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Archive for the ‘language’ Category

Jul
27
2015
Book Cover Reveal!
Author: Gnaana

Sneak peak! Book cover reveal of our newest concept book: A is for Anaar: My First Hindi Alphabet Book.

Official announcement coming tomorrow! Now open for pre-orders here…

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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
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
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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Mar
31
2015

Kids: Love your language just a little more with a chance to win this trendy hand-painted akshar t-shirt from our partner Rang Rage. Rang Rage will be producing a T-shirt for us in each of Hindi, Gujarati, Telugu, and Tamil – so there will be 4 separate winners.

All you have to do is support our Love Your Language Alphabet Blocks Pre-Order Campaign. (Those who have already pre-ordered the alphabet blocks will be automatically entered in the language of purchase).

Enter here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Languages are beautiful….Love Your Language

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Mar
30
2015

You may be scratching your head at the visual for this post, but if your child’s teacher uses Class Dojo to “manage” classroom behavior, you’ll see the connection (teachers assign students avatars through Class Dojo, and then create and track goals and rewards).  My daughter comes home from school one afternoon and informs us, “I got to change my a-va-taar today,” (pronouncing the first “a” as in “apple”). You mean uh-vuh-taar – like Vishnu’s 10 uh-vuh-taars?  “No, it’s a-va-taar. It’s not the same word.”   I tried to explain that it is the same word, and the symbolism behind the Indian origin – but I’m not sure she got it.  There we go, I thought, misappropriating a good Indian word, and mangling it to the point of non-recognition by a 6-year-old.

Hence the genesis for this post. Here’s the list – please feel free to add:

1. Avatar (as described above) – it’s very easy to pronounce it correctly – everyone should try.

2. Namaste – I still have yet to hear a non-Indian pronounce this correctly.  Yoga instructors included.

3. Pakistan – George W. Bush did a number on this one.  Thanks for this (and everything else), W.

4. Diwali – This gets tortured on many different levels. Maybe it’s our fault for letting this word get shortened from the original.  It’s too big of a price for my taste.

5. Gandhi – Will blame the British for this one.

6. Hindu – is it really necessary to accentuate the “oooooo” at the end?  This elongation does nothing to accentuate the exoticism.  And the “d” is slightly soft. It’s not our fault that English doesn’t have 4 different sounds for the “d.”

7. Hyderabad (or any city ending in “bad”) – It’s not “bad” as in “bad breath.”  Which we don’t have by the way, because we use tongue cleaners.

8. Nehru – The “h” is there for a reason, which I understand can seem confusing, but there is still no reason to change the short “e” sound.  It’s non-sequitor.

9. Tabla – Maybe it would help everyone if we spelled it “tubluh.”

10. Akbar – The first syllable does NOT rhyme with “yak.”

11. Shiva – I don’t see a long “ee” sound in here, do you?

12. Dhal – No, we are not heathens who consume children’s toys as our staple protein, voodoo or not.  We’ve evolved since Indiana Jones.

Would I correct a stranger?  Maybe in a subtle way, depending on the audience.  But I’ll certainly correct my kids.  These words are borrowed from India (and Pakistan) – and they should be proud of that.

Languages are beautiful….Love Your Language

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Mar
26
2015

Celebrate Sri Rama Navami (Saturday, March 28th) with this simple rock painting exercise. Have your kids write Rama on rocks, reminding them of the Rama Sethu – a great way to practice script. If paint is too tricky (especially with really curly letters), give them markers instead.  You can have them paint a whole series of rocks in different colour patterns and model your own backyard bridge!

Languages are beautiful….Love Your Language

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Mar
25
2015

Fancy Hindi lettering – check out this gorgeous Devangari typography by designer Sneha Patel. The stylized font is inspired by old Indian art and architectural elements. Can you see the influences?

images via here

Languages are beautiful….Love Your Language

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Mar
23
2015

In celebration of World Poetry Day (Saturday, March 21), here is a wonderful poem for kids – Motibil – by none other than Rabindranath Tagore. The video of the poem Motibil is in Bengali, and you can let your kids listen to this beautiful language – and later read them the translation here.

Languages are beautiful….Love Your Language

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Mar
20
2015

Sure Holi was exciting (I am still recovering, as is our washing machine…), but there’s something about a traditional Telugu (and Kannada) panduga (celebration).  My family never celebrated Holi while I was growing up, but Ugadi was a big deal – so for me, it feels extra special.

Good thing my husband is a Kannadiga, and we are lucky to live near his family: we can look forward to a day of warm celebrations with loved ones.  Maybe I can even convince my daughter to let me do a poola-jeda (flower braid).  We will see…

Also on the agenda is a fun science experiment about the Tongue Map and the mechanics of how humans taste. Little did I know that the Tongue Map is reportedly a myth (see here), but we’re going to do the experiment anyway, and strengthen our Telugu vocabulary with this visual:

(The little emoticons represent the different feelings associated with each flavour/taste. Ugadi is a celebration of our New Year – which will be a mix of all of these flavours and emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, and surprise.)

If you are Telugu and want to use this visual, download here.

Languages are beautiful….Love Your Language

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