Online translation apps affect enrollments to Kannada learning centers

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Kannada teaching centers in the city witnesses a decrease number of Kannada learners and language script-writers due to the language based applications.

From diverse cultural backgrounds encompassing different states, actors like Priyanka Upendra from Kolkata, Ragini Dwivedi from Haryana, Joseph Ninasam from Kerala, and Pooja Gandhi from Uttar Pradesh have all embraced Kannada after making their mark in the Kannada film industry.

However, fewer people are enrolling in Kannada learning centers, apparently due to the growing popularity of applications like Google Translate and ‘Ling’.

Narendran, trainer at the Speak Kannada Institute said, “In 2023, the institute had approximately 150 learners a year and in 2022 around 500 to 600 students a year were admitted. This year the number has reduced to 50-60 learners as most of them prefer using language-based applications.”

He added that before pandemic his classes were offline but post pandemic the institute has been taking classes online in different batches. Written Kannada is mostly learnt by bank job applicants. Abhimaan, a bank employee learning Kannada via an online course by the Speak Kannada Institute said, “I got transferred to Bangalore from Delhi and I do not know Kannada fluently. This has made it difficult for me to interact with people and has created a communication hurdle between my colleagues and customers.”

He said when he learnt about the availability of online Kannada teaching centers, he immediately signed up for an online course and within three months he was able to speak fluently.  He is yet to learn writing Kannada, he added.

Divyashri, another student from Hyderabad who completed her medical course in Bangalore said, “I got a job at a hospital here, and have to diagnose Kannada-speaking patients.. I was only able to speak basic Kannada.” She added that she took  classes which helped with her speaking, but she has yet to learn writing in Kannada.  

Anu, an instructor at Anu Gyan Edu, a Kannada learning center said, “I used to have online batches of students with more than 100 students every month. Enrolled students learnt Kannada speaking and writing but now the number has reduced to hardly 50 students a month.”

She further explained that individuals working in marketing, IT, bank employees or aspirants, doctors and many more approached their institution for learning but now the only students who  take admission are ones who want to write in Kannada for government clerk jobs because they have to deal with paper work. However, due to the different applications and Google Translate, not many individuals are bothered about learning the language.

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Janvi, a student said, “I have been staying in the city since the last six months, and I feel Google translate has been my friend. For communicating with auto-drivers and managing a few chores, I have learnt some basic words and phrases.”

S. Geetha, Under Secretary at the Kannada Cultural department said, “With Bengaluru’s IT boom, people from across the country explore job opportunities and reside in the city to make a living. While welcoming and adapting various cultures, natives living here are also in fear of losing their roots.”

She further added that the state provides employment in the government sector, with numerous jobs in the Karnataka Administrative Service (KAS), Karnataka Public Service Commission (KPSC), Karnataka State Police, Karnataka State Health Department, Karnataka State Education Department, and many other job positions availability.

In February 2024, the Karnataka government tabled the Kannada Language Comprehensive Development (Amendment) Bill 2024 to mandate 60 per cent Kannada on name boards of various establishments in the state; the display content in the upper half of the signage should be in Kannada, as per the Bill.

Madhumitha, a linguist in Bangalore said, “Even if an individual is reliable on language learning applications or Google translate, it would be difficult for connecting with people around. For managing daily chores, like speaking to an auto guy, bus conductor, or while applying for any job that is based on writing,the apps wouldn’t be helpful enough.”

As there are many options online such as learning channels on YouTube and Instagram they can teach you how to speak the language but its proper pronunciation and writing could only be taught in an institute, she added.