There is an increase in the number of people signing up on apps to learn Kannada, according to language teaching companies
Arei from Netherlands speaks haltingly in Kannada on the language learning website of Kannada Gottilla. However, Arei beams with pride and is an inspiration for others to learn Kannada. Enough has been said and written about the huge influx of people coming from other states to Bengaluru. One of the ways of making yourself feel at home in another state is to learn the language. Kannada Gottilla, which was started in 2014, has risen to the challenge of reaching out to a larger number of people to teach Kannada. “The idea to start Kannada Gottilla came to me while listening to a prank of a radio jockey, who translated a Hindi song into Kannada over phone. I liked the concept and thought why not teach Kannada over phone?” says Anup Maiya, founder of Kannada Gottilla.
Raghavendra Prasad, founder of IndLangs.com, which has a comprehensive online and offline course in teaching Kannada, says: “To know Karnataka, you need to know Kannada… The only way to understand a culture is to learn the language. I think the importance of learning Kannada goes beyond professional reasons or interacting with vendors and auto drivers. It is to understand a city and its people and thus engage with it.” IndLangs, started in 2015, conducts classes in apartments and companies besides classes on Skype. They have also published two books: Spoken Kannada level one and level two. “We teach levels one, two, three and four. In level one, we teach words. In level two, we teach how to construct sentences. In level three, we teach tenses and in level four we teach how to converse.”
Raghavendra says many students have learnt to read and write Kannada too. “They have shared their experiences of travelling to other districts and have successfully navigated their way through on their own by reading the local sign boards.”
Does he agree that some people are good at learning languages and others aren’t? “No language is difficult to learn. It is about understanding the grammar and once you master that you can learn any language. I think practice is essential too. If you practice continuously for six months, then you can pick up any language,” feels Raghavendra.
Gaurav Rathi co-founded bhasha.io, a regional language teaching company, with Denzil Lewis in 2017. Bhasha.io won the Government of Karnataka – Startup Elevate 2018, the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, Lockheed Martin, Tata Trusts – IIGP 2019, among other accolades. “The idea to start bhasha, where we teach Kannada, Hindi, and Telugu, came to us when we noticed doctors had to learn the regional language to communicate with patients.” He says people are inspired to learn the language for professional reasons. “This is the case particularly with doctors, banking and sales professionals.” Bhasha conducts both online courses, through their app and offline classes, which is held in BTM, Marathahalli and Koramangala. Gaurav, who hails from Raipur and a graduate of IIT Guwahati, says: “I understand Kannada and can speak a little of it.” The other team members include Kritika, Sowmya, Deepa, Manu, Nethra and Fawaz.
Considering the paucity of time, Gaurav says more people have enrolled on the app. “From 2017 till now, we have seen an increase of members from 5,000 to 25,000. This clearly shows more people want to learn Kannada.” Anup also says there has been a huge increase in the number of people learning Kannada. “We started with 500 students in the first year. Now the total number of students have crossed 17,000.”
Raghvendra, however, is not of the same opinion. “Learning Kannada is still an option because Bangaloreans know many languages, so people get by with Hindi and English.”
Rudraprasad N, who founded one of the first Kannada learning apps, Kannada Baruthe in 2014, says: “We are still online, but ever since I started another venture, we haven’t been too active. However, I have seen that people have enrolled on our app and are eager to learn the language.”
The question, though, is can someone seriously learn a language online and through apps? Anup says: “Apps are not the best way to learn. I recommend attending classes. Apps, however, are useful when there is time constraints.” Swati, an IT professional, hailing from Jaipur, who learnt how to speak Kannada within a year, says: “To a certain extent, yes. But if you really want to engage with the language and explore the beauty of it, you must also converse in it with others. I don’t just speak in Kannada for basic necessities of interacting with auto drivers and vendors. Our strength as Indians is that we are primarily bilingual, and I believe learning a language is a skill that makes you smarter and most importantly, loved by the people of the state you live in.”
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