'Language Box' Installed At A Tribal Residential School In Tamil Nadu To Save Endangered Tribal Languages

Students can pick up words from their language, write it on a paper in English or Tamil, and drop it in the box. (Photo | EPS)
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Students can pick up words from their language, write it on a paper in English or Tamil, and drop it in the box. (Photo | EPS)

Highlights

  • A "language box" has been placed in an effort to protect endangered tribal languages that do not have a written form.
  • Students from tribal groups can choose terms from their native tongue, write them on a piece of paper in English or Tamil, and then place the paper in the box.

At a tribal residential school in Semmanarai hamlet, close to Kotagiri in the Nilgiris district, a "language box" has been placed in an effort to protect endangered tribal languages that do not have a written form. Students from tribal groups can choose terms from their native tongue, write them on a piece of paper in English or Tamil, and then place the paper in the box. The school is home to 35 indigenous members from the Irula and Kurumba tribes.

Odiyen Lakshmanan, a writer and collector of Irula songs said that even though the majority of tribal languages lack a written form, they have a rich oral culture. This programme aims to instil in kids a sense of pride in their language. We anticipate that it will promote interest in their original tongue and better pronunciation. All of the indigenous schools in the area will be the target of this programme.
Lakshmanan stated that the container resembles a piggy bank, but instead of holding money, it stores words from the original tongue, which are worth more. The box will be opened once every six months, and the kids who contributed will be recognised.
By gathering these words, they intended to publish a book. According to Lakshmanan, students have lost track of a number of words from their original speech.
N Thirumurthy, a researcher of tribal languages explained that each tribe has its own unique language. They have distinctive myths, histories, songs, proverbs, and aspects of culture and tradition that can only be articulated in their native tongue. These languages are in danger of dying out due to migration, a lack of acknowledgment for indigenous languages, population decline, and socioeconomic issues.
He added that they only encourage tribal children to study their original languages in order to preserve them, rather than discourage them from learning other languages.
For the past two years, the "Reading and Language Retrieval Movement" has been recording folktales in children's voices and airing them on American Tamil Radio. As a result, numerous kids have started telling stories in their original tongue.
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