought to Sri Lanka by the Portuguese, Dutch and British, as a part of the naval force and for domestic work. Portuguese seafarers carried the first kaffirs to what was then Ceylon in the 1500s, most likely from Mozambique. Later, British colonists brought others to fight against Ceylonese armies in « kaffir regiments. »

Kaffirs are very similar to the African populations in Iraq, Iran and Kuwait, and known in Pakistan as Sheedis and India as Siddis. The Siddis, Sheedis and Kaffirs don’t know about each other, and only a few of their educated countrymen know who they are or where they came from. But even in a part of the world where most people have dark skin, these South Asian Africans stand out.

In addition to physical features — some Sri Lankan kaffirs wear braids or Afro hairstyles and have retained remnants of their African heritage in dance, music  & speech. In Sri Lanka, the several hundred kaffirs live among the palm trees around Puttalam on the northwest coast and near the eastern city of Batticaloa. Most of them are Catholics (« kaffir » is an Arabic word that denotes someone who is not a Muslim).

The Kaffirs are mainly chena cultivators but a few have found employment in the Puttalam Salt Pans, the Puttalam hospital and in local government offices as peons and labourers. Although they have withstood cultural pressures from the other ethnic groups for a long period, they are now blending into multiethnic Sri Lanka due to cross-cultural marriages. Not surprisingly, there was intermarriage between the Portuguese Burghers and Kaffirs who belonged to the same culture set ; they spoke Sri Lanka Portuguese Creole and were Roman Catholics.

There seems to be only a few thousand of these Kaffirs in Sri Lanka but they represent the descendants of enslaved Africans brought to the island within the past several hundred years. These Blacks have distinct recollections of Africa.

An insightful video ‘Kaffir culture, written and produced by Kannan Arunasalam, portraits one of such community of Kaffirs and their struggle to keep their culture alive in the face of falling numbers.

http://vimeo.com/7234191

 

source: http://www.lankalibrary.com/cul/kaffirs.htm and