Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 4 : 2 February 2004

Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Associate Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.

In Association with


  • We are in need of support to meet expenses relating to some new and essential software, formatting of articles and books, maintaining and running the journal through hosting, correrspondences, etc. If you wish to support this voluntary effort, please send your contributions to
    M. S. Thirumalai
    6820 Auto Club Road Suite C
    MN 55438, USA
    Also please use the AMAZON link to buy your books. Even the smallest contribution will go a long way in supporting this journal. Thank you. Thirumalai, Editor.




  • E-mail your articles and book-length reports to or send your floppy disk (preferably in Microsoft Word) by regular mail to:
    M. S. Thirumalai
    6820 Auto Club Road, Suite C
    Bloomington, MN 55438 USA.
  • Contributors from South Asia may send their articles to
    B. Mallikarjun,
    Central Institute of Indian Languages,
    Mysore 570006, India
    or e-mail to
  • Your articles and booklength reports should be written following the MLA, LSA, or IJDL Stylesheet.
  • The Editorial Board has the right to accept, reject, or suggest modifications to the articles submitted for publication, and to make suitable stylistic adjustments. High quality, academic integrity, ethics and morals are expected from the authors and discussants.

Copyright © 2001
M. S. Thirumalai

L. Ramamoorthy, Ph.D.


The Government of Pondicherry has issued an order that offers facility to students of all different mother tongue backgrounds in schools up to Eighth standard to learn Tamil. It is a tactical move on the part of the Government to encourage all students to learn Tamil, the language of the majority in the Union Territory. Tamil, however, is not made a compulsory language in the school curriculum. The Government has also published a book with the title 'Arimukat Tamil' or Introductory Tamil to facilitate the implementation of the order.


In this context, there arise a number of pertinent questions like the following with regard to language and its implementation in schools in Pondicherry.

  1. What is the sociolinguistic context that warranted the Government to issue this order?
  2. Will it be possible for a student to complete his studies without learning the official language of the region?
  3. What would be the likely consequence of this order on the existing educational policy of the Union Territory?
  4. As per the school curriculum, in general, English is learned as a second language and the mother tongue is learned as the first language. Will the order cited above result in teaching Tamil as the third language?
  5. How is this policy sought to be implemented by the government with regard to this order? This year the Government has introduced a book in Tamil for all the students studying from I to VIII standards. Are they going to change the book on the basis of the syllabus, if any framed?


In order to understand these questions, one has to know the multilingual situation and language use in education and administration in Pondicherry. It is a fact that Indian states were "linguistically" reorganized on the basis of language identity in 1956. In spite of this reorganization of Indian states on linguistic basis, every state has some minority languages. In the case of Pondicherry, the language situation is peculiar. There were 55 languages returned as the mother tongues of the population in 1961 census. The thirtieth report of the Commission for Linguistic Minorities in India also identified several languages such as Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Urdu, Bengali, Kashmiri, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi and Sindhi, under major and minimal language categories.

Existence and maintenance of diversity, whether based on cultural, linguistic, religious, or ethnic labels, have always been a part of Indian Tradition. In Pondicherry, the multilingual setup has reasons for its existence. The major factor for the multilingualism in Pondicherry is the geographical discontinuity of the territory. The Pondicherry Union Territory comprises of four erstwhile French establishments, namely, Pondicherry, Karaikal, Mahe, and Yanam. The regions Mahe and Yanam are located near Kerala and Andhra Pradesh and hence the dominant language of these regions are Malayalam for Mahe and Telugu for Yanam.

There are also some socio-political and historical reasons for the existence of multilingualism. Pondicherry had trade links with the Romans, long before the advent of the Dutch, the British and the French on its soil. The Pallavas, the Cholas, the Vijayanagar Kings, the Naiks of Thanjavur and the Sultan of Bijapur ruled Pondicherry. Apart from this, the location of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the Auroville, the international city, attract many Indians and foreigners to Pondicherry. And this also continues to contribute to the development of multilingualism in the Union Territory.


