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Archive for April, 2015

Apr
29
2015

We grow it, we export it, but rarely do Indians partake in Western-style gourmet coffee. In a country notorious for its amazing teas, the domestic coffee industry is often overlooked.

But check out The Indian Bean – which sells single-estate coffees from South India (available for shipping in India), and Coffee AM, which features several Indian coffees such as Malabar Monsooned Voyage and Mysore Gold Nugget.

Sure to please coffee connoisseurs.

Languages are beautiful….Love Your Language

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Apr
28
2015

Our prayers are with Nepal this week. It’s an amazing, though often overlooked, country. Here are 5 amazing facts about Nepal:

1. World Heritage Sites: Nepal has the densest concentration of World Heritage Sites in the world.

2. Renewable Energy: 92.1% of Nepal’s energy comes from hydro-electric plants (the rest comes from fossil fuels). Surely, we can all learn from that.

3. Flag:  The flag of Nepal is the only non-quadrilateral national flag in the world.

4. Religion:  81.3% of Nepalese practice Hinduism – the highest percentage of any country.

5.  Ethnic Politics: Although Sir Edmund Hillary was nighted by Queen Elizabeth II, the sherpa who climbed Mount Everest with him – Tenzing Norgay – was not.

For information on how you can help with relief efforts, particularly the nearly 2 million children affected, please visit Save the Children.

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Apr
24
2015

Let’s face it: spelling in English is hard. With rules, exceptions, and exceptions to the exceptions, it takes a lot of patience and practice to tackles those weekly spelling lists. A certain dread seeps into our house Thursday nights as I try to get both kids ready for their Friday spelling tests.

Enter Squeebles Spelling (oh, how I wish I discovered you earlier). I type in their spelling words, record my voice, and they’re on their own for the rest of the week to practice their lists on their iPads. Love you, Sqeebles!

Available here

Languages are beautiful….Love Your Language

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Apr
22
2015

Our family took a trip to a landfill this past weekend – as part of a local Los Angeles area Earth Day celebration. We toured the Puente Hills Landfill – which, if you’ve ever driven by along Route 60, you wouldn’t even know it’s a landfill: it’s smoothed over with layers of dirt, has scraggly grass and shrubs growing on top, and just looks like a typically mountain.

Which got me thinking about landfills in India – which the post was supposed to be about. But the situation and pictures are so utterly depressing, that I did not want to post. It is devastating to think that our mother country is looking more and more like a scene from Wall-E – and no one seems to have any workable solutions.

And so, to make myself fell (sort of) better, today we tour 15 of the largest landfills in the world – 14 of which are NOT in India.

Although all of these landfills look infinitely nicer and are more well maintained than the “dumps” in India.

Every day is Earth Day.

Languages are beautiful….Love Your Language

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Apr
20
2015

This post is authored by Rashi Bahri, Founder of Shoonya Digital, producer of the Hindi Play & Learn IOS App – one of the fastest-growing Hindi-learning app available today. Rashi has over 15 years of experience in the film and television industries both in the USA and in India. In addition to directing short films, she has worked with clients such as Discovery, ABC, Warner Brothers and Lifetime Television. In India, she was a TV host for the longest running breakfast show “Subah Savere” and a journalist with ZEE News and ANI. Rashi currently lives in Santa Barbara with her family, where she serves on the Board of Directors at Montessori Center.

When I agreed to write under Love Your Language Campaign for Gnaana, I wasn’t sure what to say because loving your language feels so natural like “loving your mother” or “mother tongue” that I found myself at loss for words. Then like a muse, these words appeared before me as I was reading one of my favorite books, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey:
“There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children— one is roots, the other wings.”
I read these lines and I read them again and again.

As young parents, our focus is so heavily on giving our children wings that we remain on a constant road-trip between schools to swim classes to soccer games and to everything else that perhaps we forget to give them roots. But what does it mean to give your children roots? Roots that tie you to your culture, your heritage, your family –  and does a language play a part in it? Personally, I think it does. Perhaps that it the reason we created an app called Hindi Play & Learn IOS App that is available for iPad & iPhone.

I am a film professional and have worked half of my lifetime in the television and film industries both in Hollywood and India. I was happy making films and creating television content, but after I had kids, I wanted my career to be a little more, perhaps about them. That was the birth of Shoonya a first of its kind edutainment company that creates high-end digital interactive content with a focus on India, its languages and its culture.

It started a year ago when my husband and I were sourcing for engaging content to teach our older son, who is now five, our native languages. I speak Hindi (India’s national language) and my husband speaks Marathi (Regional language spoken in Maharashtra) and to our surprise there wasn’t anything engaging in the market for either of the languages. The material we got from India seemed irrelevant and dated for our children who are born and brought up in the West. And the educational apps in Hindi seemed quite basic for our children who are exposed to some amazing apps in English created by some great app development companies. We felt strongly that there was a need for fun interactive apps for Hindi too and that is where the idea for our app Hindi Play & Learn IOS App came about.

We collaborated with a team of designers, animators, IT enthusiasts and educators and set up shop in our garage. The idea was to use the same Hindi alphabet book that is used in the schools across India but give it a fresh perspective. Therefore, the letters were designed to become interactive characters and their letter association, saw a complete new transition. Each character was given a unique personality through their clothing and actions, thus highlighting India’s diversity, its beautiful festivals, delicious foods, musical instruments, and its national pastime: cricket! The end result was a pool of playful animated characters that teach phonetics with fun interactions. The puzzles allow children to get a glimpse of India’s cultural diversity via tidbits of trivia.

