Malayalam Mission spreads wings to 45 countries

December 02, 2020

By Hassan Cheruppa

Saudi Gazette

Malayalam Mission, a global initiative of the government of Kerala, has made unprecedented progress and remarkable achievements by spreading its wings to as many as 45 countries around the world within a short span of time.

Its role has proven monumental in promoting learning of mother tongue Malayalam and fostering the cultural activities of Keralites living all over the world. Malayalis, the people from the southern Indian state of Kerala, make up a major segment of the 30-million Indian Diaspora.

Malayalam Mission aims to propagate the language around the world among the Malayali Diaspora, and its activities are based in 26 states of India and 45 countries around the world. There are 50,000 students who are currently pursuing various levels of its courses in those countries where there is a presence of sizable number of Keralites. It has become a collective of Malayalis living around the globe gathering on the podium of their language and culture.

Several programs were held in recent weeks in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states as part of promoting the language and culture of Keralites, who constitute a major chunk of the expatriate population in these countries. The events also shed light into the centuries old relations between Kerala and Arabia that date back to pre-Islamic period. The programs also highlighted the contributions of Arabic language and culture to Malayalam language and culture.

During the month of November, the Mission organized month-long series of lectures titled “Radio Malayalam Aksharolsavam 2020” live on Facebook. Thirty prominent figures, including rulers of the state as well as eminent writers, cultural figures, intellectuals and orators gave lectures on a wide variety of topics related to Malayalam language and culture on a daily basis.

Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan, who is also chairman of Malayalam Mission, inaugurated the lecture series on Nov. 1, which marks the Formation Day of Kerala state (Kerala Piravi), and it came to a close on Monday, Nov. 30, with the lecture of Father Bobby Jose. A language oath taking ceremony was also held on the occasion.

The Saudi Arabian chapter of Malayalam Mission, which came into being in September, organized several virtual programs and online language learning courses during the months of October and November to disseminate the unique message of Malayalam language and its rich and diverse culture.

Kerala Legislative Assembly Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan, Minister of Culture A.K. Balan, renowned Indian poet and former secretary of India’s Sahitya Academy K. Sachidanandan and well-known writers M.N. Karassery and K.P. Ramanunni were among those who delivered keynote addresses.

A.K. Balan inaugurated a virtual session, organized by the Jeddah unit of the Chapter. “Malayalam Mission has been successful in spreading its wing to over 40 countries where around 50,000 Indian students from Kerala are learning their mother tongue through the facilities arranged by the Mission. It has become a giant cultural and language movement that binds Keralite expatriates with the strong bonds of their mother tongue,” he said.

Balan, who is also deputy chairman of the Mission, said the project aims to benefit non-resident Keralite children who are not aware of their culture and language. The Mission has started Malayalam language classes in all parts of the world. The classes are designed in such a way that any child in the age group of 9 to 16 years, with little understanding of Malayalam, can learn the language, he pointed out.

There are mass open online courses to address the difficulty to reach remote locations where Keralites reside around the world, said Suja Susan George, director of Malayalam Mission, while addressing the session.

Sachidanandan inaugurated the function organized by the Riyadh unit. Speaking on the occasion, he underscored that language is the unifying force of Malayalis worldwide. “Language is a culture and it fosters cultural diversity of its people,” he said.

Inaugurating the Eastern Province festival, Speaker P. Sreeramakrishnan said the language festival would herald a linguistic renaissance. A wide variety of cultural activities were staged by learners of various study centers during the festival.

Inaugurating the Kerala Piravi Day, Karassery delved deep into the centuries-old historic relations between Arabia and Kerala. “Arab traders sailed to Kerala even before the advent of Islam to sell mainly dates, olive and gold as well as to buy spices which were available only in Malabar, the northern part of Kerala in those days,” he said.

Highlighting the great influence of Arabs and their language in Malayalam language and culture, he cited examples of coinage of several Arabic words into the Malayalam language. Karassery also underlined the need to exert more efforts to teach Keralite children the culture and traditions of Arabia.

The Saudi Chapter organized online training course for teachers earlier. Mission Director Suja Susan George inaugurated the event. Mission Registrar M. Sathumadhavan and prominent coach and trainer Dr. M.T. Sasi spoke while Saudi Chapter Expert Committee Chairman Mubarak Sani supervised the event.

Around115 teachers of various Indian schools across the Kingdom attended the two-day training event.

Speaking to Saudi Gazette, Thaha Kolleth, secretary of the Saudi Chapter of Malayalam Mission, said several programs were held in the whole month of November under the title of “Bhoomi Malayalam”. As part of the global language campaign, chapters were formed in many countries including Saudi Arabia.

In the last months of October and November alone, around 1,300 students enrolled for the language courses, for whom 75 learning centers were opened in various regions of the Kingdom, he said.

According to Thaha, the focus of learning at these centers is developing talent and language skills of children based on lively experiences and adapting to their surroundings, by employing scientific learning methods, away from traditional ones.

“It is top on our agenda to hold meaningful and elaborate discourse among the learners about the cultural exchange and give and take in Arabic and Malayalam languages. We have a project to hold a chain of cultural events to delve deep into the roots of centuries-old relations between Arabia and Kerala, where Islam and Christianity first entered in the Indian subcontinent,” he added.

The officials of the Saudi Chapter include M.M. Nayeem (president), Shibu Thiruvananthapuram (convener), Mathew Thomas Nelluvelil (vice president), Noushad Kormath (joint secretary), Rashmi R., Dr. Ramesh Moochikkal, Rafeek Pathanapuram, Ubais Musthafa, Jithesh Pattuvam, Rasheed Chedrappinni (regional coordinators), Sunil Sukumaran, Sakeer Thamarath and Shanavas.

The experts committee is headed by Dr. Mubarak Sani of Jazan University while Nandini Mohan, Shahida Shanavas, and Seeba Koovod are its members.

Malayalam, which belongs to the Dravidian family of languages, was brought under India’s classic language category in 2013. Headquartered in Thiruvananthapuram, Malayalam Mission has offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai, in addition to hundreds of language learning centers within and outside the country.

It endeavors to foster the creative talents of the children of expatriate Malayalis and inculcate in them a passion for the language and patriotism. The Mission confers certificates, diploma, higher diploma, and senior diploma on those who complete the courses.

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