Tamil, though ancient it may sound, isn’t free from colloquialism and regional slang; therefore, the language spoken by locals makes the language colourful, enlivening and fun. There are several dialects of the language spoken in various districts of Tamilnadu: Madurai Tamil, Tirunelveli Tamil, Kongu Tamil (in Coimbatore) and the popular Madras Bashai (Chennai Tamil). Chennai Tamil, in particular, is a medley of several loan words from other regional languages including Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam and even English.
It should be understood here that a dialect is spoken locally in the context of multilingualism and cultural diversity. Chennai is host to a multitude of cultures from across the country and abroad. The Chennai slang is quite easy to get hang of, irrespective of where one hails from. For instance, there are a lot of native Telugu speakers who had settled down in Chennai long before, with their lingo a mix of many Tamil words; therefore, it’s easy to understand.
However, it is important for outsiders living in Chennai to pick up a few Tamil words, phrases or expressions for everyday conservations to carry out their daily chores. The youth hurl at each other phrases like ‘machi’ or ‘macha’ (Tamil for ‘dude’), or putting a suffix ‘da’ at the end of everything that’s spoken. Chennai uses ‘nee’ and ‘unakku’, more often than not: Coimbatore, in contrast, addresses people with respect as ‘neenga’ or ‘ungalku’; therefore, you shouldn’t feel offended by this. This, nonetheless, isn’t intended to cause disrespect to someone—it is more a matter of diverse cultural backgrounds.
Tamil speakers pronounce the syllable ‘zha’ as ‘la’ or ’ya’ as in ‘malai’ (rain) instead of ‘mazhai’. Another common syllable is the use of ‘dichu’ rather than ‘urthu’ as in ‘poidichu’ rather than ‘poiruthu’ (gone).
A few interesting slang words in Chennai including ‘salna’ (as in curry), ‘bandha’ (brag), ‘Annaathe’ (elder brother), ‘Bejaar’ (boring), ‘Dabbu’ (money), ‘Galiju’ (dirty), etc have become mainstream in daily conversations.
In addition to the above there are other stereotypical syllables such as ‘aa’ as in ‘illaya-aa?’ (Isn’t?) or ‘clear-aa?’ (Is that clear?), and ‘u’ as in ‘right-u’ or ‘center-u’. These expressions and others like them can help you strike a conversation with Tamil-speaking locals in no time.