Generally speaking, the formulation of the official language policy in Pondicherry takes these factors into consideration. Three languages are used for official purposes are also very distinct from other states. Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam. However, English and French are also reorganized for official purpose as per the official language policy. The official language policy of the union territory states that the Tamil language should be used for all or any of the official purposes of the union territory. In case of Mahe and Yanam, Malayalam and Telugu may be respectively used for official purpose. The English language may also be used for all or any of the official purposes. The French language shall remain the official language of the establishments so long as the elected representatives of the people shall not decide otherwise (ACT 28, Gazetteer, Pondicherry Vol. 1, P. II).


Even though the Union Territory has an official language policy, it did not have any specific education policy of its own until this order was issued. Due to geographical discontinuity of the areas that constitute the Union Territory, the Territory adopts the policies of the adjacent major states as its own. When it comes to school education, the area that lies closer to the major linguistic state adopts the educational policy of the adjoining state. For example, the areas of Pondicherry and Karaikal, which lie close to Tamilnadu and wherein Tamil is the dominant language, the educational policy of the state of Tamilnadu is closely adopted. Mahe which is close to the state of Kerala adopts the educational policy of the state of Kerala, whereas the Yanam area adopts the policy followed in Andhra Pradesh. Public Examinations for various stages of schooling are also conducted by these states for the students of Pondicherry.

Hence, Pondicherry Union Territory has two different policies with respect to language education.

  1. Three language formula as adopted in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh for Mahe and Yanam regions respectively.
  2. Two language formula in Pondicherry and Karaikal as adopted by Tamilnadu.

Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam are studied as first language in the respective regions. English is the second language. Mahe and Yanam have Hindi from V standard irrespective of the medium of instruction.


The language education in urban Pondicherry is complex and unique. There are many languages such as Tamil, French, Hindi and Sanskrit being taught in the schools. The number of languages introduced and the manner of introduction such as optional or compulsory language, and their introduction at various levels of education varies from school to school. The interesting situation in Pondicherry is that Tamil, Hindi and French are being taught as first language in school curriculum. One can select any one of these three languages in schools as his or her first language, and can even change the first language opted at the secondary and Higher secondary stages.

The French ruled Pondicherry for more than two centuries. At the time of independence from the French rule, an option was sought from the people for French citizenship. Many opted for French citizenship and since then they have been living both in Pondicherry and France. Hence the government of Pondicherry introduced French as the first language in school curriculum. The government also started French medium schools in Pondicherry, Karaikal and Villianur. Apart from the government schools, the French government also has a school called Liscey Francaise in Pondicherry. In this school, the second language is English and Tamil, German, or Spanish is introduced as third language. In the government sponsored French medium schools, English is taught as a subject, but Tamil is not at all introduced even as a subject.

It is to be noted that in urban Pondicherry, no school offers Telugu or Malayalam language. Families who have migrated from Mahe or Yanam prefer Hindi as the first language rather than Tamil for their children. There is a significant number of Hindi bilinguals in Pondicherry Union Territory. In addition to this fact, in order to facilitate the children of central government employees, Hindi is introduced as a first language in Pondicherry school system. Most of the Private English medium schools offer Tamil, Hindi, or French as first language. The situation is such that even without learning the dominant language of the Territory (Tamil), a child can complete his or her school education in Pondicherry Union Territory, a situation that is not unlike the situation prevailing in many other states in India. Hence the government of Pondicherry issued the order offering facility to learn Tamil language upto 8th standard.


This order, if made compulsory, would impose Tamil on the students who have not taken Tamil under any category of language (First, Second or Third), and thereby it would create a disparity among students. As mentioned earlier, in the Two Language Formula, Hindi is introduced as the first language in many schools, especially private schools in urban Pondicherry area. But in Mahe and Yanam regions, the Three Language Formula is adopted. Because of this order, the students who have opted Hindi or French as the first language, have to study Tamil as an additional language. That means these students have to study mother tongue (first language), English and Tamil whereas the other Tamil mother tongue students study only two languages, that is, Tamil and English. This means imposing a burden on one section of the students whereas another section of students will not have this "burden."

