Learn Malayalam Yourself: Useful Experience Shared
If you are looking to master Malayalam, then this is the blog post for you. We have compiled a list of resources that will help you pick up Malayalam from scratch or brush up on your skills. You will find that taking up a new language can be an enriching and valuable experience. I hope this article helps.
Learn Malayalam Yourself
What is the Malayalam language?
Malayalam ( മലയാളം, maləyōḷ) is a Dravidian language spoken in the Indian state of Kerala and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry (Mahé) by the Malayali people. It belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. Malayalam has official language status in the state of Kerala and in the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry (Mahé). According to an estimate, it is used by 38 million people, making it among one of the most widely spoken Dravidian languages.
Malayalam has been preserved for at least a thousand years. Linguistic scholars classify Malayalam as a central Dravidian language, although it is often placed independently within the Dravidian family. It is written using the Malayalam script, an alphabet conceived in the 7th century by the sage Parāśara and modified over time.
Vernacular dialects occasionally show influence from Sanskrit, Tamil, Hindi, or Arabic.
Malayalam shares a lack of grammatical gender with other Dravidian languages and an emphasis on word order to convey meaning (instead of inflection). A distinctive feature of Malayalam is its use of lexicon-intensified verbs—verbs that are intensified due to greater concentration or density of meaning, with uncommon grammatical forms and periphrastic verb conjugations.
Malayalam is a language rich in written literature: the earliest Malayalam inscriptions date from about 830 AD, and many literary works in the Western classical tradition have been translated into Malayalam from English and 18th-century Sanskrit. In 1981, Indian National Theatres started its annual drama festival, the ‘Vallathol Narayana Menon Awards’ for lifetime achievements in theatre was instituted by the University of Kerala in 1971 renamed after playwright Vallathol Narayana Menon (1878–1958).
Benefits of learning Malayalam for non-native speakers
Apart from a great feeling of achievement, here are some more reasons why you should pick up Malayalam:
Rich in Literature
The early literature of Malayalam includes a group of Sanskrit dramas written between the 8th and 11th centuries, Chakyar koothu ( Hindu shadow puppet theatre), numerous proverbs, and folk songs. These works form the basis for modern prose and poetry. A lot of early work was destroyed during invasions from neighboring states or communities like Tippu Sultan, who invaded Kerala a few times during the 18 century to take over complete control in Bharat.
Later, the British historian Robert Caldwell published his study on the language, History Of Literature In Southern Travancore, starting from the 19th century. Apart from a few inscriptions or poems, there is little extrinsic evidence for literature in Kerala until the 9th century.
The earliest literature of Malayalam comprised three genres: poetic, religious, and secular, and non-literary forms such as proverbs. The songs were called Thullal, cheruthuruttu Vritham, Chakyar koothu, and so on.
The birth of Malayalam cinema has helped to spread the popularity of this language because many movies are made in this language which people enjoy watching around the world because it gives them some idea about the lifestyle of people living in Kerala who use Malayalam. Malayalam films have won 4 National awards since 1969 for Best Feature Film and another 12 Best Feature Film awards at the State level, along with many Special Jury Awards.
Malayalam is also spoken on the west coast of South India, especially Kerala (also known as Keralam), Lakshadweep Islands, and States like Karnataka. Outside Bharat, it is spoken by Indian communities residing in Qatar, Fiji, and other Gulf countries; Eastern Africa (Kenya, Tanzania); United Arab Emirates; European countries including Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, etc., Malaysia, Singapore, Maldives Oman Ethiopia Yemen United States of America And Canada, etc.
It has a very rich vocabulary.
The Malayalam language is also known as ‘the language of the Gods’ and here’s why: Sanskrit was the medium of education during much of Kerala’s history, the vocabulary/pronunciation and phrases from this ancient language are part of Malayalam’s everyday speech. Hinduism greatly influenced Malayalam parlance. Around 70% of Hindus live in the Malabar region, where Malayalam is predominant.
