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Quick Facts


Total Worldwide Speakers: 65,675,200.


Language Family: Dravidian, Southern, Tamil-Kannada


Spoken in:
Tamil Nadu and neighboring states. Also in Bahrain, Canada, Fiji, Germany, Malaysia (Peninsular), Mauritius, Netherlands, Qatar, Réunion, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States.




The earliest known Tamil inscriptions date back to at least 500 BC. The oldest literary text in Tamil, Tolkāppiyam, was composed around 200 BC. The Tamil alphabet is is thought to have evolved from the Brahmi script, though some scholars believe that its origins go back to the Indus script.


The alphabet is well suited to writing literary Tamil, centamil. However it is ill-suited to writing colloquial Tamil, koduntamil. During the 19th century, attempts were made to create a written version of the colloquial spoken language. Nowadays the colloquial written language appears mainly in school books and in passages of dialogue in fiction.



Sources: The Ethnologue & Omniglot

Web-Based Resources

Web-Based Software

Mango Languages LogoMango Languages is available free to all Saint Michael's students, faculty, and staff in a number of languages. Each Mango lesson is focused on practical, common conversation skills and includes instruction on vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, and culture.

For assistance with Mango, please see the Getting Started with Mango Languages guide.