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(Trans)literate art

Radical choices and incremental gains. The slow boil process of learning a new script

Ahilan Ratnamohan

Ahilan Ratnamohan deconstructs his experience learning the Tamil script, examining the personal experience and the typographical construction of the letters parallel to each other. He uses a sort of auto-fiction to investigate the incremental steps involved in learning a new script and asks the reader to dive into the experience with him, by gradually introducing Tamil characters into the text and consequently imprinting them in the head of the reader. He attempts to address the work involved in this and draws comparisons with his own artistic and learning labour.

Ahilan Ratnamohan deconstrueert zijn ervaring met het leren van het Tamilschrift parallel: op niveau van persoonlijke ervaring en via de letterlijke taalkundige verwevenheid van de letters. Hij gebruikt een vorm van autofictie om de incrementele stappen in het leren van een nieuw schrift te onderzoeken en vraagt de lezer om mee in de ervaring te duiken, door geleidelijk aan Tamil letters in de tekst te introduceren en ze consequent te installeren in de hersen/het hoofd van de lezer. Hij probeert de nuances die met deze ‘arbeid’ gepaard gaan aan te kaarten en tegenover zijn eigen leer- en werkervaringen te plaatsen.

1991 - I see my name written as Akilan in the programme notes of a wedding for which I am page boy. My mum explains to me that it’s not a mistake, rather an alternative way of spelling my name. It’s a glimpse into a new world, the implications of which I do not yet understand.

In 2017, I began to learn the Tamil script against my will, resigned to the fact that my anti-conventional wisdom belief - that learning the script wasn’t necessary for a language which I only wished to speak - might have been wrong. But after 28 failed Tamil-learning attempts over 24 years, I began to think that perhaps learning the Tamil syllabary was necessary.1 I had bumped into the problem throughout my life. But the resignation to learn the script had arrived as a practical solution. In my attempts to learn Tamil up to that point, I’d never really found one conclusive spelling method. The English transliterations of the language differed from person to person, from book to book. Already struggling to make any progress in the language, I bit the bullet and started to learn the Tamil script.

A letter from the artist to his father, page 2.

2000 - I get a silver bracelet with my name - அகிலன் - engraved on it. I realise that the அ must make an ‘ah’ but I do not delve further into it.2

Learning the script went surprisingly quickly. I used a technique called visualization and turned the ம, which makes a ‘ma’ sound, into a stick figure with big muscles. Likewise, I drew a dot in the த, which makes a ‘tha’ sound, imagining it as a ‘tha-dpole’. For me, as a language learner, interacting with a language creatively is fundamental. In my artistic practice, I often look at த process of learning a new language. I observe it as a performance. Just like I observe football (soccer) through த lens of a choreographic practice. த boundaries between these practices are blurry and sometimes, a footballer who I am working with as a dancer unexpectedly begins to learn a language with me, perhaps they even become my language coach.

It is said that த more languages one speaks, த easier it is to learn new languages. You’ve got more references. In order to remember த word ‘approximately’ in Tamil, ஏறத்தாழ (aira-thaala), I think of ‘Herentals’ (a small city in Belgium, which I’ve only ever driven past on the motorway) and I think, ‘Approximately how long is it until we’re in Herentals?’. த fact that I speak and spoke fluent Dutch didn’t help. A frustration manifested within me. த fact that I could have learned Dutch so effortlessly and received compliments so freely, exacerbated த shame that grew and grew as people laughed at me த moment I opened my mouth to speak Tamil.

2005 - I visit Sri Lanka for the first time. But having just returned from the promised land and stuck in the Eurocentricity of my youth, I am more occupied with learning Spanish than Tamil.

2016 - Using an exercise book, which centres its dialogues around an American professor moving to Tamil Nadu in India, I make my first concerted effort to learn Tamil using the Latin alphabet. I encounter words such as வார்த்தை (word), spelt as vaarthai, vaarthey, varthei. This attempt fails as have my other 26 attempts prior to this.

த process of learning த script went surprisingly quickly. த trickiest part was that in Tamil all consonants, in their base form, are assumed to be followed by an ‘a’ vowel. They are then modified in order to change their vowel ending, so ம = ‘ma’, மி = ‘mi’, likewise a த (tha) can become a தி (thi) or even a தீ (thee). Although in த beginning I was scared of having to learn all தீ other characters, there is a logic to த modifications, which means that த 247 characters aren’t nearly as daunting as that number itself. த trickiest part is for த sounds ‘mai’/’maay’ (மை) or mow (மோ), because த modifications happen by adding another letter, in front of and behind த character. This thinking is counter-intuitive to a Latin alphabet thinking. You have to spot த modification but wait to put it into action. It reminds me of counting in Dutch a lot, where once you arrive at the twenties, you don’t say twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three, rather one and twenty, two and twenty, three and twenty. Writing down digits above twenty in Dutch remains a nightmare for me to this day.