This language is called mother tongue for 75% of people who use it because it is not just for conversation but used in almost all types of communication like song lyrics, poems, stories, etc., which will give you an idea about the richness and variety of word usage when compared to any other languages available today. Knowledge of this language will give you an edge over many others.
Extend your Horizons
Nowadays it’s cool to know languages and use them casually even with friends who converse in that particular one also. It was definitely possible till a few years back, but now people really appreciate the efforts taken by anyone towards picking up a new language word, so recognizing their effort would definitely enrich your friendship. These days being multilingual has become common, so why be left behind? Not just working knowledge is enough but you should be able to converse fluently.
Improve Communication with Natives
Malayalam today is the official language of the state of Kerala and one of the 22 national languages recognized by the Indian constitution. You will also find Malayalam spoken in Lakshadweep islands which Maharajas ruled from 1820-1956.
Apart from that, it’s spoken in various parts throughout Bharat and abroad. Malayalam was used to communicate between people on different sides of this region during wartime or other interregnum periods when other languages might have been seen as more suspicious. It’s like picking up any regional language word would give you an opportunity to communicate much better with people around and a hence good chance of success in a multi-cultural environment.
If you love exploring Kerala literature, mastering Malayalam would be a good idea. Most of the classic literary works are written in this language, so getting well-versed in it will aid you to much better apprehend how people think and plan things around their language and culture.
Many scholars studying Vedic history, Sanskrit rules, or Indian philosophy used to master Malayalam for extensive research purposes, which were available only in this language only before English versions became popular these days.
In some ways, becoming bilingual can really make life much easier since there are many places you could go to where knowing both languages would give you an advantage over others (especially if they don’t understand any other language and you or your current colleagues converse in that particular one). One of the best examples is Bharat since Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali are spoken by much of it’s people, but how much they apprehend about their own script system is a different story. A similar situation exists in Singapore, where communities from Kerala state love to use Malayalam and Tamil.
Why learn the Malayalam language?
a) Have you ever thought while watching a movie, reading a book or word, or listening to a song that you wish you understand the language? It gives you an opportunity to apprehend things much better and love them more.
b) If your profession or hobby involves frequent travel to Kerala, knowing Malayalam can be useful so that one day when they come across someone from Kerala, they will not feel awkward when communicating with them, unlike others who will speak and answer only in English due to their ignorance about this regional language. They might even end up insulting someone by unknowingly referring to something inconsistent in Malayalam than what was understood as intended, which is very much possible till today since there are quite some people with levels of education varied between 0-12+ years who still feel they are more superior than others and can discuss anything better in English. This is very common among various communities, including Syrian Christians, Nairs, Nambiar’s, Masons, etc.
c) Being able to communicate effectively with guys whom you meet around you might aid to resolve issues fast and easily without giving them that feeling of “I have a headache now due to the language barrier.”
This is especially useful when your current job requires frequent interactions with people of varying cultures from various regions or professions who speak this regional language and being able to converse with them will bring out a number of hidden opportunities for sure.
d) If you have a love for Kerala history, literature, or philosophy, there’s no way you avoid the Malayalam dialect. For example, during ancient times, Keralites were great in poetry and writing, which are still there to be seen in the form of different types of literature available today, including Alankarams, Padyams, etc.
Apart from that, one of the greatest works on Sanskrit grammatical rules is written by Maharshi Bharadwaaja himself, who lived somewhere between 500 BC-300 AD whose original work “Vyakaranam” was done in Malayalam before it got translated into other languages as well.
Even some of the Vedic treatises like Taittiriya Aranyaka (section 5 ) and Chandogya Upanishad contain references to this region, indicating its existence even thousands of years ago. Works like these wouldn’t have been possible without Malayalam.
Knowing this language can open a lot of opportunities for researchers as it’s said that various Vedic scholars used to pick up Malayalam in ancient times rather than Sanskrit because there were a lot of text versions available then compared to Sanskrit, which was mainly written on palm leaves in those days.
