Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Name Boards in Tamil !

A recent news item in the Times of India reports that "The Labour department will strictly enforce the rule that names of shops and commercial establishments in the state should be displayed predominantly in Tamil, labour minister T M Anbarasan has said. If traders want other languages on display, then it should be Tamil first, followed by English and an optional language."

So why is this news and why this post? Well, it isn't actually. The Hindu has ignored this news item altogether. Most name boards in TN and in Chennai are in two languages, Tamil and English and the labour department is just reiterating a rule that has always existed and has mostly been followed. Even well known American brand outlets like Levi's, Lee, McDonald, KFC take the trouble to transcribe their names in the Tamil script on their boards. It is taken as the natural order of things that signs and name boards should be in the local language, in addition to perhaps another 'link' language. There has been no hand wringing by non Tamilians about chauvinism, no heart wrenching blog posts have appeared about how the culture of the place is being destroyed by local language and culture chauvinism, in other words, it's a non event.

How refreshingly different from Mumbai! Here is an example. All over a name. And here is another. All over a script and the local language.


AmOK said...

Just curious -- in your country, OLO, do they have safety-related signage also in two languages? For example, EXIT signs at cinemas are these in Tamil/English as well or exclusive? How about labels on medicines-- can you get them in Tamil/English so the user can use safely? If not user-oriented, then the language issue is a legacy of "The Raj" -- an arbitrary government-imposed rule often used for political capital.

Rahul Basu said...

Many places do have exit signs in Tamil, milestones are frequently in Tamil, though the more 'modern' cinema halls have dispensed with Tamil to appear more Westernised I suppose.

Medicines, presumably because they are distributed all over the country, have mostly English lettering though the name is sometimes printed in Hindi. For most people medicines are a black box, bought from a pharmacy, as per a doctor's prescription, and taken as per instructions by the doctor.

In any case this has nothing to do with the Raj legacy, at least in the context of my post. My point was much simpler; that having local language lettering should hardly be an issue, under normal circumstances. Unfortunately it seems to be, for some people, in some places.

Unknown said...

Of course it is completely natural that in a linguistically diverse country like India the local language should be used along with other(s). Perhaps there need not even be a single other; with today's technology (see google) an automatic traslation into a language of one's choice could be possible. But Maharashtra is not the only place where reason occassionally flies oust North of you: in Karnataka.

Rahul Basu said...

The issue is neither linguistic diversity (which is a given in a country like India) nor technology like google - there have been multi-lingual boards decades before google. The point I was making is that non-Maharashtrians in Mumbai make too much of what in any other place is a non issue. It is one thing to object to the Shiv Sena and MNS's thuggish agenda - both communal and chauvinistic - and another to make a fuss over triviality.

tamilan said...

It is a bogus publicity stunt. The current DMK governments wants to eventually phase out Tamil langugae from Tamil Nadu.

Go to Rameswaram, most name boards are only in Hindi language.

Go to Chennai, name boards are only in English.

DMK has stopped funding Tamil schools.

DMK is phasing out Tamil medium and replacing with English.

DMK has provided reservation for Hindi speaking Muslims and have also made Urdu instead of Tamil compulsory in Muslim schools.

DMK has ensures Hindi being compulsory in CBSE schools. Even the Tamil Learning Act 2006 is not followed by CBSE, for which DMK has granted exception against a Supreme Court Order.

If DMK make a hatrick in Tamil Nadu, it is certain that Tamil Nadu will become a Hindi speaking state and Tamil will be dead by then.