There are a number of resources available for learning Tamil. Sometimes it can be hard to navigate or find things at the correct level. This is my current list of resources, which I update regularly.
I have them sorted first by what is available free online and which are hard copy books. Within those categories, I have tried to sort resources by type, author, etc.
[item title=”Word editor/Transliteration Software“]
- Azhagi is both a word processing software as well as a transliterating software. I love this program. You can type in Tamil and it has a large number of other languages in “beta.” You can save your work as an rtf or convert to unicode and post online. Having the program open and hitting F10 allows you to type in any application in Tamil. Very useful for google searches, email, chat etc.
- NHM This one installs in the bottom tray in windows, you click a bell icon to toggle between Tamil and English. Sometimes I can’t convince this one to give me the right “n.”
- Google now has download-able software as well as what is built into your blogger and gmail accounts. Since the top two work fine for me, I have not tried this yet.
[item title=”Online lessons courtesy of the S. Asia Inst and Univ of Pennsylvania“]
- The Tamil Language in Context — This page has great videos with transcripts to follow! Huge asset! They also have a page with the alphabet in a chart format. Print it, paste a copy into the cover of your notebook and refer back to it often. Recommended for Beginners!
- TamilWeb — I think this was the original page before the video one was produced, still lots of audio recordings of words to help you out.
[item title=”Tamil Virtual University“]
Originally I found the page hard to navigate, I am starting to use it more now. Tamil VU has a number of videos, click through lessons and workbooks. Here are some direct links to some of their free resources.
- This is a free online ebook for learning the writing system Recommended for Beginners!
- This is their intermediate level book.
- They also have an advanced book.
- Semi-Interactive Lessons, you can buy CDs with the same information but so far everything seems available for free as well.
[/item][item title=”Tamil textbooks available online“]
- Learn Thamil Through English courtesy of Sendhil Kumar Cheran hosted by Duke University; the PDF lessons are very useful.
- “Thamil Paadanool” Tamil Grammar Book written by Elango Cheran. I downloaded the pdf and use it to double check and verify things from other sites.
- Textbooks from the Government of Tamil Nadu — This is all of the public school textbooks from elementary to high school. It has all subjects, and at the elementary level, that works out really well!
- Intermediate Level Text by Karunakaran Krishnamoorthy of the University of Michigan.
- Intermediate Tamil: A self instructional method by Schiffman, all transliterated, old book from 1975, focus is on spoken Tamil.
[/item][item title=”Online Dictionaries“]
- Fabricius Dictionary — This is one of my favorites
- Lifco’s Great Tamil – Tamil – English dictionary Another favorite, input only in Tamil
- English/Tamil/Sinhala Dictionary — input only in English, it pronounces some words in Tamil
- English Tamil Dictionary Subburaj — has nice vocab lists, hard to maneuver online
- Google English-Tamil Dictionary — you can reverse it to be Tamil-English too
- Tamil Wiktionary — hard for a beginner to use, but a lot of fun to poke around
- Modern Tamil Online Dictionary
- A Tamil text to speech website.
[/item][item title=”Social Networking Sites for Language Learning“]
It is important to me to have many contacts for language learning, because when you are dealing with native speakers, they don’t always know the grammar rules, they just know the language. Asking lots of people the same question can give you some great insight into language variations that you don’t get from a text book.
- Livemocha — free to join, free to contact members, no Tamil course available, but you can create your own flashcards and chat with members.
- Lingo Friends — free to join, free to contact members, people don’t seem very active on the site
- My Language Exchange — free to join and post a profile, but costs $6 a month to contact other members. If you are lucky, you can post for free and hope someone contacts you.
- italki has a Tamil section as well.
[/item][item title=”Google Books“]
Learn Tamil in 30 Days
A Reference Grammar of Spoken Tamil— this book is written by one of the professors at U. of Penn.
G.U. Pope has a number of out of print Tamil language books on Google Books. The problem is that language is fluid, and books from the 1800’s don’t necessarily give a good idea of modern language…
- A Tamil Handbook Part I (History, Orthography, Grammar)
- A Tamil Handbook Part II (Appendices)
- A Tamil Handbook Part III (Dictionary)
- A Tamil Prose Reading Book.
[/item][item title=”Authentic Materials/Resources:“]
These are resources for more Intermediate and Advanced students who are able to read Tamil materials intended for Tamil readers (as opposed to intended for learners)
- Project Madurai — a collection of older Tamil texts
[item title=”Hard Copy Books“]
- Colloquial Tamil: The Complete Course for Beginners (Colloquial Series) Asher’s Colloquial Tamil focuses on the spoken language and often leaves me wondering which Tamil characters would be used to represent what is written on the page. The CDs that go along with the book are helpful in learning pronunciation, but they go very fast. It is hard for me as a beginner to really catch what is going on. I don’t process spoken language that quickly!
- Tamil for Beginners by Hart: This textbook is used by the author in her Tamil courses at UC Berkeley. The grammar book is very straightforward in explaining rules.
- Tamil: A Foundation Course by Balasubramaniam (out of print) This is the best I have seen for teaching the written language. It introduces a few letters at a time with words that use those letters. These units are then followed by a grammar section.
- An Intensive Course in Tamil Rajaram assumes you can read Devanagari before learning Tamil and uses that to teach you pronunciation. Once you already know how to read the orthography, you read having new grammar rules introduced with each chapter’s conversation. Printed in India, sometimes imported to the US.
- The Lifco Tamil-Tamil-English Dictionary (English and Tamil Edition) — Somewhat hard to find since it is published in India, but if you live in India or the US, you can order books directly from the publisher. Tamil-Tamil-English means you have the words only listed in Tamil, with Tamil definitions, followed by English definitions.