So, if you are ever interested and searching for original manuscripts or works related to such events, this language could be quite useful.
Most important features of the language
a) It is one of the few languages in Bharat which have both vowel and consonant harmony. This concept can be quite interesting to follow. To explain this, let’s take a look at some Malayalam words:
i) അ -(A): The dotted “a” means that it should be pronounced as a part of Vowel Harmony, while the dotted underline indicates that it is more closer to Palatal Service (a palatal approximate”).
ii) ക – (Ka): The square bracketed “ka means that it should be pronounced as part of Consonant Harmony while the squared underlined letter represents its nature as Velar approximate (a velar stop).
iii) മ – (Ma): The circle bracketed “ma indicates that it is a glide while the circled underlined letter represents its nature as Palatal approximate (a palatal vocoid).
iv) ത – ((Ta): The triangle bracketed “ta means that it should be pronounced as part of Consonant Harmony, and the triangle underlined represents a dental approximate.
b) It can produce consonants in 4 manners with 5 different plosive articulations:
Velar, Uvular, Palatal, Retroflex, and Dental. This comes out to 10 unique sounds, which are further classified into 19 consonants or 16 primary and 3 secondaries.
c) It can produce vowels in 5 manners with 9 varying articulations: Close, Mid, Open-Mid, Open and Nasal.
This comes out to 45 unique sounds or 35 primary plus 10 secondary sounds (again plus two more which will be added later).
d) Three varying forms of writing Malayalam were created by the Christian missionaries
i) Vattezhuthu: was based on the script used for the Syriac Aramaic version of the Bible
ii) Grantha-Malayalam: was similar to Grantha script
iii) Kolezhuthu: written slightly differently from modern times.
e ) Malayalam has three varying phonetic alphabets, namely
i) Todaram: used in the northern part of Kerala, mainly in Kannur and Kasaragod regions
ii) Grantha-Malayalam: used in central Kerala
iii) Kolezhuthu: used in southern Kerala
f ) It has 12 vowels (9 plus 3 more added latter), 9 diphthongs (6 plus 3 more added later), 21 consonants (19 plus 2 new ones mentioned above) , 33 Vyanjanams/Morphophonemics(21+12), 36 Sandhis/Gemination (21+15) .
g ) The grammatical rules of this language are called the Dravidian framework and are one of the most complex in Bharat. But that’s what makes it so interesting.
h ) Here are some more features to know about Malayalam :
i) It has got its own inherent script.
ii) It can be written using English letters as well (this is mainly used by those who want to send SMS or MMS since phone keyboards don’t have all the characters available).
iii) Numbers follow a peculiar pattern which goes like 1,2,3…..10,20…100 up to 1000…10000….1000000….etc..and then starts again with 100000 +1 …(one thousand and one)…1000000+2……..(one billion one)…etc.
iv ) Dates are written in the format of year, month, and day like 2013-06-14 for the date 14th June 2013
v ) It is an SVO language (like English, Sanskrit, etc.), meaning that sentences have a subject (S), verb (V), and Object (O).
vi) Word order is not really important while forming sentence structures. So almost all combinations go with it.
vii) Tense markers will occur at the end of a verb or close to it, typically followed by particles denoting time reference. This means that tense has more to do with the number of times an action occurs than where it occurred when.
viii ) The language has 3 genders which are masculine, feminine, and neuter. Each gender can have its own set of vowels and consonants.
ix) In Hinduism, the language is considered sacred. So there is a book called “Narayaneeyam,” which has been written in Malayalam.
x) There are 8 moods in this language:
Indicative, Optative (used as subjunctive), Imperative, Subjunctive, Jussive (used as imperative), Desiderative (used as a wish or request), Potentive and Dubitative.
xi) There are 11 tenses:
Present tense, Past definite tense, Past indefinite tense, Future tense/future simple tense, Past conditional tense, Future conditional tense, Past presumptive tense, Future presumptive tense, Imperfective and Perfective.
xii) There are 13 cases:
Nominative (subject), Accusative (object of the direct object), Instrumental/Dependent( used to express something through itself rather than a noun or pronoun.), Ablative( expresses a separation from something ), Adessive/Allative( for showing location ), Genitive/Possessive( shows possession or ownership), Comitative( with ), Locative( in the place of ) Cessation (used to express cessation or completion ), Essive (to be as), Evidentiary (for indication)
How to get started with Malayalam?
a) Get a good Malayalam dictionary (or get an online translation software to work as your dictionary).
