With a dictionary, a teacher bridges the language gap

With a dictionary, teacher bridges the language gap

When Nagaraj Huded was posted as an English teacher to the Bailandoor Gouliwad Lower Primary School in Uttara Kannada’s Yellapur taluk, he struggled to teach even the first and second standard students.

Most of the students at this remote school in the forest area were from the Gouli community, who have a distinct dialect that is closer to Marathi or Kunabi than Kannada.

To cope with the situation, Huded, who hails from Gadag district, began gathering words from the Gouli dialect. He spent time with the older students during lunch and after-school hours so that he could pick up Gouli words to communicate with the younger students. As days passed, he began understanding their dialect, which made it easier for him to teach Kannada and English to these students.

Realising that there might be other teachers who faced a similar challenge, Huded compiled a mini Kannada-Gouli-English dictionary. 

Published in 2017 with the help of the India Foundation for the Arts and supported by school headmaster Narayan Kamble, the 500-word dictionary has reached around 100 schools in Mundgod, Haliyal, Dandeli, and nearby areas which have students from the Gouli community.

“Though the Goulis trace their lineage to the cattle-herders of Gujarat, those settled in Uttara Kannada migrated from Satara in Maharashtra to places in the Western Ghats where they found grazing fields. But even today, the community is backward, and getting these children to school is a major challenge in itself,” says Huded, explaining why he had to go door-to-door to get children admitted to the school.

“Our children refer to the dictionary to know the meanings. Using this, they also teach English and Kannada to other adults in the family who are mostly illiterate,” said Javoo Patakare, a parent.

Integrated teaching 

Huded has been engaging in art-integrated learning to attract more students to schools. A Kannada littérateur himself, Huded got a few popular Kannada folk songs translated to Gouli language with the help of other experts.

He then taught them to the students so they would eventually be motivated to learn mainstream languages like Kannada and English.

He even identified some resource persons in the community and asked them to teach their unique dance forms like Gajja and Pugadi to the students. With the help of the community, he got traditional dance dresses stitched for the students, and provided them an opportunity to showcase their talent. 

“These efforts not only helped in conserving art but also motivated the Gouli community students to come to schools. It also provides the right kind of exposure to our children,” adds Huded.

With the help of a few other teachers and officials, the school is also bringing out the Araluva Moggu, a student magazine of eight pages published once in two months. The paper is circulated through a network of enthusiastic teachers in schools in Yellapur taluk. Sometimes, they also share a soft copy of it with other schools. 

The magazine has poems, stories written by students, stories written for children, a drawing corner that carries paintings, an English corner that has puzzles, grammar, and subject matters to aid students learning English, and a photo corner that showcases students’ activities.

“Despite being outsiders, the teachers of this school have mingled with the community and are working to introduce innovative teaching methods. This is definitely laying a strong foundation for the students and is motivating other teachers too,” opined Block Education Officer N R Hegde.

With these novel initiatives, this school has not just been trying to educate the children but also uplift the entire Gouli community.