For the uninitiated, look at the two states in the southern most part of the map of India (above) – The state on the right (rose) is Tamil Nadu, where Tamil language is spoken; the state on the left (blue) is Kerala, where Malayalam language is spoken.
There are a few common words between most of the Indian languages which might suggest, i. these languages might have had a common ancestor and/or, ii. they might have borrowed some words from each other.
Tamil & Malayalam, being spoken people living in neighboring states obviously have some commonalities. But, Tamil and Malayalam are two different languages, with their own scripts and words. PERIOD.
Sometime back, I went to the wedding reception of one of my friends. He told me that his marriage was arranged marriage. But, when I was talking to his wife, she told me that her mother-tongue is Tamil. I was surprised – my friend was born and brought up in Chennai, but his mother-tongue is Malayalam.
I turned towards him and asked, ‘Your mother-tongue is Malayalam, no?’.
‘Then how come her mother tongue is Tamil?’
He saw me like I was asking the most silliest question on earth, and then said something that startled me – ‘Tamil and Malayalam are same only, Macchi‘.
I was open mouthed and aghast. Tamil and Malayalam are same to same???
A few years back, I was roaming on the streets of Calicut asking for some address in Tamil, while they coolly replied in Malayalam – and both of us didn’t understand a word of what each other spoke. Finally, I had to speak to someone in Hindi to get the right directions!!
In one of the companies I worked, my boss was a Malayalee and two of my colleagues were also Malayalees. Whenever they spoke to each other, I didn’t understand a single word of what they were talking. This, in spite of my conscious efforts to ‘deeply’ listen to their conversations.
Have you watched any Malayalam movie? If you do, just notice the speed of the dialogue rendition. Some (most) actors talk so fast that by the time you think you recognize a couple of words, they would have completed three full sentences 🙂
I don’t even want to talk about the script – Try to read even one word, even if you know Tamil very well.
People who don’t know either of these languages might think that they sound and look similar. I don’t blame them – there are striking similarities. But this guy, who knows both – I wonder how he was convinced (internally) to say that!! Probably, he never had to decipher the ever rounding script and the ever speeding speech of Malayalam!!
When I was traveling from Coimbatore to Calicut, I was talking to the passenger sitting next to me, and he told me – “You know what, the English didn’t come here for the trade and riches, alone. They also wanted to learn many things from Indians. They successfully learned many things, however, they were not able to learn a few things.
Chief of them being, Indian classical music & Malayalam.”
I can empathize with the British. Can’t even imagine them trying to learn these two 😛