There are also quite some free sites on the internet which contain almost all the vocabulary/pronunciation and phrases. Make a routine to memorize a few words daily.
b) Find and download some practice material/software/app and start picking up this language.
There is plenty of youtube videos, apps, translation software, and websites on the Internet that can be used easily for self-study purposes. Just type in keywords like grasp Malayalam etc..and you will find a lot of options available out there.
c) Find some friends with whom you can make yourself comfortable to practice speaking the language, exchange notes, or just voice out your questions regarding grammar, etc.
d) Be regular, persistent, and patient like elsewhere; mastering any new language will be a challenge. But it’s all worth the effort(and fun) in the end.
d) Audio-visual materials are best to comprehend the vocabulary, pronunciation plus phrases, and their usage, so you can go for online video sites/apps that contain videos or short lessons about the topics you need to master.
You can also search and find YouTube channels/apps related to grasping Malayalam.
e) Try speaking with local / near-native speakers as much as possible so that they could guide you on a lot of things including pronunciation. Male a routine for doing so.
Resources For Learning The Language
A great Malayalam dictionary is always a must-have for any learner irrespective of the local language because it is difficult to find one without spending lots of bucks.
You can refer to online translators/apps at times, but I suggest you just find yourself a good dictionary if you really like the Malayalam language and want to master it.
1. There are many tools available online:-
Youtube app has plenty of video course on basic Malayalam pronunciation with captions available in various languages. This is the best source for self-learners.
You can go through and find a lot of video clips on the YouTube app, and you can also make your own questions by searching a specific topic like how to say “How are you?” or “I am fine” in Malayalam, and then type the words in google search. A number of video channels will be found showing these phrases as well as other useful vocabularies and phrases.
UC Browser has partnered with the platform to provide Malayalam language lessons to users of UC Browser 7 to access its Malayalam course on their mobile phones.
The course for learning Malayalam is enabled by UC Browser covers over 75 topics across four levels. Topics covered include greetings, introductions of yourself and others, everyday phrases related to traveling and socializing.
You can make the UC browser your home page and access the courses directly from there or from the app, allowing users to pick up Malayalam and try conversing at their pace within the Mango app user interface.
This website and app are based on an Android app for picking up Malayalam through an interactive interface. The App can be downloaded from the google play store or any other store.
Apart from providing useful information about the Malayalam language, the app make available live chat services with local speakers as well as voice search to grasp new vocabulary easily and quickly with fun.
It also lets you review and test your skills when you answer them.
This app is designed to work with android devices and tablets that have an Indian keyboard enabled to write.
You can use the app in conjunction with the Google voice input so that you can speak your vocabulary or sentences to write automatically into Malayalam or any other Indian language script on your device. It lets you make notes.
There are a number of courses available on this app for Malayalam. You can grasp all the basics of Malayalam script and also some advanced grammar topics in just 30 days without paying.
You can also test review your knowledge through assignments and make notes.
This is a very useful website to try that provides various examples of grammar with a detailed description. It has an active forum where you may ask relevant doubts.
The course is scheduled in several phases. Topics covered in the Malayalam course are syllabic consonants, vowels, and anusvara, visarga; numbers up to 999; days of the week; dates; months, etc.
This can make you grasp the basics easily.
This site and app also provide various comprehensive courses on various dialects ( Malayalam included), which you can try both without paying any money and also have a paid subscription plan (both monthly and yearly).