The style of teaching in our app is very Monetssorian. Just as the child learns a pattern and the phonetic sound of the letters by practicing sandpaper letters, we have created 49 letter tutorials; each with its own designed chalk sound. Therefore, through multi-sensory approach, the child hears the sound, follows the visual representation and gets to practice writing with his fingers. To emphasize learning of the motor pattern correctly, each letter is mapped that forces a child to finish tracing the first step before activating the next.

Each page of the app is very careful designed. The look is simple & clean to help children focus on the content without unnecessary background noise.

We at Shoonya believe that language is a gateway to a culture and since Hindi is India’s national language, we have tried our best to make it a gateway to India’s diverse culture. As a language, it is grown to become the fourth most spoken languages around the world.

For me, it is important for my children to learn Hindi because my parents living in India speak that language. For my husband, it is Marathi. For you, it could be any other language but exposing children to multiple languages at a younger age is seen to be quite advantageous for their brain development.

Ellen Bialystok, a cognitive neuroscientist, in a New York Times interview states that among other benefits, the regular use of two languages appears to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. Among kids, “it improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks.”

It is a gift we as parents feel we’ve given to our kids and wish to share with our audience. Knowing that learning more languages helps our children’s brain-development gives us immense comfort in addition to its social & cultural advantages. Our older son speaks three languages in their native accents; with me in Hindi, with his dad in Marathi and with his friends and teachers in English. He is now helping his younger brother learn the same skill and is able to speak to both sets of grandparents in two different languages. This ability to converse with the extended family in their native language makes him fit in the family instantly. It brings a smile on his grandparent’s faces and assures them that their heritage has passed to the next generation thus keeping the cultural connection intact and keeping the roots firmly grounded.

We hope to fulfill this need for many more parents in various languages. Love your language because it is the closest that comes to loving your roots.

You can download the app here

Languages are beautiful….Love Your Language

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Apr
15
2015

What’s it like to be a Princess from India? Maharaj Kumari Binodini Devi, youngest daughter of Maharaja Churachand Singh and Maharani Dhanamanjuri Devi of Manipur, writes of royal life in Manipur – with untold histories of the British Raj.

Books on Indian history are rare, so this is one you will surely want on your list.

Thanks to Zubaan Books for bringing this to our attention. Available for purchase in the United States here.

Languages are beautiful….Love Your Language

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Apr
13
2015

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Here’s a fun game to put those leftover Easter eggs to use. I used this in a Telugu class I taught, and the kids loved it – a perfect mix of surprise, fun, learning.

You will need:

Alphabet Poster (I used 2 of Gnaana’s posters – 1 to work with and 1 to cut up)
50+ Plastic Easter Eggs (enough for each letter of the alphabet)
Printed set of alphabets in your language (download from the web or us a 2nd poster)
Scissors
Double-Sided Tape (if using on a wall for a group)

Cut up the alphabets and place each alphabet in a separate egg. If you’re playing at home, you can play on the floor; for a group or class setting, you’ll want to mount the poster to the wall. Have kids take turns opening an egg and matching the alphabet to its place on the poster.

That’s it! A simple and fun way for your kids to learn their alphabets!

Languages are beautiful….Love Your Language

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Apr
9
2015
Matsya’s Cousin
Author: Aruna

We started this science/math/writing project at home – a Gro Beast Alligator to demonstrate principles of water absorption and evaporation, and also graphing and writing of a basic science report. We started with an alligator polymer about 10 centimeters (which is now about 22 cm).

I pride myself on incorporating multi-disciplinary learning projects into our home learning. However, it was my kids who innocently pointed out that we do, in fact, have Matsya’s Cousin in our kitchen: he keeps growing out of the vessels we put him in, and we are now at vessel #3.

And so we do. Matsya’s Cousin. I fell prey to my own pedagogical myopia and missed this connection to one of the most famous stories in Hinduism. Here’s to the wonderful minds of children – who so often draw poetic connections that we as adults as ignorant of.

You can start your own Matysa’s Cousin Project: purchase your Gro-Beast Alligator here, and see here for an in-depth prepared lesson plan.

Languages are beautiful….Love Your Language

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Apr
6
2015

In the Los Angeles area? The Indian film Festival starts this week on Wednesday, so be sure to check it out. There promises to be some phenomenal US and North American premieres (see Film Guide here).

Here are two to watch that would be appropriate for kids (and that carry important themes): Dhanak (Rainbow) – an award-winner from the 2015 Berlin Film Festival – about a brother-sister duo who treks across Rajasthan seeking out Shah Rukh Khan and the brother’s vision (he is blind).

The other is The Crow’s Egg – a Tamil film about 2 boys and their dream of eating pizza they can’t afford from a new restaurant in town.

Languages are beautiful….Love Your Language

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Apr
3
2015

Look who’s in the latest issue of SHE Magazine Canada – a division of SHE Magazine South Asia – one of the most widely read English language magazines on the subcontinent. Award-winning journalist Anjum Nayyar (Editorial Director at masalamommas.com) writes about Raising a Culturally Aware Child – and many of her tips incorporate Gnaana products.

Gnaana‘s founding principle is to make it easier for busy families to connect kids with culture – looks like we’re doing a great job!

Click here for the full article.

Languages are beautiful….Love Your Language

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