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Minister S.Iswaran inaugurates the Tamil Language Festival

Singapore, a multi-racial country in South East Asia is currently celebrating ‘Tamil Language Festival’. The Tamil Language Council has to be lauded for its efforts in spearheading the Festival with its partners for the ninth year that can create more avenues for all sections of the Tamil Society to celebrate and enrich the language and to ‘Love Tamil and Speak Tamil’.

The month-long festival was officially inaugurated on Friday, 3rd April 2015 by Mr S.Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister’s office and Second Minister for Home Affairs & Trade and Industry.

Singapore comprises of four races – Chinese, Malay, Indians and others. Hence, Chinese, Malay, Tamil and English are the official languages. In Singapore, the public places, shops, currencies bore the writings in all the above four languages.

Minister S. Iswaran’s Interview on the Tamil Language Festival

1. Singapore is the only country where a month long festival is being organized for the Tamil language. How do you see the following stakeholder’s role in making this possible?

a. Singapore Government

Tamil is one of the 4 official languages in Singapore. The Government is committed to allocating the necessary resources to ensure the language continues to thrive in Singapore. The Tamil Language Council(TLC) was formed in 2000 under the auspices of the then Ministry of Information, Communication and Arts (MICA). The Council comprises representatives from the education sector, major community organisations, arts groups and the media who provide valuable inputs on matters pertaining to the language. Today, the National Heritage Board (NHB), under Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth (MCCY) provides secretariat support for TLC.

b. Various Tamil Organisations

Since 2007, TLC has organised the Tamil Language Festival together with Indian organizations, marking it a major event in their organizational calendar. This year, more than 35 community and government agencies, including MOE’s Tamil Language and Learning Promotion Committee (TLLPC) will partner TLC for the Festival.

2. Do you see more innovation and relevance in the programs that is being organized each year?

The Festival is now in its ninth year. Each passing year has seen more activities which are varied and able to reach out to a wide cross section of the Tamil speaking population. This year’s Festival will comprise 40 exciting programs and activities, all of which provide excellent opportunities to speak the language. These opportunities created by the various community organisations play a vital role in ensuring the language stays relevant and vibrant in Singapore. Additionally, it helps us become a dynamic and resilient community with the right attitude and values. This is important and relevant in the present, modern world as they were in the past.

3. What are your suggestions to enhance in the coming years?

Activities that promote the language must be creative, fun-filled and enjoyable. They will serve to build the confidence of the students to use the language beyond their school years. Going forward, it is important for us to target our efforts at the youths in a manner that is innovative and exciting. It is the attitude of the youths that will determine the relevance and importance of the language in future years.”

An Overview of the Festival

More and more inclination towards westernization ever raises questions on the long run existence of the Tamil Language. Against this backdrop, Singapore is the only country in the whole world where a month long Festival for the Tamil language is being celebrated.

Around 40 programs of various sorts targeting all age group have been scheduled for this year. Rather than using the Tamil Language just for passing the subject in schools, the Festival is aimed at the functional use of Tamil.

Mr R Rajaram, President, Tamil Language Council says ‘Each passing year the Festival has been evolving with more participation from the younger generation. It is important that we reach out to the younger generation through innovative programs to make them like and speak the language. It is inevitable to in calculate the values and traditions of the Language in the youngsters to make the language live over generations.

He further said that, the youngsters have to be applauded for trying to reach their peers and juniors using their own trend’.

The programs have been carefully designed to remember the past, reflect the present and to think of the future.

‘Vanna Tamil’ a coloring competition aims to teach the Tamil alphabets among the Kinder garden children. The competition requires the children to color the Tamil Alphabets.

More Innovative programs with relevance, like the usage of Tamil language in the commercial world, the dominance of Tamil in the Computer, the importance of Tamil in the industrial sector are taking place.

The pioneers have not been left out. Avant Drama Group will stage a drama ‘Kavi Charal’ basing Thiru Ka.Thu.Mu. Iqbal’s poems. Programs remembering Great Tamil scholars like Tiruvalluvar, Maraimalai Adigalar are also being staged.

‘Cinema, story, screenplay writing’ workshops, debates for school children, workshops to learn to write and speak Tamil through stories are some of the programs that have been lined up.

The Singapore Tamil Diaspora has all reasons to be happy and to be pride, as their language is being honored and is given due respect. So the weekends in the month of April have been marked in their calendar – to relish the dynamics of Tamil!

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