2017 - Getting respite from the swathing heat of Jaffna in the air-conditioned children’s room at the library, I set about reading in Tamil. The librarians never laugh at me as I sit there for hours slowly making my way through books, seated among the school kids. The initial high that accompanied reading a first word is offset by the sheer discipline and persistence required to develop a reading practice.

I remember த moment when I first learned to read a word in Tamil vividly, although not vividly enough to remember த word itself. I imagine it might have been அம்மா, amma, mum. There was something child-like about it, this new skill, த possibility that one could decipher this previously alien script. I walked around த house aimlessly, yet with a smile on my face.

A letter from the artist to his father, page 4.

Despite தீ initial high of reading my first word, த truth about learning to read in Tamil was that it was gruelling. Even reading children’s books was த most excruciating task ever. In other Latin-alphabet languages I’d been able to enjoy reading novels, sometimes even translations of Jack Kerouac or Julio Cortázar. Even if I didn’t understand every word, I could still produce த words with my mouth, hear them being said, feel them.

2016 - I write my first ever email in Tamil. It is to my mum. My first attempt is performed by using a mix of GoogleTranslate or Branah.com’s Online Tamil Keyboard and copying and pasting.

Slowly, this method becomes too slow for my needs. I install a Tamil keyboard on my laptop. I stick yellow Tamil letters on every key and, suddenly, those beautiful Tamil characters are literally at the tips of my fingers. I feel immense pride.

அ (which makes a soft ‘a’ sound), is one of the only letters which sits on த same key as its Latin-alphabet equivalent on my QWERTY keyboard. It being த first letter of my name, and the first letter in அம்மா, it was not அ challenge to remember it.

From 2016 through to mid-August 2020, I typed short emails in Tamil, but nothing significant. I was reading with some regularity, but nothing intensive enough to make great strides. Also, when one learns அ new language, one encounters new family and sometimes, thus, new family problems. These problems often knocked த wind out of my Tamil learning sails, but will not be த subject of this article.

November 2019 – on a scrap of paper, I write ‘RADICAL CHOICES IN LANGUAGE USE’ with a crappy Google-assisted Tamil translation underneath. I post it on the wall of my work desk and promise myself that from now on, I will only speak Tamil with aunties and uncles. It’s the first time I can remember actually writing so purposefully in Tamil.

Mid-2020, I began to have more contact with two Tamil diaspora friends in த UK and we started அ Tamil-language WhatsApp group. த thing about diaspora in general (from my experience) is that my friends may have learned தீ alphabet at Tamil school, but they seldom use it. They type in அ transliterated Latin alphabet. Mahy (மகி) and Bhiruntha (பிருந்த) had almost only ever spoken Tamil in த UK. It was practically அ pidgin Tamil that they were speaking.3 There were pronunciations that had slowly shifted. When compared to my learning process, which had been so isolated - to த point that I sometimes thought of myself as an exile - every word had been accompanied by this archaic script and த proposed pronunciations as documented and archived in books. அ quick scan of அ text message from Bhiruntha reveals words like 'aditha murai kondu varuvom!' aduttha murai kondu varuvoom/varuvohm and 'kudithu vidingo' kudutthu vidungo. This was no problem when I knew த words, but in த case of words which I didn’t know or semi-knew, it caused me much confusion. I resolved to subtly shift த 'script of command' of த group, by writing consequent4 in த Tamil script.

இன் திஸ் journey to learn த Tamil language and its script, த new words will not stop, த bar will continue to be raised. தீ improvements will be microscopic.

Not long after my intervention, on my அம்மா’s birthday, I got hit by அ rush of Tamil inspiration. I found myself returning to த work of Shobasakthi (ஷோபாசக்தி). Shobasakthi is அ former child soldier of த LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam or, more commonly, த Tamil Tigers) who had fled and sought asylum in France. I had read his book Gorilla அ few years back and been completely taken by it.5 He was one of, at least what seemed to me at த time, very few Sri Lankan Tamil writers on த international stage. Well, only just. An English copy of Gorilla is nigh on impossible to find.The copy I read was one my brother had purchased for over $100. I had been unsuccessful in my attempts to track down அ Tamil version, in part because of its rarity and in part because of my lousy Tamil, probably.

