Tamil's origins are independent of Sanskrit (which is from the Indo-European language family), but it has borrowed a number of words from Sanskrit in later centuries. Quite significantly for its age, Tamil seems to have undergone minimal changes and adaptations over the years. It is also claimed that classical Tamil is quite comprehensible to speakers of the modern language. The ancient Tamil book Tirukkural is quoted by some as an example. The verses from the book are often taught to young students of the language at the primary level, and they seem to pick up the lines in the ancient dialect with little difficulty.
Tamil has a rather small phoneme set. Like most writing systems in India, it is phonetic in nature -- characters represent sounds, and it is syllabic. Thus, the sounds of a word are grouped into syllables and each syllable is written with a corresponding compound character. Tamil has 12 vowels and 18 consonants.
Unlike English, having learned to read Tamil it is easy to pronounce correctly.
The 'l' in the word 'Tamil' is pronounced like a retroflex 'r', though it is often transliterated as "zh".
Tamil is an official language in the following countries: