“Every child should be given the opportunity to learn their mother tongue; even more so if the child is born or raised outside of their country of origin,” says Mallik Rachakonda, author of Let’s Learn Telugu book series and convenor of Telugu Badi.
Telugu Badi, which translates to Telugu school, is the initiative of the Telugu Association Inc., Sydney.
Having originally begun at Summer Hill Public School, the association has five schools across Sydney today.
Currently, Telugu Badi runs 2-hour Sunday classes during NSW school term in Holsworthy Public School, Eastwood Public School, Darcy Road Public School, Strathfield South Public School and Hornsby South Public School.
The school recently celebrated its annual day in Sydney.
“Sadly, many children born and raised outside India are not taught to read, write or much less talk in their mother tongue,” says Mallik.
“The access to language schools and study material and learning the mother tongue outside of homes was limited back in the 1980s when I moved to Australia,” recalls the author.
“Today, families and children have a lot of community associations and community language schools enabling easy access to learn their languages,” says Mallik.
“All those years ago, study material would have to be acquired from India, and it was not very relevant to the Indian kids in Australia,” he shares.
Mallik explains that these books were typically pictorial and that they contained how alphabets are written and have the basic words and sentence formations.
“Coming from a Telugu Australian child’s perspective, this is neither easy nor relatable,” he adds.
The 65-year old retired IT professional found an opportunity to change this.
So, he embarked on a mission to simplify the study material to help the kids learn the language easily, effectively and efficiently.
He went back to India, perused several books, and spoke to academicians in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to improve study materials.
He even went on to understand how other language schools in NSW function and found that the concern was quite similar.
He explains that the challenge was not merely creating study material.
“These kids take up Telugu classes on Sundays every week in addition to their regular school and extra-curricular activities. Getting them to keep coming back largely depends on how this language can be presented as interesting and fun.”
So, Mallik developed Telugu Badi’s syllabus from scratch.
With help from Telugu Association members and closely following K-10 Framework for Languages defined by NSW Education Standards Authority, he came up with a series of Let’s Learn Telugu books, which were launched in March, 2016 at Telugu University, Hyderabad.
He even road-tested the course material with the help of his 11-year old granddaughter Sejal, born and raised in Australia.
In this book series he caters to different grades, implementing simple methods to teach Telugu to kids.
The books cover everything from pronunciations, phonetics, small words with pictorial representations, and identifying alphabets.
There are puzzles, poems, exercises and real life examples, which a child can use in everyday life.
However, the highlight of the book series is that it employs simple teaching methodologies in English to help the child understand Telugu easily.
Mallik has kept up with the times by offering mobile lessons via Quizlet where the students could access rhymes, pronunciations and more.
According to the author, several more activity books and course material are ready for press in 2018.
The materials have been created with the sole purpose of preparing the children to speak in simple Telugu among family and community events and also to cherish their rich cultural background.
There are 100 students ranging from ages 5 to 16, spread out in the five Telugu Badi schools.
“There are 10 teachers, who are all mothers of the students themselves, which makes the learning a bit more personable and less intimidating,” says Mallik.
Six out of the ten teachers are qualified in language training from the University of Sydney.
Mallik is currently working on K-10 syllabus according to NSW Education Standards Authority’s framework for languages 2017.
This syllabus is lot more comprehensive and is based on achieving language outcomes as outlined by them.
He along with Telugu Association has greater plans for the language they hold dear.
“We are working towards making Telugu language a part of the NSW mainstream school curriculum,” he shares.
CAPTION: Annual day celebrations of Telugu Badi in Sydney