Namukku Pokaam! Let’s Go!

Long time, huh? I’ve been MIA on here for four years.

No excuse for it other than life happened, and I found it difficult to sit down to write.

I’ve been working on resurrecting this blog for a while, but couldn’t find the “right thing” to post about. All the Google results for “restarting my defunct blog” said to make a big comeback post! Tell everyone what you’ve been up to! I’m uncomfortable with rehashing the past two years and, before that, we weren’t even in India for an entire year (Cleveland is a lovely place to live, by the way).

Instead, I’ll go down a different path – a language path, more precisely. For the past two years, my daughter, like many, was stuck in online classes. Getting her to do schoolwork was like pulling teeth. Especially for her least favorite subject – Malayalam. I’m not going to lie, it was my least favorite too. The texts used in Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) schools here are like trudging through waist-high mud. Walls of Malayalam text, preachy stories, and absolutely zero translations for those of us who are not native speakers. Evelyn suffered through, writing page after page of words she didn’t understand. By the end of her first and second grades, Malayalam had us burnt out. I had no idea how to make it fun or interesting when her school text was trying its best to be neither of those things.

Enter BhashaKids – a small business that curates and creates bilingual learning products in South Asian languages, including Malayalam, Tamil, and Hindi. BhashaKids is run by Anitha, a US-born Malayalee, who didn’t want her children to lose out on learning their heritage language like she did. She runs a super engaging Instagram page, promotes new authors who write bilingual books, and coaches families and language schools on bilingualism. Her goal is to make learning Malayalam FUN. This was how I learned about the book “Namukku Pokaam,” a Malayalam/English book. Desperate to show my daughter learning a new language can be fun and painless, I ordered it right away.

“Namukku Pokaam,” written by Supriya Cherian and illustrated by Mili Eugine, tells us a charming story of Rosy, a young girl, and Rocky, her dog, as they journey through some common backdrops of Kerala. Together, they explore everything from mango trees to oru vazhathoppu (a banana farm). Rosy, her hair adorned with mullappu (jasmine flowers) and in her cheripukkal (slippers), runs with Rocky through a hill station, and then they chase poombatta (butterflies) through a field. Finally, ending their day with a ball game and feeling the breeze on the oonjaal (swing), Rosy and Rocky go to bed and sleep under the starry sky.

I love the story. It’s simple and innocent, and the illustrations remind me of the stories my husband narrates about his childhood visits to Kerala. Spending all day outside, in nature, with animals, and then collapsing into bed at night, exhausted from the day’s activities.

My daughter loved the book because she could relate it to it far more than any other Malayalam story she has read. Rosy looks about the same age as my daughter, and she has a dog just like we do. This did exactly what I hoped for her – she wants to read it, and she wants to learn the words and phrases.

The book’s focus is on teaching some basic Malayalam vocabulary and phrases to beginners, and it does a great job of that. Short, complete sentences are at the top of each page, showing the reader the fundamental building blocks of Malayalam sentences – “Let’s go to the pond” is “Namukku pokaam kulakkarayil.”

I love that Cherian wrote everything in this book in proper Malayalam script, Manglish (Malayalam using the English alphabet), and English. I think it’s vital to have Malayalam script because it helps not only with learning the Malayalam alphabet, but it assists in proper pronunciation of words. Believe me when I say, if you only learn to read or speak the Manglish words, you’re probably not pronouncing them correctly. Malayalam and English are worlds apart in some ways, and it’s why so many of us English-only speakers royally decimate pronunciation…and vice versa, let’s be honest.

Cherian wrote a delightful and educational book, and I recommend it to everyone who wishes to start their Malayalam journey. Yes, even if you’re a grown-up! It’s a great way to start learning how to create simple sentences in Malayalam and to add some words to your vocabulary. If you wish to buy a copy, visit BhashaKids or Gaps & Letters.

If you’re interested in finding out more about bilingual merchandise in Malayalam, Tamil, or Hindi, do visit BhashaKids and see all the fun products available.

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