Monday, February 18, 2008

Speaking Tamil in Chennai is an annoyance?

My friend and Tamil writer Sathyarajkumar visited Cleartrip.com after reading a lot of good things about the site and their communication skills here on Whitespace. But what he read about Chennai city on the Small world section of Cleartrip hasn’t amused him even a bit. The annoyance point of guide for Chennai city says
People in Chennai are generally averse to speaking in Hindi which makes it difficult to converse with the locals, especially if they are not conversant in English either. To make things more uncomfortable, the climate in Chennai is exceptionally hot and humid.
On his Tamil blog post Sathyarajkumar asks how speaking in one’s own mother tongue can be considered as an annoyance for others. He is basically OK with the fact that the site is pointing out that Chennai people dont speak Hindi but what he is not happy is the head under which it is said. Cleartrip is a Mumbai based company but did they conclude that only Hindi speaking crowd fly to Chennai to consider it as an annoyance to all the other Indians? Also note how the second line starts by saying “To make things more uncomfortable…”.

It’s true that giving out facts about places are extremely helpful for the people who are traveling there for the first time, but it has to be in a way that it doesn’t affect the sentiments of the local public and also taking care of Indians as a whole; not only North Indians. I’m a Keralite and I had never spoken Hindi in my life until I went to Pune for a living where I had no other go than to speak Hindi as no locals there understood Malayalam. Now will that be considered as an annoyance?

The following is my suggestion for the Non Hindi speaking point for Chennai and I don’t think it should be featured under the head Annoyance.

Non Tamil speaking travelers to Chennai may find it difficult to converse with the locals as they don’t speak Hindi or in some cases English.

15 comments:

Deepak said...

Did you give a feed back to Cleartrip ? After all they are your favorite flight booking site. The suggestion you have made in your blog seems good. Do suggest them.

Susheel said...

i think this could potentially spell disaster for north-south relations. cleartrip should rectify this immediately, or risk nuclear bombardment...

Umesh said...

@deepak Yes will do

@Susheel I get your point once again. This post is just to tip cleartrip about the shortcoming in their otherwise fantastic and friendly user communication. Its not about the great North South divide or making this the biggest problem of India. We have lot of other things to be worried about. The idea is to convey things by not taking sides which will only attain better user experiences.

Arun said...

This is a usual criticism about Tamil people. I have seen only 3 tamilians so far who could understand Hindi. Hindi is a branding. You know hindi, it helps here and there. But being sarcastic about tamilians for not speaking Hindi is war far bit too much. May be the people who have complaints can try lil bit of Chinese? or at least some Telugu (which is one of the top 'spoken' langages in India)?

Vinodh Nandakumar said...

I agree to the facts presented by Cleartrip. I'm from Chennai and I have seen the reactions my friends have got ppl when they try to interact in hindi.
Though as Umesh says, might make sense to re-word it :)

markiv/ root3 said...

probably i would agree to the matter of the fact, but are we good enough to say that?
for one, it is not really the 'in' thing to talk in tamil in chennai. how many new age guys/ gals do you see conversing in their mother tongue. when we throw such gaping holes between the 'highs' and 'lows' of society in language and culture, it is but confusing to the peoples that visit!!! :D

Anonymous said...

markiv/ root3,

This is not about me or you, but our FRIENDLY auto drivers, or anyone those that are the first experience for a visitor to our city. It is ludicrous to complain that someone can only speak in their native language.

But you do raise a valid point, I used to be one of those of gob full of English, then something happened -- I got older.

VIDYA said...

Agreed that hindi is the national language and everything, but if people in chennai dont speak tamil then who will....
A site can hint to travellers that people in chnenai dont speak hindi, (or english, though now more and more people seem to speak the language, right from fruit sellers who prefer to say 'water melon' to the cool sounding 'darbooze'), it is absolutely racist of them to make such remarks, the north south divide has caused enough problems already, well if the site feels coming to chennai is an 'annoyance' then they lose thier business, ppl will prefer to book tickets from sites tht claim chennai is 'hot and happening'.

Raj said...

@vidya:
This is another misconception spread across the country. There as a national animal. There is a national bird. But there is no such thing declared as national language. What is declared is diffrerent official languages for central and states.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Official_languages_of_India

VIDYA said...

@ raj

thnkss! i really had no clue tht it wasnt the national lang..

Jai said...

Chennai, to be very honest, is quite unfriendly to visitors. Perhaps this is unintentional, perhaps not.

When I drove down to Chennai I really had a tough time getting into the city, and also getting around in the city. Neither the signboards nor the directions provided by the people helped one bit.

How do other metros rate when it comes to being Visitor friendly? I'd sure like to know. :-)

Anonymous said...

As a NRI, I totally agree that it is a rascist comment.Find it strange that one has to resort to speaking in Hindi in Chennai when practically everyone understands a smattering of English. Anway it is only polite for visitors to try to communicate with the language of the host country. Dont we try to learn French when we travel to France?. Why Cant one do the same when one visits the different states of India.

Anonymous said...

http://vetri-vel.blogspot.com/2006/12/india-does-not-have-national-language.html

India does NOT have a National Language
Part XVII of the constitution:
This part 17, defines an OFFICIAL language, NOT a national language.
http://www.astro.virginia.edu/~sk4zw/india-const/p17.html

Article 345: This gives the State govt., power to decide its own "OFFICIAL LANGUAGE"
http://www.astro.virginia.edu/~sk4zw/india-const/p17345.html

Article 343: This defines Hindi in devangari script and English to be the "OFFICIAL LANGUAGES" of union govt.
http://www.astro.virginia.edu/~sk4zw/india-const/p17343.html


DIFFERENCE between National and Official Language:

NATIONAL LANGUAGE: Defines the people of the nation, culture, history.

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: A language that is used for official communication

While a National language by default can become the Official language, an Official language has to be APPROVED legally to become the National language.

All languages spoken in India, starting from the most populous to the least are our national languages, because all of them define the people of this nation, culture and their history collectively.

India has NO LEGALLY DEFINED NATIONAL LANGUAGES ONLY 23 OFFICIAL languages as per the constitution.

Rajesh K said...

Hey ! If you plan to stay in Chennai for a long period of time, simple : just learn to speak Tamil, atleast basic Tamil. It's not too difficult. Yes, to learn how to read and write Tamil may be difficult for a North Indian, but it is not too hard to learn how to speak Tamil. People in Chennai are calm and cool people and Chennai is fast changing : it's modernising : Chennai is not such a bad place ... every place has it's own drawbacks.

Anonymous said...

i love hindi.