Meet the Tamil voices of Chinese radio

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Zhao Jiang, Zhou Xin and Sun Qing may not ring a bell, but Kalaimagal, Eswari and Ilakkaya are familiar names to those who tune into China Radio International (CRI). The Tamil names are nothing but the ‘radio’ identities of Zhao, Zhou and Sun, who are part of the team that runs CRI's Tamil section. Since, these Chinese names could be a bit confusing for the untrained Tamil ear, the staff at CRI adopts local names when they go on air.

The three women, in the city to attend a meet of writers from the Tamil diaspora that began on Monday, say there are many takers for Tamil in China. Their radio station, however, is aimed mainly at Tamil speakers in India and Sri Lanka. “We run the station with 15 people. We broadcast several programmes on China all over the world,” says Zhao, who has written a Tamil book on the tourist attractions in the China as well as a Chinese-Tamil dictionary.

Zhao and others spoke about the radio station and the programmes they air at the seminar. All of them have learnt Tamil from the Communication University of China, Beijing, which trains students interested in foreign languages for a career in media. Tamil is one of the foreign languages taught after which they are employed in the Tamil section of CRI. Zhao, Zhou and Sun learnt Tamil from the university as part of their BA course, though it is not mandatory.

The book for tourists, which might be the first Tamil book by a Chinese, describes the various tourist attractions in China. The dictionary Zhao has compiled contains around 27,000 words. A five-member team under Zhao worked for a year to ready the Chinese-Tamil dictionary. Zhao now plans to write a Tamil-Mandarin dictionary.

Zhou who goes by her name Eswari at the radio said they found working in Tamil an interesting experience. “Both Tamil and Chinese are classical languages. There is a lot of originality in both the languages,” she said. They translate Mandarin texts to Tamil in a way which will be easily understood by native listeners.

The three who credit their former Tamil teacher, who too is Chinese, for their interest in the language, said the dictionary was an effort to help the Chinese people understand Tamil better. The Tamil-Mandarin version will be an effort for those interested to learn Mandarin here in Tamil Nadu, said Zhou.


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