Inspired by the need to teach her child Hindi while living abroad, Pridhee Gupta created T4Tales, an innovative company that bridges the language gap between Indian languages and their diaspora in countries like the UK, Canada and America. With a PhD in molecular biology and a masters degree from IIT-Delhi, Pridhee has developed resources to make learning Indian languages easier and enjoyable. In this interview, Pridhee shares her story of starting T4Tales, the challenges she’s faced and her advice on teaching children their mother tongue.
1. What inspired you to start T4tales?
After becoming a first time mother and living in Australia, it was vital for me to teach my child Hindi. During my days in Bangalore around 2013-14, I could find an abundance of English interactive books but not enough in my own mother tongue! This was the genesis for T4Tales with a two fold goal in mind – To capture and keep alive verses and stories that are unique to Indian languages and to help Indian parents introduce Indian languages to children in their early years in a fun way.
2. How does T4tales help revive Indian languages abroad?
Learning a language does not have to be boring. It can be fun and exciting. The books we publish are the perfect amalgamation of a toy and a book. We try to capture the reader’s attention not just through the story but also through the illustrations and the interactive elements. We are different as we include the English transliteration in all our books. The transliteration helps multiracial/multicultural couples or even helps older children read our books with confidence using the English transliteration.
3. What challenges have you faced in running a business that promotes Indian languages?
The biggest challenge we face at the moment is shipping and distribution – books are heavy and expensive to ship. It is also tough to find distributors in different parts of the world who are willing to go on a journey with you as you grow.
Marketing- Finding and getting the attention of Indian families living in different parts of the world is tough. I had to teach myself how to use social media not as a consumer, but a marketer.
4. How have you been able to make T4tales successful?
Perseverance and a growth mindset. An entrepreneur’s journey is full of ups and downs.
5. What advice would you give to NRI/British Asian parents on teaching their children their mother tongue?
Don’t give up!
Focus on confidence, not accuracy. If they decide to try to speak in their mother tongue, please refrain from correcting them. This is very difficult, because there is a strong urge in all of us to correct immediately. But let them give it a shot and gain confidence. In the long term, their confidence in speaking in your language matters far more than the accuracy of the word or grammar.
It’s not too late! With kids it is never too late to try teaching a language. So don’t give up. They may not repeat what they hear immediately, but it all registers somewhere deep inside, and repetition and consistency will go a long way. And, perhaps some day when they are older, they too might pass on some part of what they hear from you today, to their children. Just as we are trying to.
6. What advantages do you believe learning multiple languages can bring to children?
Research says that children are capable of multilingualism. It has suggested that bilingual or multilingual children are more empathetic towards other cultures. Learning an additional language helps increase their brain power, build problem solving skills and memory building. Introducing children to their mother tongue early on helps them have a strong identity and connection to their culture and heritage.
7. What techniques do you use to make learning Indian languages easier and enjoyable?
My vision has always been to make resources fun and memorable. Language learning should not feel like a chore. Our aim with our books has been to make them interactive and fun. Wherever possible I try to include an element of nostalgia for the parents which becomes a conversation point as a family.
As a parent at home, we try to use the one parent one language strategy, a popular strategy that bilingual parents and multicultural parents use. The father could speak only in the mother tongue, and the mother in English. Bilingual schools across the world use a similar strategy for language immersion programs, with 2 teachers speaking 2 different languages!
Some of my other strategies:
1. Songs are the fastest way to get your children to pick up words or phrases in your mother tongue. You can start with simple nursery rhymes if they are in their early years. We are fortunate to have a wide variety of nursery rhymes in various languages, many that date back to our grandparents and parents’ childhoodIf you resort to the screen, songs have a lasting impact (and they are all available on YouTube, or your song provider of choice). Make it fun and interesting or maybe shake into a dance as a family. Children love music, repetition and actions to go with it.
2. Stories, like songs, are easy to remember, and leave a lasting impression on kids.
Read them stories if they are older. Even if the book is in English, you can tell them the story in English and your mother language, to help them associate words (e.g., mango and aam in Hindi). Choose to sit together at meal times and take turns to share a story about your childhood or day in your mother tongue. The best role model for children are their parents. And children love to know more about your childhood, and they try to relate your experiences to theirs. So, go ahead and share your childhood stories with them!
Buy books (picture books, story books, short stories) that they can read or you can read together in your mother tongue.
8. What has been the most rewarding part of running T4tales?
The learning that I have captured, the confidence that I have developed, and mostly importantly, the constant messages of smiles and thanks that I get from children and parents from across the world for creating T4Tales, is certainly worth it!
I have had the amazing opportunity to learn from other women entrepreneurs. I have slowly managed to cultivate a small but good network of fellow women entrepreneurs like Alicia Souza who have faced similar challenges as T4Tales, and are willing to share lessons!
When you start a business you also realise (like you do when you have a kid) that you can’t do everything by yourself. You need help and guidance, and I have been really lucky that people have willingly offered their help, time and money to support the initiative!
9. What projects are you currently working on to further the cause of Indian language revival?
We have our latest book coming out real soon. Continuing from our previous book “Kahaani Puraani” which I like to call the shortest version of the story of Ramayan, we are now releasing a book to share with children about Holi. It gives you a quick, fun glimpse into the story behind Holi.
10. What do you think the future of Indian language revival looks like in countries like the UK, Canada and America?
I am hopeful as I see more and more people embracing their culture and language. People are eager to connect to their roots and pass on their traditions, culture and languages. I think today whether you are in India or away from India, learning Indian languages is vital to stay connected to your culture and to support our children to be bilingual/multilingual. Language is a form of expression. Could you imagine what the new generation would be missing out on if we couldn’t speak or read or write Hindi? Poetry by Harivansh Rai Bachan ji, by Gulzar Sir, Kabir ke dohe! Given how mobile today’s generation is, it would be important to have a tool like language to stay connected to India and your roots.
Find out more about T4Tales here: https://t4tales.com/
Pridhee Kapoor Gupta, Founder & CEO
In her journey as first time mother (of parenthood) predominantly outside India, Pridhee quickly realized that there were not enough books in Indian languages to read to her toddler. She could find enough English books but not enough in her own mother tongue. Pridhee set about to correct this imbalance by writing and publishing books for young readers in Indian languages through T4Tales.
A trained molecular biologist with a PhD from Germany, Pridhee has an undergraduate and masters degree from IIT-Delhi, and has taught at Macquarie University, Australia. After trying out life in Germany, USA, India, and Australia, she is now comfortably settled in Singapore.
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