Speaking in fluent Tamil, Mrs Zhao Jiang, a radio presenter from a Tamil radio station in Beijing, made a splash at a Tamil youth conference yesterday.
Known by her Tamil name Kalaimagal to her 25,000 Tamil listeners, mostly from the state of Tamil Nadu in India, she heads the state-run China Radio International. It has a four-hour programme in Tamil daily.
The station also publishes a Tamil newspaper, Tamil Oli (The Sound of Tamil).
Former president S R Nathan, who attended yesterday's event, said Singapore Tamils could learn from the inclusiveness of Kalaimagal's projects.
"We should be the champions of not only Tamil and Tamilness but also that of other Indian languages and their respective heritage, he said.
He reassured Singapore Tamils that their mother tongue will grow and thrive because the Government is keeping Tamil as one its four official languages.
"I hope you will be broad-minded enough to view what I say, not as a criticism of your interest in Tamil, but an appeal to you to be 'inclusive' in such matters as language and the mother tongue," he said.
In her speech, Mrs Zhao said social media such as Twitter, Facebook and phone apps are used to present news on China, India and the world.
"We have 18 Tamil-speaking staff, 16 of whom are Chinese. Unlike Tamil Nadu broadcast stations that mix English with Tamil, we speak only pure Tamil," she said to her audience of 300 at the National University of Singapore University Town. The other two are Tamils.
This year, she launched her first Tamil book, Cheenavil's Inba Ula (A Happy Journey in China).
She and her colleagues have also compiled a Tamil-Chinese dictionary, she said.
Mrs Zhao has been with the Beijing Tamil station for more than 10 years. She became a broadcaster after graduating with a degree in Tamil from the Communication University of China.
It is the only university that teaches Tamil as there is demand for Tamil speakers from China Radio International and China's official news agency, Xinhua.
Mr Nathan commended the organisers of the three-day event by the NUS Tamil Language Society.
It features young people discussing the challenges in developing the Tamil language in Singapore and it ends tomorrow.
This article was first published on June 21, 2014.
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