Language has been a means of communication for as long as we can remember. Language has evolved so far to the point that there are multiple languages used throughout the world. With 6,500 languages spoken around the world, it begs the question: which language is the oldest. With January being Tamil Heritage Month, I feel it best to talk about the oldest language that is still spoken today: Tamil.
தமிழ் (Tamil) originates from South Asia, being the National Language of Tamilnadu, located in Southern India. Other notable places where Tamil is spoken included Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, and even Canada. Tamil is a member of the Dravidian Language Family, which is a group of 70 languages spoken mainly in South Asia. Tamil dates back to at least the 5th century BCE. Tamil has been divided into three time periods, Old Tamil (450 BCE to 700 BCE), Middle Tamil (700-1600), and finally Modern Tamil (1600-). Tamil was developed from the writing system known as Bhrami, which is the ancestral system of almost all Indian languages. The language developed over the time of its existence, with some slang differing by city. In Tamilnadu, Tamil is spoken completely differently in the Northeast of Sri Lanka, where the majority of Tamil speakers reside.
Now, although Tamil is technically a language, its true meaning goes far beyond communication. Tamil is an identity; it’s something that we as Tamils from all over the world take pride in. To many like myself, Tamil is a sense of belonging and community. Tamil is something that goes beyond skin colour, your last name, religion, etc. Tamil is rich, and its roots have been strengthened by various events throughout history. Tamil is music, food, cinema, historic monuments, and so much more. Tamil is a culture that will never be forgotten. I’ll leave you with my favourite saying, which goes as follows; தமிழன்டா (Tamil-an-da). The literal translation is “I am Tamil” but its meaning is more. It is used to proudly state who you are, without wavering to any outside force. This saying holds confidence and self-identity. Take some time to find your own heritage, and always be proud of your background, regardless of what anyone says.