When I first began to read in Tamil, I started to harbour த dream of one day being able to read Gorilla in தமிழ். I had searched for Shobasakthi’s work அ while back. To no avail.

The beautiful thing about trying to contact Shobasakthi is that it was made even more difficult by த fact that he didn’t speak English, apparently. When த translator of Gorilla Anushiya Sivanarayanan (அனுஷியா சிவநாரயனன்) first contacted him, he is said to have responded, 'No English. Only Tamil', along with providing his phone number. His other language, French, is another language I study, but I would be spitting on my attempt to radicalise my choices in language use if I were to write to him in French. Even if, as much as it saddens me to say, that would be so much easier than writing in Tamil. அ marker of how lowly my Tamil remains.

A letter from the artist to his father, page 6.

I hadn’t given தீ email that much thought. I was sure he wouldn’t get it or he would be too busy to respond, so I tried not to place too much importance on it.

In Tamil, க creates அ guttural sound that one doesn’t really find in தீ English language, அ bit between ‘ha’ and ‘ka’. This is த sound for த ‘g’ in Dutch. But it can be hardened through ், which deadens it and, thus, அ ‘க்’ makes த ‘k’ sound without த ‘a’ vowel following it. And thus, க்க makes ‘ka’ or even ‘kka’ (with a slight ‘over’ enunciation of த ‘k’). த ‘க’ is easy to remember. With an extra line and அ bit of smoke behind it, it becomes அ ‘car’. For த இ (‘i’), I never needed to visualise. It was so beautiful that it stuck in my head. We could make ‘in’ by adding த ன (na) and an ், ன், to it, இன். If I was born இன் Belgium or த Netherlands, then my parents might not have had to choose between Ahilan or Akilan, as written இன் த programme notes of that wedding. த most logical choice would have been to transliterate அகிலன் as ‘a’ ‘gi’ ‘la’ ‘n’. Agilan.

அ couple of hours later, when த heat had died down and I had moved on to other, more menial things like tidying த house, I saw அ new email இன் my inbox. த sender: Shoba.
The content: அ few paragraphs of beautiful Tamil script. I slowly deciphered two options for reading Gorilla. One was அ link to அ PDF that I could access immediately and தீ other 'புத்தகமாக வேண்டுமென்றால் உங்களது முகவரி அனுப்புங்கள். தபாலில் அனுப்பிவைக்கிறேன்'. putthakamaaka veendumenraal ungaluthu mukavari anuppunkal. Thapaalil anuppivaikkireen.

த first word was immediately recognisable for me, putthakam, book, and - இன் that sort of excited scanning one does when too impatient to read and study த full sentences - I saw த word for post. As I re-read it, I realised that Shobashakthi was offering to send me his book through த post and even proposing to call and chat. I was elated. I’d wanted to attempt reading this book இன் Tamil for years and have never even been able to start and fail, let alone do it. Now I had த PDF இன் front of me and was potentially going to receive அ copy இன் த mail.

But reading quietly இன் one’s bedroom is different from reading out loud இன் front of someone. I hadn’t expected த performance factor to have such an effect and as we read on this particular day, my mum was following me like அ hawk. Waiting to pounce.

The Tamil script, those once alien hieroglyphics, had become this portal to அ world I’d never previously known.

2018 – I am back in Jaffna. I have asked Baba Aunty to help translate a flyer, which I intend to post around the streets of Jaffna in order to interview labourers who have returned from Qatar. I am proud of the fact that I can type in Tamil, but as Baba Aunty spells the words out to me, it dawns on me that I do not know the actual names of the letters. I do not know that ல is referred to as paambu laana, ள as kombu laana, and ழ as mauvalavu laana. To me they are all simply ‘L’. While I can get by with most letters, the fact that there are three different N’s and L’s is a nightmare, and Baba Aunty yells at me in a Jaffna Tamil educationary fashion each time I get it wrong.

Shortly after receiving Gorilla, I asked my mother to help me practice reading. Even if it was for just 10 minutes அ day, we logged onto Skype, me with my printed version of Gorilla and pen இன் hand, her with த PDF on தீ other side of த world. Although I didn’t understand half of what I read, I could now read at அ decent level. But reading quietly இன் one’s bedroom is different from reading out loud இன் front of someone. I hadn’t expected த performance factor to have such an effect and as we read on this particular day, my mum was following me like அ hawk. Waiting to pounce. Every stutter, every mispronounced தற்க (thatka), one slip of த tongue and she was there to correct me before I even had த chance to do it myself. I felt that tightness இன் my throat (the one my daughter describes when I have gotten angry with her), I was holding back tears as I continued to read. Tamil had transported us and our relationship 30 odd years back to some sort of parallel youth and relationship we never experienced.

