Let’s Learn Tamil – Lesson 01


Tamil Alphabet

Tamil… which is known as the oldest language of the world, and spoken by more than 70 million people all over the world including India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore.  It is very easy to study  Tamil to those who speak Sinhala and other Indian Sub-continent languages as Tamil and other languages of this region are co-existing till now.

First of all, we’re going to study Tamil alphabet!

There are 247 letters in Tamil language!
Oh my god!
How long it would take to study these 247 letters?
Calm down! 🙂
We just want to know only  31 letters!
12 vowels – 12 உயிர் எழுத்து (Uyir ezhuththu – Soul letters)

18 consonants – 18 மெய் எழுத்து (Mei ezhuththu – Body letters)

And a unique letter  for Tamil – Aaytham  ஆய்தம் = ஃ (not commonly used in spoken and written Tamil nowadays)

Tamil vowels –  12

அ = a (as in apple)

ஆ = aa (a as in father)

இ = i (i as in sit)

ஈ = ii (ea as in teach)

உ = u (u as in you)

ஊ = uu (oo as in too)

எ = e (e as in elephant)

ஏ = ae (a as in tank)

ஐ = ai (as eye)

ஒ = o (o as in on)

ஓ = oo (o as in open)

ஔ = au (au as in australia)

Consonants – 18

க் = k as in chalk

ங் = ng as in sing

ச் = ch as in search

ஞ் = nj – nch as in inch

ட் = d as in board

ண் = n as in under

த் = th as in teeth

ந் = n as in tenth

ப் = p as in deep

ம் = m as in team

ய் = y as in toy

ர் = r as in deer

ல் = l as in sell

வ் = v as in wave

ழ் = between ய்(y) and ள்(l), sounds like lea in pleasure.

ள் =  l as in told

ற் –  tr –  t as in seat

ன் – n as in fan

Note that Tamil consonant letter  ழ் is also an unique letter of Tamil which letter’s pronunciation is not in any world languages other than Malayalam. It sounds between “la” and “ya”. For Romanized writing purposes ழ is written as “zha” or “za”.

தமி”ழ்” – Thami”zh”(Tamil)

ப”ழ”ம் – Pa”zha”m (Fruit)

அ”ழ”கு – A”za”gu (Beauty)

So, remember, whenever we read or study Tamil in Romanized text, “zh”or “za” are always referred to “ழ”.  Don’t be confused with the common pronunciation of Z.

(As a beginner, don’t worry about its pronunciation and for now, spell ழ as well as ள (la). Here is the actual pronunciation of ழ: youtube.com )

So, 12+ 18+ 1 = 31 letters,

then how it would be 247 letters?

Yes! Body and Soul are accompanied together and make every living being! Like that Vowels and consonants accompany together and create “combined letters” – உயிர் மெய் எழுத்து – Uyir mei ezhuththu!

For example let’s take first consonant க் (k)

க் + அ = க
K + a = ka

க் + ஆ =கா
K + aa = kaa

க் + இ = கி
k + i = ki

க் + ஈ = கீ
K+ ii = kii

க் + உ = கு
K + u = ku

க் + ஊ = கூ
K + uu = kuu

க் + எ = கெ
K + e = ke

க் + ஏ = கே
K + ae = kae

க் + ஐ = கை
K + ai = kai

க் + ஒ = கொ
k + o = ko

க்+ ஓ = கோ
K + oo = koo

க் + ஔ =கௌ
K + au = kau

A consonant unite with 12 vowels and create 12 combined letters. So,

18*12 = 216 combined letters.

Thus, totally 12 + 18 + 1 + 216 = 247 letters!

Do not bother that we are studying mathematics instead of learning a new language!  🙂
It is very easy to remember the letters when we can memorize them through counting! Isn’t it?

The problem is not ended up here. There are another 6 letters known as “கிரந்த எழுத்து – kirantha ezhuththu (Grantha letter)” apart from Tamil alphabet, also used in Tamil language.

1. ஷ் = sh as in cash

2. ஸ் = s  like as

3. ஹ் = h as in hug

4. ஜ் = j – ge as in stage

5. க்ஷ் = ksh (க் + ஷ் = க்ஷ்; k + sh = ksh)

6. ஸ்ரீ  = Shri

Excluding ஸ்ரீ, other 5 Grantha consonants also create combined letters of their own and they rarely used here whenever translating other languages into Tamil script.

So, today, we saw a simple outline of Tamil alphabets. In next lesson, we are going to know about pronunciations of every letters. Kind regards! 🙂


Image Source : http://tamilkutti.wordpress.com