In principle, every one seems to agree that the dominant major language of the state should be studied by all the students who go to school in that state. That is why the Government has introduced this order. However, to achieve better co-ordination and to provide opportunities for all to learn the dominant language of the Territory, Tamil can be made compulsory upto fifth standard, and from sixth standard onwards students may be permitted to opt either for Hindi or French even as their first language. Students and their parents seem to opt for Hindi or French in order to score good marks in the examinations. The syllabus and textbooks for these languages appear to less demanding than the syllabus and textbooks for the learning of Tamil as the first language. Similar trends are noticed in Karnataka and many other states.


The learning of Hindi and French in Pondicherry schools is focused upon the use of the written language. Students learn this variety right from the beginning in their classes. These students, whose mother tongue is either Tamil, or Malayalam or Telugu might not have known this language before they entered schools. The acquisition pattern of Tamil language is different in the sense that the language acquired (spoken Tamil) is not taught at schools. This is due to the diglossic nature of Tamil.

An interesting acquisition pattern in Pondicherry is the acquisition of Hindi. Hindi is not the dominant language in Pondicherry, but the multilingual set up has made it possible to learn and use it. Yet the Hindi learned and used is much closer to the variety used in the textbooks, whereas the Tamil learned in the school is widely different from what is used in day to day discourse. Students whose mother tongue is not Tamil and who are required to learn Tamil as an additional language, thus, encounter some special difficulties in this area. If they happen to be in one of the sub-territories, for example, Mahe or Yanam, then these students have hardly any opportunity to practice and use Tamil outside their class room. This also hampers the motivation to learn and use Tamil.


The multilingual pattern is very systematic and peculiar within the small area of 293 square km., with 608,388 persons (1991 census). The 1981 census gives the picture of Bilingualism in Pondicherry. It is observed from the bilingualism table presented in the 1981 Census Report that the order of language acquisition differs for different mother tongue groups.

Mother tongue Other languages known
In decreasing order of strength
1. Assamese (A) A-H-B
2. Bengali (B) B-E-H-Ta
3. Gujarati (G) G-E-Ta-H
4. Hindi (H) H-E-Ta-G
5. Kannada (K) K-Ta-E-H
6. Malayalam (Ma) Ma-Ta-E-H
7. Oriya (O) O-E-H-Ta
8. Punjabi (P) P-E-H-Ta
9. Sindhi (S) S-E-H-Ta
10. Tamil (Ta) Ta-E-Te
11. Telugu (Te) Te-Ta-E-H
12. Urdu (U) U-Ta-E-H


From the table above, we notice that there exist two types of Bilinguals. They are:

  1. those bilinguals who acquire Hindi apart from their mother tongue, and
  2. those bilinguals who acquire Tamil next to their mother tongue.

The Assamese, Bengali Oriya, Punjabi, and Sindhi speakers' acquisition/learning indicates that their proficiency is higher in Hindi than in Tamil. For others, it is in Tamil that they are proficient next to their mother tongue. The pattern found among the speakers of Gujarati, and Urdu is slightly different. Their proficiency is high in Tamil rather than in Hindi. The knowledge of other tongues is a widely prevalent phenomenon in Pondicherry due to multilingual set-up. One interesting aspect is that even a monolingual Hindi/Bengali speaker can live in the Ashram area without learning Tamil. English is the sole contact language for Aurovillians.

A survey conducted by the Pondicherry Institute of Linguistics and Culture in collaboration with the Central Institute of Indian Languages on the language use patterns also confirms that Hindi can be acquired in the neighborhood and work place domains. So it is natural for non-Tamil other tongue children to choose Hindi as first language when it is offered in schools.


Learning a second language could be made easy if there is little difference between the language acquired at home or in the environment and the language learned in school. There are many studies which state that the learning of a second language does not involve transfer of structures from the first language, but such learning involves creative construction (Dulay & Burt 1974). This means that the process of acquiring a second language is controlled primarily by universal cognitive principles that determine how a learner would approach the language regardless of previous knowledge. Krashen (1982) also claims that the similarities reflected a common underlying process, which he calls acquisition, responsible for the bulk of second language acquisition in any context. He further claims that unconsciously acquired knowledge of target language is responsible for normal SL performance (cited in Beebee 1988:166).