2020 - I’m counting sheep in bed. I count in Tamil and imagine sheep, sometimes even goats, jumping over the fence of our house in Jaffna. I’m trying to fall asleep. But if anything, counting in Tamil stimulates me even more.

During lockdown, when I started exercising again, I started counting இன் Tamil instead of English, இன் my attempts to let Tamil really penetrate my everyday life. This seemed த simplest possible incision I could make. It was funny, because as obvious as it was, it was something I had never even considered இன் த ten or so years I have been learning languages. Possibly because numbers take அ backseat இன் my approach to language learning and I will forever be irked by memories of time invested இன் learning French numbers இன் த seventh grade when we could have been conversing. But இன் Jaffna, த young women இன் த shop still laugh at me when they tell me how much something costs and I stare back at them blankly trying to translate, match and comprehend; they laugh even more when I ask them to repeat it இன் Tamil after they’ve converted it to English to help me. Counting while exercising is surprisingly hard. Of course, if you are only doing ten repetitions of an exercise it’s fairly straight-forward and you feel good as you do your exercise and count இன் Tamil at த same time. But then I start going to twenty and while it’s not hard, I realize there are certain numbers that don’t slip off த tongue. I try doing squats quicker sometimes and realize I can’t keep up. Even if I was doing 101, 102, 103, 104, 105 squats, these numbers would roll off my tongue இன் English, morphing into hundrewan, hundretwo,hundretree, hundrefo, hundrefai.

I’ve never had to learn த Tamil numerals. Until I wrote this article, I’d never thought twice about this. I was instead thankful that I didn’t have 10 more characters. Apparently, Old Tamil had its own numeral system, but it made way for த Hindu-Arabic system.

One day, I tried counting இன் patterns, அ method I sometimes use when working with choreography. I try doing 1-2-3-4, 2-2-3-4, 3-2-3-4, 4-2-3-4. I cannot. It’s அ complete mindfuck and I’m reminded that I am not Tamil. Tamil is not my mother tongue. It should have been, but it never was.

I was இன் த reading groove. த words and letters were starting to become something familiar. One day, while writing அ 'to do' list for த day, I took த step of writing இன் Tamil. It was த first time. I think I was inspired by அ fairly pleasant and flowing Skype with my parents இன் த morning and அ generally positive streak of Tamil learning. Until that point, I hadn’t ever really written இன் Tamil . I had typed இன் Tamil, but writing was something else. I think I’d had அ defeatist feeling that I would never be able to produce those characters இன் their entire beauty and that my 4-year old Tamil writing was like அ stain on த language, so I would abstain from it. But on this Saturday morning, when I didn’t feel தீ obligation to work as hard as I do on அ weekday, I somehow felt த calmness to be able to take my time and write. My written notes had already been அ blur of English and Dutch for some years now. Often I would even use English words within அ Dutch sentence structure because that seemed to lend itself to த note-taking practice more. When I think, ‘I need to write an email to Mahy’, தீ emphasis is on த ‘Mahy’, த writing and e-mail are secondary. Writing notes இன் Tamil script didn’t feel that far-fetched. இன் fact, இன் Tamil all of த verbs come at தீ end of த sentence. இன் some ways, Dutch had eased த slide into Tamil. Slowly, I searched for த letters. Occasionally, I would have to refer to my printouts of Gorilla - still lying proudly on my table - to search for certain characters. கூ, டு, டி ஷ….

A letter from the artist to his father, page 9.

The ‘va’ இன் Tamil is வ, it’s not so dissimilar to ‘உ’ which makes an ‘oo’ sound. I manage to remember it with அ sentence இன் Dutch, 'U bent geVAllen', ‘gevallen’ meaning ‘fallen’, and me imagining அ ‘U’ which has fallen. My daughters and I remembered ‘ஒ’ (o) by turning it into an ‘old man’.

