Teaching materials for Tamil are of varying quality, and reflect the pedagogical approaches, priorities and methodologies of previous eras. No comprehensive regularly-published materials for instruction of modern spoken Tamil (i.e. with audio materials) have appeared since 1979 (Rajaram 1979), and much of the material that is still available is in hand-written or pre-computer-generated form. Once computer-generated Tamil fonts became available in the mid-1980's, different centers diverged on hardware (and therefore on font software) and made irrevocable commitments either for MacIntosh on the one hand, while others (e.g. U. of Washington) found themselves in the MS-Dos environment, with the resultant incompatibility of fonts, output devices, source files, etc.
Currently-available computer-generated materials can thus be easily shared in print form, but not in electronic form. People responsible for teaching Tamil at the various institutions have long discussed the necessity of cooperating in the production of new materials, but no cooperation has ever taken place, mostly because of the lack of funding, because of the endemically minuscule enrollments in Tamil courses, and because of the general lack of support for LCTL's in the general scheme of things. The question often asked when requests for support went to federal funding sources was ``What's wrong with the things we've already funded?"
The advent of the Internet and especially of graphical interfaces has made the possibility of collaboration in this area finally possible, and what this proposal intends to do is to gather good materials from wherever they exist (Berkeley, Chicago, Cornell, Washington, Wisconsin, or abroad) and convert them for use over the WWW. That is, it does not seek explicitly to develop new materials, only make extant materials more widely available. The P.I. of this project has consulted with those responsible for teaching Tamil at the two other Consortium sites, and has been assured by Professors Gair (at Cornell) and Cutler (at Chicago) that this idea is not only to be welcomed but one that they will cooperate with in the sharing of whatever resources exist. Given the fact that the remaining sites, Berkeley and Wisconsin, are staffed by people who shared the original suggestion of pooling our materials, there should be no problem in getting materials into one place.