Tamil as the dominant language of urban Pondicherry may be acquired by non-Tamil school children in the school environment or in the neighborhood environment. The acquisition at the school environment is not possible since most of the English medium schools do not encourage students talking in Tamil. Even if they acquire a variety of Tamil either in school or in the neighborhood, that variety will not be similar to the variety they have to learn at school.


Taking this context into consideration, let us briefly review the book titled 'Arimukat Tamil,' meaning Introductory Tamil, introduced by the government of Pondicherry to facilitate learning Tamil. This book is suggested as a course of study for all the students from the first to the eighth standards this year. This book contains lessons on scripts, morals, and a few songs or poems. From the content of the book, we infer that it aims to teach the written/literary variety of Tamil. I already pointed out that Tamil is a diglossic language. The very nature of the diglossic situation in Tamil demands the teaching/learning of both the written and spoken varieties in the context of second language teaching/learning. Even though the acquisition of spoken variety is helpful for day to day conversation, it is not at all encouraged in the learning situation. Hence, the primary issue is not the choice between two varieties but how to introduce both.


The strategy of starting with spoken Tamil has been preferred by a few scholars (Kumarasamy Raja 1966, Rajaram 1979, and Shanmugam Pillai 1965). This is based on the assumption that Tamil as first language is acquired by the native children in this order. There is another group of linguists who prefer the written form to be introduced first to second language learners.(Annamalai 1980, Gnanasundaram 1980, Kothandaraman 1975). They offer the following reasons for their preference:

  1. The written form is more basic than any other dialect for deriving the various dialectal forms.
  2. Even if the student fails to master the spoken language, he will be able to read and write, and this will be understood by most people.

There is also yet another group of scholars who favor teaching both the varieties simultaneously (Ramasamy 2002).

These types of differentiations are also suggested for the students, who study Tamil as a foreign language. The goals, methods, and materials are duly differentiated when the western models of educational process is followed in teaching Tamil as a foreign language. Hence grammar-translation, structural and communicative methods are followed. The traditional language education in India does not make a distinction in methods, materials etc. Teaching a language using the traditional methodology is teaching a few pieces of poetry and prose. The book published by the government of Pondicherry typically follows the traditional methodology. This book may be acceptable in the situation where the spoken variety is acquired earlier and written variety is learned.

Krashen (1982) is of the view that second language cannot be taught, it must be acquired. For normal performance in a second language, the acquired knowledge will be helpful. The language learned through instruction in class room is focused on grammatical rules and forms of language. The Tamil diglossic situation enables the students to acquire the spoken form for natural communication, and written form for formal learning. The materials are not differentiated for first language or second language learning in the acquisition context.

The government of Pondicherry has been adopting the textbooks published by the government of Tamilnadu for teaching Tamil as first language. Now it has produced its own book for the first time without differentiating first or second language materials. It follows the pattern of the first standard regular text book for the mother tongue students of Tamil, but the texts written, selected, or adopted are slightly different. It remains to be seen whether the government will simplify the materials suitable for second language learning of Tamil from second standard (II year) onwards or going to follow the same books published by Tamilnadu.

There is a case for introducing Tamil as a required language up to fifth grade for administrative reasons, etc. Such an introduction may reduce some of the problems listed above. However, the need to re-do the textbooks and re-orient the teaching strategies should be recognized.


Beebee, M. Leslie (ed.) 1988. Issues in second Language Acquisition : Multiple Perspectives. New York: Newbury House Publishers.

Krashen, S.D. 1982. Principle and practice in Second language Acquisition. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Dulay, H.C. & Burt, M.K. 1974. Natural sequence in child second language Acquisition. Language Learning. 24: 37-53.


L. Ramamoorthy, Ph.D.
Pondicherry Institute of Linguistics and Culture
112 Kamatchi Amman Koil Street
Pondicherry 605 001, India
E-mail: Please write Attention: Dr. Ramamoorthy