What's 'ion-channel' called in Tamil? This group comes to help
A group of Tamil Nadu-based science enthusiasts, mostly researchers and communicators, have come together for a special purpose: they want to make science an easily-understandable subject. For English-medium educated students, an 'ion channel' is a perceivable concept. But for those who are from Tamil-medium schools, it's a difficult term to remember. Such difficulties make them avoid science, and that's where this group comes in.
Finding words for ion channel in Tamil proved daunting
The Tamil for 'ion channel' is 'Ioni kalvai', says Vatsala Thirumalai, a group member. A neuroscientist at Bengaluru's National Centre for Biological Sciences, Vatsala explains it wasn't an easy find. She had to sift through Tamil-medium books to find out the translated words for 'ion' and 'channel' separately. She similarly came out with a Tamil word for 'action potential': 'seyal min azutham.'
In Tamil: neuroscience, free software movement and intellectual property rights
Vatsala was going through such efforts because of Mandram, an organization formed last year by engineer Maggie Inbamuthiah to facilitate "sharing of great ideas", but in local languages, mainly Tamil. In collaboration with Bangalore Life Sciences Cluster, it organized a lecture series recently and named it 'Jigyasa Project'. It had six speakers who talked about neuroscience, free software movement, intellectual property rights and more.
Here's what motivated Maggie to open Mandram
Maggie got the idea to open Mandram after reading about Mukund Thattai, an expert. He had talked "on how science must be democratized, taken to the masses, across language barriers." She also met girls studying in local languages who expressed fear of taking up science.
'Literal translations of the English' don't help elucidate science
Her views were echoed by Ravi Muddashetty, member of the Life Sciences Cluster, The Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. Till Class-X, Muddashetty had gone to a Kannada-medium school. "Science always seemed a burden," he shared. Even though science has progressed with numerous discoveries and inventions, the vocabulary has not kept pace with it, noted Muddashetty, another Mandram speaker.
'Global language' English vs local tongue for outreach
Though both Vatsala and Muddashetty are preparing lectures in their native languages, they emphasize on English, "because you've to communicate with the rest of the world too." However, Maggie opined usage of local languages will create more outreach and will help getting more students from the semi-urban and rural areas for pursuing PhD. Vatsala, while agreeing on that, added the gap should be bridged.
Plans to start Telugu and Malayalam lecture series as well
The National Centre for Biological Sciences is taking steps towards that. They had organized the "Science and the City" program, where Kollegala Sharma of Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysuru had interacted with many school students and their parents. That's when Mahinn Ali Khan, a chief member of Cluster realized his initiative has strength and should be widened to Telugu and Malayalam as well.