Friday, September 09, 2011

Teaching Tamil to a kid

Realization that, its now or never dawned on me when my nearly 4 year old son started speaking everything in English. I have to teach him his mother tongue language: Tamil. Dont get me wrong. I have nothing against English. It is a language that has supported my career and higher studies. But I feel my kid needs to know about my traditional native language.

He speaks few words here and there in Tamil. But recently few weeks back he started picking up lots of new English words, that made me realize that if I don't teach him conversational Tamil now, it might be difficult later on. Needless to say for those who have already tried this, its a big pain to make the kid speak in native language especially in a country where a different language is spoken by everyone else around you.

In school everyone speaks English, and he picks up lots of new words, phrases and sentences from his classmates and teachers. At home its only me and my husband who speak in Tami with him, and I feel like it is not going to be enough that we do casual chats in Tamil. My son understands Tamil because we have been speaking with him mostly in Tamil since the day he was born, so I am not worried about receptive skills. But expressive skill is what I am concerned about.

When approached with the question, lots of people told me " he would get it eventually" or "அதெல்லாம் நாள் ஆக ஆக வந்துடும் " but I did not see that happening. It might be true if he were in India where everyone around him would be speaking in Tamil. The more days went by, the more he began to respond in English to Tamil/English questions. Some might say, its not a big deal if he speaks in English, he is just still a kid. But I see it differently. If he is not taught how to speak his native tongue now, it would be very difficult for him later to get a hang on the pronunciation, and he might find English easier than his own native tongue.

Again nothing wrong with that, but he would be missing out on a great experience, and as his mother I don't wish him that. I want him to experience the joy of speaking and writing in Tamil and to have at least the basic understanding and knowledge of conversational and written Tamil now so that it would be easier for him to move on to higher levels of language later on, like reading a novel to start with.

 I feel as his mom, its my duty to make sure he learns and loves his own native language in addition to English and other languages. I would me more than happy if he proceeds to learn a new language like Spanish or French in the near future. I believe any kid can achieve great things with proper facilities and encouragement.

Here are some methods that I am following:

  • 06/07/2012 . Recently I am cutting pictures from  magazines and pasting it on an unruled note with tamil words of those nouns and verbs written for them. I am using this note to teach him tamil word recognition and picture association. My mother in law is also helping me out a lot in developing tamil interest in Sanjay. 
  • 06/07/2012 . Also one other way  I am using is to create a tamil book with his old drawing paper's untouched sides, hole puncher, thread to connect the holes to make a small tamil book. I am starting small by teaching him verbs  like  நடந்தது, சிரிக்கும், சிரித்தான், சிரித்தாள் etc. with stickers and pictures from magazines. 

  • I bought the foam sheets  , and cut up basic tamil letters (vowels and consonants) and pinned them to pin-in wall boards  in his room that he can look at everyday. We try to recognize and pronounce them at least once a day. 
  • Here you can find some interesting pages to take print outs: drafts of-course. I had a home printer but draft mode helped me take more print outs than normal black and white or color modes. Moreover for certain activities like tracing the letters, drafts are more than sufficient.  http://www.noolagam.com/. They have flash cards, letters to trace and teach, etc. http://www.omniglot.com/writing/tamil.htm also has a list of all Tamil letters
  • I googl'ed images for tamil letters and took print outs.
  • Downloaded android apps for teaching tamil. 
  • Also I took his picture books that teach words like "My first words" or "My first animals" and wrote tamil words for each of them in pen/permanent marker after searching for them from http://www.tamildict.com/english.php?sID=ldsgob8aamkqjqnt5bo8j87kc1. I needed to get the spelling correct well because its a permanent marker and I am a little weak in spellings. Thank God for Spell Checkers huh?. Of course this method eliminates any ideas of reselling the books to Resale shops, but if my son eventually speaks in his native language, then I don't mind not being able to sell them at half price. 
  • This is a tami kids story site that I am yet to experiment: http://pltamil.com/Story.html
  • I asked my mom to bring some kid tamil story books that I read to Sanjay in tamil words that he understands like Thenali kathaigal, birbal kathaigal, etc. 
  • I also write tamil letters and stick them to the wall using cellotape, Everytime we cross that area, I ask him to recognize te letter and trace it with his fingers. 
  • There are many worksheets and printables to download from http://kids.noolagam.com/worksheets/index.asp 
  • Here is tamil nadu government's tamil book for schools :http://www.textbooksonline.tn.nic.in
Note: There are days where I would not be able to follow these method. There are days where I am so excited that I follow many based on time.


I am only in the beginning stages, and if you know of any other method to help kids learn tamil at home, please let me know. "கற்றது கை அளவு, கல்லாதது உலகளவு " : 

All tamil letters came from here:
http://www.google.com/transliterate/Tamil