Historical map of Chola Empire where Tamil was the language of administration.
Distribution of Tamil speakers in Indian Subcontinent.
Tamil is the 20th most spoken language in the world. Tamil language speakers make approximately 1.06% of the world population. Tamil was one of the prominent languages of trade in the region during the pre-colonial era. Tamil mercantile guilds like Ainnurruvar were active in Southeast Asia, and there are Tamil inscriptions and coins found in parts of Asia and Africa such as in China, Cambodia, Egypt and Indonesia.
During the 18th century, the British and French colonial rulers brought Tamils to many parts of Asia and Africa where many countries have sizeable number of Tamil speakers with significant cultural impact. There are more than 2,000,000 speakers of Tamil language in Malaysia itself. Tamil was recognized as a classical language by the Government of India and it is the first recognized classical language in India and it is also one of the 22 official languages in India.
Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 - Chapter 1: Founding Provisions states "A Pan South African Language Board established by national legislation must promote and ensure respect for Tamil" along with other minority languages.