Continuing from post on Why This Kolaveri di
Telugu: Italian of the East
A European described Telugu as Italian of the east. It is so because it ends words with vowels like Italian language does and vowels allow smoother landing of musical notes and make them soothing to hear compared to words that end with consonants. It is not unique to Telugu. This is likely to be same with other languages in India such as Hindi, Gujarati, and others as they all have borrowed words and concepts from Sanskrit and vice versa.
Telugu provides tools for authors to decorate words so they are suitable for vocal use in ear friendly way. Most of the South Indian Carnatic music is composed in Telugu because of this facility in the language. The language allows composers to specify nasal or other sounds were required. It is like how Western classical music scripts of Beethoven, Mozart etc specify major or minor keys using alphabet specifically designed for that. The sound related elements of the Telugu /Sanskrit are called Sabda (sound) Alankaras (decoration).
In a way Sanskrit and the languages such as Telugu that borrowed quite a bit from Sanskrit are unique in that they combine music required elements into the language alphabet and grammar. Perhaps all Indian languages that support vowel ending should be called Italian of the East.
May be the European was not aware of the other Indian languages or was inspired by some original works in Telugu that are so melodious that he choose to call out Telugu specifically.
Teaching and Grading in Schools
Telugu that is taught in schools is too tough for kids to learn. Not only that, Kids who under take Telugu as language choice in High schools are penalized by teachers who are old-fashioned in their outlook. They may not have the bigger picture and in many cases may be naive. They may need help in getting to think in broader context and see the benefits of being liberal.
Students taking Sanskrit or French as second language because it is easy to score (e.g 90 %+) compared to scoring in Telugu. Getting 70% is a big accomplishment in Telugu. Many young students are turning away from learning Telugu to other languages such as Sanskrit or French. This is likely the case with Bengali, Hindi, Tamil, Kannada and other languages. All these old languages may need help to be relevant to kids.
Instead of teaching complicated Telugu grammar and syllabus why not use simpler approach? Institutions like Manabadi, which has good intent of teaching Telugu language to Telugu kids in USA, should spruce up and spice up the curriculum so it is less boring and instead is interesting, exciting, and fun to learn.
Perhaps remove or cut down on things like Satakams and other esoteric stuff from the books. Remove teaching of Chandas, the rules used by Telugu writers in poetry and other styles of writing, from the curriculum of lower grades. How many of the students are going to write poetry conforming to chandas?
Live in current times
We should bring works of new poets and writers of last 10 years and balance old classical works with new works. Otherwise, 400 years from now someone will be reading about Atreya or Sri Sri or C Narayana Reddy because their works are so old they are very valuable as teaching aids. If we do then we are always behind 400 years. We need to stop doing that. We need to live in current times and stop living and re-living the past. Particularly Sanskrit coy works between 11-18AD period must be avoided as there seem to be many historical wrongs and in how we are presenting the facts.
Perhaps include songs from popular movies as part of teaching Telugu for fun, excitement and relevancy. How many kids can relate to Paarijaata apaharanam that happened in mythology 5000 years ago when Vyaas wrote Mahabharata as pure fiction.
The kids can more easily relate to for example Dheera Dheera song from Magadheera, a huge hit. Use newer songs each year and update the curriculum content to keep it fresh and relevant.
Also, mix classic accha Telugu devotional songs like Emi setura linga, Brochevaarevaruraa and others from composers such as Annamacharya, Thyagaraja. These works use accha Telugu words and should be simple for kids to understand and appreciate.
Language Teaching Goals: Alphabet and Vocabulary
Language teaching should not be used as tools to teach history or culture. Its primary goal should be just the language elements- alphabet, vocabulary and sentence construction, writing, and such.
To aid in teaching the language elements curriculum can use stories and works that already exist and in particular ones that are popular or folklore as well as ones that are recent. When using old works it is important to adopt and mix it in a way that students can relate to it. Careful balance must be stuck in terms of how much old work is used and how far it goes back.
Adoption, mixing and presenting in a way that kids can receive is important like what Dhanush did.
Works of Annama Charya or Sri Sri, Thyagaraja or even atheic works that focus on social issues are good to use as part of the value theme. For example, ose ramulamma is an extremely good song illustrating the flight of girls in conservative society and could be good content to use to teach value system and social issues and at the same introduce so many words. It also shows how easy to compose sentence and song using words spoken around dining table or living rooms.
Do Telugu stage plays use Telugu?
Dhanush’s style adoption and mixing will make a big difference to language and culture advancement than shunning. Such attempt if done long time ago, wouldn’t have my daughter who was sitting with me watching ‘Bhuvana Vijayam’ stage act at TANA 2011 ask me: ‘Daddy, are these guys performing on the stage speaking Telugu?’ I couldn’t answer with a ‘Yes’ unfortunately. Because they were singing some Sanskrit poems which I myself didn’t understand.
Telugu Language Historical Wrongs
The first version of Telugu grammar was written in Sanskrit by Nannaya around 11 century AD based on Panini’s equivalent work in Sanskrit. But why write Telugu grammar in Sanskrit?
It appears Nannaya and many other Andhra and Karnataka scholars of 11-15 AD could de-classified as Telugu or Kannada writers if their claim to fame is conversion of Sanskrit classics such as Mahabaratam, Puranams or Panini’s Sanskrit grammar into Kannada and Telugu using Telugu script and suffixing each Sanskrit word in Dhanush’s style. Instead, they should be classified as 5-star transcribers and well-educated Sanskrit scholars and awarded credit accordingly.