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Tamil school teaches language, culture of India and Malaysia

By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer

Devi Sundaresan, principal, and Kamala Krishnamurthy, vice principal, of the Kalaimagal Tamil School in Shrewsbury. (Photo/submitted)

Devi Sundaresan, principal, and Kamala Krishnamurthy, vice principal, of the Kalaimagal Tamil School in Shrewsbury. (Photo/submitted)

Shrewsbury – Every Saturday morning, over 100 students partake in a Tamil language program at the Kalaimagal Tamil School, Inc., housed at the First Congregational Church in Shrewsbury.

This 32-week program helps to preserve this language that is spoken in the southern part of India, Malaysia, Svelanka, Singapore, the Nicobar Islands and other countries around the world.

“This nonprofit program is affiliated with the International Tamil Academy in California. They provide us with all of the materials to include books, the curriculum, all weekly materials and exams,” said Vice Principal Kamala Krishnamurthy.

The school has started its sixth year in operation. It has grown tremendously and if this growth continues, they will soon outgrow the space they are currently using. The program enables families who are from India, and other countries where Tamil is spoken, to expose their children to the language and culture from which they came from. While the language is difficult, the many parent volunteers who teach at the school do their best to make it fun. Not only do these students master speaking Tamil, they also learn to write it as well.

“The language can be more challenging then English because it is made up of 18 consonants, 12 vowels and 216 consonant blends,” Principal Devi Sundaresan said. “Typically, what you see is what you say, which differs from English in that there are so many words that look the same but mean something different when in context.”

At the end of each school year, there is a special program called “Annual Day,” at which the students showcase their ability to convey what they have mastered in Tamil throughout the term. The program is very well attended and students speak and sing in Tamil as well as perform traditional dances.

There are so many benefits to learning another language. For many of these students, this is not only their second language to English but their third. Some have a grandparent or other relative residing with them. Learning Tamil enables them to communicate with those family members.

“For many of us living here in the United States, Tamil is our ‘mother tongue,’ our native language. It’s what we are most comfortable using. We can pass this to our children and give them some insight as to how we grew up. Being a part of the school and learning all about our culture helps them forge friendships and creates a small community within our larger one,” said Sundaresan.

In addition to building a strong community, there are so many positive aspects to learning additional languages. It is known to strengthen brain development and in many cases, helps students do well in school.

“I am most impressed with the cultural aspect. My children and the other participating students learn about their roots and culture. I love that they can communicate with their grandparents. We try to go back to India once every year or two and our children can fit right in with extended family. My son also takes Spanish in school. Some of the words are similar like ‘mesa’ meaning table in Spanish is ‘mejaii’ in Tamil,” Sundaresan said.

One main goal of the school is to do community events and projects where they are able to give back. The school would not be as successful as it is were it not for the many volunteers who give their time.

“We are so thankful for the First Congregational Church for letting us operate our school there as well as the many parents, volunteers, teachers and members of the community that have helped to make this a successful program. All of the teachers are like the pillars,” said Krishnamurthy.

For more information, visit kalaimagal.ma@gmail.com or contact Sundaresan at 508-493-8998.

Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=79958

Posted by on Oct 30 2016. Filed under Byline Stories, Shrewsbury. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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