If you want to learn Kannada and have fun doing it, just log in to the many websites and become a guru.
If knowing two languages is like possessing a second soul, then in our increasingly global village, all of us would have multiple souls. While learning a language can be done in many ways, from conversing with locals to attending weekend classes, in this technology-driven age, apps and websites seem to be preferred options. Duolingo, an app that teaches French, Spanish, German, Italian and Portuguese, and slated to introduce many more languages, was named by Apple as its iPhone app of 2013. Designed like a game, Duolingo makes language learning fun and engaging.
Back home, in Bangalore, websites such as Kannada Baruthe and kannadalearningschool.com are being accessed by non-natives to learn Kannada. Sangamesh and his partner Raghavendra Prasad established Kannada Language Learning School three years ago. Sangamesh says they use technology extensively to teach Kannada.
“Our facebook page is just not meant for publicising our school. Through it, we interact with users. We have a feature called ‘word of the day’, which has the user respond immediately. It is a two-way communication. We have an online repository of practice tests. These tests can be taken any time by anyone. In addition, there is a youtube video that teaches colloquial Kannada in different dialects. We also have a blog that has words with pictures for better explanation. We send weekly updates to practitioners so that they can learn different words and we even have a text message option for those who want to know the meaning of words and sentences translated.”
N.R. Prasad, co-founder of the website Kannada Baruthe, launched in 2011, says that technology provides a viable platform for learning a language. “We launched our app last year, and within four months, we’ve had close to 2,000 downloads. We also have another website, I know Kannada. Both our website and our app focus on spoken Kannada.”
But can websites and apps ever replace the actual language learning experience? Business analyst Harsha Gatt doesn’t quite agree: “The best way to learn a language is by speaking with native speakers. Apps and websites serve as starter kits, but nothing can replace learning which an actual conversation can provide. The best way to pick up languages is by starting with numbers, moving to single words and then slowly forming sentences. The websites and apps could be the first source of information for a tech savvy person. Apps and websites are all about need and convenience.”
Himanshu Sanehi, project assistant in aerospace department, IISc echoes Gatt’s views. “Apps and websites can help facilitate learning language, but the best way to pick up a language is by speaking with the locals. And it is best not to be conscious while conversing in a language you are learning, just speak without hesitation. It helps.” N.R. Prasad says apps are much more intuitive and available.
Sangamesh agrees that apps and websites is time saving, but it cannot be a substitute to classroom learning. “Language has feelings. You have to understand its impulse. We had Skype classes for 20 people, there were people from US, Norway and Finland eager to learn Kannada. But it became difficult to teach the language effectively.”
Rashi, a designer, perhaps puts it best when she says: “Apps and websites can teach you the basics. But learning a language is a lifetime endeavour, which takes a lot of commitment.”