Through த process ஒவ் writing, I became aware ஒவ் how I’d never managed to remember டு (doo) or டி (di). I had always found them illogical இன் their transformation from ட, but through த choreography ஒவ் putting ink to paper, I began to understand their logic. This was அ nice little exercise. I resolved to continue to do this every day, wondering whether I’d be able to keep it up when I needed to write quickly. Time would tell. I thought about that sign ஒன் my wall. ‘Radical Choices in Language Use’. Had I been radicalised? Surely this was all getting அ bit too extreme? I thought my language extremism had already gone pretty far. But ஒன் that day I’d found another step, another level. Sometimes I compare learning a new language with creating a performance. You have to constantly keep searching, change tactics and avoid plateaus. And even if you think it’s finished, it never is really. த pursuit ஒவ் this particular language and this particular script had become like this never ending quest to evolve, both இன் ability and இன் practice. Every time I thought I had exhausted all ஒவ் த possible learning methods, அ new one sprouted out ஒவ் த last.

It was த 21st ஒவ் May, 2021, and I was getting ready to present அ lecture via Zoom for த University ஒவ் Jaffna Fine Arts Department. I had stuck to my resolution and told them I was happy to do it, but that it would be இன் Tamil, however bad that Tamil might be. Actually, த reaction ஒவ் Navadharshani (நவதர்ஷனி), senior lecturer இன் Drama and Theatre Arts, had surprised me. I thought she would have been worried, but she was extremely encouraging. I had recently received அ new computer through work, but had decided to leave த Tamil for my old, beat up, ‘leisure’ computer. As I prepared my PowerPoint தீ English words staring back at me seemed அ bit out ஒவ் place. I realised that I needed to translate everything. But I hadn’t installed த Tamil keyboard ஒன் my work computer, nor did I have my bright yellow stickers to guide me. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I was allowed to do that ஒன் அ work computer. Installing த 'Tamil 99' keyboard took next to no time and, then, I trepidatiously set about trying to type without த stickers. I stumbled at first, but then slowly worked my way through த first sentences, my confidence growing as I proceeded. Occasionally, I would stab at 3 or 4 different letters before finding த right one. But eventually I would find it. Sometimes, I had to amble தீ arrow to த top corner ஒவ் my screen and click ஒன் 'Show Keyboard Viewer'. Only then would I see and remember that ‘ஞ’ (nya) was nestled all த way up there இன் த top right corner ஒவ் my keyboard ஒன் த ‘$’ key and say ‘damn’ before continuing (I've never learned how to swear இன் Tamil). As I progressed through த PowerPoint, it occurred to me that I was practically touch-typing இன் Tamil. Or at least fumble-touch-typing. This shy, idiosyncratic pride consumed me. This was surely த most niche, personal, nerdy, incomprehensible-to-everyone-but-me skill I had ever acquired.

Just as I need to finish up this article, I end up unexpectedly staying at அ Tamil-speaking friend’s house இன் Amsterdam. Normally, we had only planned to meet for coffee, but me staying த night at her place means that we end up speaking Tamil for hours and hours. Probably longer than I have ever previously spoken. Over த course ஒவ் த evening, she shows me அ bunch ஒவ் books from female Sri Lankan Tamil authors, once again another portal opens to அ world that for me had previously been limited to Shobasakthi. ஒன் த train ride home I begin reading Our Lives, Our Words உணர்வும் உருவமும் (Unarvum Uruvamum), by A. Revathi (அ ரேவதி).6 I get through த pages comfortably. I am now able to create த rhythm ஒவ் Tamil, but to discern அ full story is அ challenge. Luckily, A. Revathi uses English words written இன் Tamil script occasionally: ஸ் (‘s’) கு (koo) ல் (l), which help to re-locate me. With அ few extra dots, my daughters turn த ‘ஸ’ (sa) into an elephant ssspraying water from its ssslurf (trunk in Dutch). ‘ஸ’ இஸ் அ letter I struggle to write. It இஸ் an imported letter,7 which doesn’t really appear இன் pure Tamil words, so I haven’t had as much practice with it. If you recall the தி (thi), we could also make திஸ் (this).

I think back to த two dictionaries Sruti placed ஒன் த table to hammer home அ notion we were discussing. த Tamil to English dictionary towers over த English to Tamil one, it’s almost three times as big. I realise that these aren’t coincidences anymore. இன் திஸ் journey to learn த Tamil language and its script, த new words will not stop, த bar will continue to be raised. தீ improvements will be microscopic. Most people probably won’t be able to understand them, or even enjoy them இன் my nerdy manner. Maybe திஸ் article இஸ் pointless. They won’t stop. And they won’t get any easier.

