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Two not too early to show flair for a foreign tongue

TIMES OF INDIA

THURSDAY JANUARY 12, 2012 MUMBAI

A small classroom in Amboli has a group of children , six years and above, learning the rudiments of Spanish. A table in front has common Indian fruits, each bearing a sticker with its Spanish name. The little ones speak Espanol with the correct accent as well.

Parents, eager to put a foreign language on their child’s resume, start early these days. “Spanish is becoming popular with families who travel to Latin America or have businesses there and want their children to take over in future,” says Vidya Govindani who teaches at the Academia Espanol in Amboli . “Most students are between six and 12 but some parents bring tiny tots as little as two and say they want them to learn Spanish even as they pick up English.”

Her husband Dinesh, who owns the academy, says they pay proper attention to diction, not just vocabulary. “Since the script is the same as English, it becomes easier for kids to grasp the language,” he says. The academy charges Rs 7,000 for 25 one-hour lessons and Rs 15,000 for home tuition.

French has been part of the curriculum in Mumbai’s schools for decades but the emergence of the dragon as the world’s fastest growing economy has seen Chinese gaining ground.

Binal Shah runs Nin Hao classes in Chinese at Veera Desai Road. “Chinese definitely gives one’s resume an edge. Indians are doing large-scale business with China but language is such a barrier that they often need to hire interpreters which is a very expensive proposition. So parents, who are aware of new-age employment opportunities in that country or already have business interests there, like their children to start young. They know there are places in China where people will not answer you unless you speak their language, even if they do know English,” she says.

Shah rates Mandarin a full 10/10 on a scale of difficulty but is amazed to see how soon 14- and 15-yearolds grasp the tongue if they start early.

The module costs around Rs 14,000 and equips students to find their way around an airport in China , order for food or ask for directions.

Rashmi Desai teaches Japanese to kids “who come for the fun of it. They do not really know what benefit this language will bring them. Some are influenced by cartoon characters on television, others because they are learning karate which is a Japanese martial art. Many already know a few words in Japanese although they may not know what they mean. Karate students, for instance, can say numbers from one to 10,” she says.

Desai’s Nikko Japanese class holds examinations in conjunction with the Japan Foundation and papers are sent to that country for correction. “The kids are so proud when they receive certificates from Japan congratulating them for having done well,” she laughs.

Devesh Tendulkar of Tendulkar’s Institute, Dadar, receives enquiries for Chinese, French and German. “Knowledge of a foreign language boosts any resume . Moreover, parents also see the winds of the global economy blowing in the direction of these countries,” he says.

Bella Jaisinghani                       

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