And then, again by chance, just as I think that தீ article இஸ் finished, something happens. A sudden urge to write to my father arises. இன் த middle ஒவ் an intense and draining project, my fingers are sore from த non-stop typing and swiping ஒவ் த past week. Writing with pen and paper had been அ welcome relief; and so I decide to write him அ letter, at first not even stopping to think about த fact that it has to be இன் Tamil.

I start hesitantly. Writing அ letter calls for அ different aesthetic compared to that ஒவ் அ 'to-do' note. I start with big, clunky, scared letters. They wobble across த page. But by page 3, I start to hit my stride. I think ஒவ் those blue airmail letters I used to find stashed இன் my அம்மா’s drawer, letters from த grandma I never knew, could never speak with. திஸ் alien script, which I couldn’t even fathom anyone being able to read. My characters get smaller, more italicised, as I discover my Tamil writing aesthetic and get swallowed up by த process. It இஸ் like அ pas de deux between my mind and my hand. My mind willing my hand to keep up. I let out cries ஒவ் anguish as I repeatedly make mistakes and have to scribble them out. Getting my head around those vowel modifications that come before த consonant requires incredible discipline. Learning to write இன் Tamil has made me understand why my parents’ English handwriting always looked த way it did. I remember my mother's handwriting as bordering ஒன் impossible to read. I realise that handwriting also has an accent inherited from த mother tongue. Or mother script.

I’m writing to my dad about swimming, for which I inherited அ love from him, I suspect. But it’s also something I suck at. I don’t do many things I am bad at. But swimming and writing இன் Tamil are two exceptions. As I write, I grow more and more இன் love with த Tamil script. I imagine writing letters to my அம்மா, my aunties and uncles, த grandmother I never knew. திஸ் practice seems to confirm த portal-like nature ஒவ் த script. It’s அ portal that connects me with new people and old people இன் different ways. And அ portal that sucks me in. த letter I’m writing to my dad consumes me and I write voraciously. Pages and pages….


Ahilan Ratnamohan

is a performance maker (°Melbourne, 1984) exploring forms that are atypical in a theatre context and working almost exclusively with people without a classical performance training. Among other things, his performances explore the cultural and choreographic potential of football and the political power of language. He joined ROBIN as a choreographer and socio-political theater maker in 2019. In 2020, he started a research project at the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp on the performativity of language learning and language learning as performance, a theme that also remains the focus of his current projects (Pidgin X, All the words I didn't know yet). A prominent additional track is his work trajectory in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, the hometown of his parents. One example is The Post Whitewash Reparation Company, a project in Jaffna that was awarded the Roel Verniers Prize in 2019.


  1. An abugida (/ɑːbʊˈɡiːdə, ˈæb-/, from Ge'ez: አቡጊዳ), sometimes known as alphasyllabary, neosyllabary, or pseudo-alphabet, is a segmental writing system in which consonant-vowel sequences are written as units; each unit is based on a consonant letter, and vowel notation is secondary. From "Abugida." Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abugida. Last accessed 28 Feb. 2022. So Tamil script is syllabic, not alphabetic.
  2. FORUM+ normally works with OED standardised English, hence 'standardized', or 'realize' is what should be used according to the house-style. But having learned English in Australia, thus British English, my preference is to use 'ise'. This is a political choice fraught with inconsistencies and at odds with my attempts to make 'Radical Choices in Language Use'. In the case of English, my colonial language, I would prefer not to speak it at all, and one would think that I would then definitely choose American English over the Queen’s English, but somehow my despisal of American dominance trumps my wish to de-colonise in the hierarchy of intersectionality.
  3. A pidgin language is defined as a grammatically simplified language that develops when there is contact between two communities that do not share a common language. I have been fascinated by pidgin for years. At the moment I am working on a quite large-scale project, in which we attempt to create a new pidgin language based on the words that people (who have had to learn the dominant language) miss from their mother tongue.
  4. ‘Consequent’ is a word in Dutch (or German, konsequent) that I constantly miss when speaking English. While one can use 'consistent' or 'consequential', I always have a feeling that these words feel odd and just don’t cut it.
  5. Jesuthasan, Antonythasan ‘Shobasakthi’. Gorilla. 2001. Random House Pub, 2008.
  6. Revathi, A. Our Lives, Our Words. Yoda Press, 2012. It was only during the edit that I realised that A. Revathi is not Sri Lankan, rather a transgener Indian writer. Differentiating between Sri Lankan and Indian Tamil still remains extremely tricky for me.
  7. The ஸ comes from the Grantha script originally. There is a quite complex history of borrowing, mixing, and nationalism involved in this.