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Justification for introducing Telugu in the academic curriculum at UC Berkeley.

In 2006 Telugu people in the San Francisco Bay Area started a project to create facilities for teaching Telugu at the University of California, Berkeley. The University had been supporting the teaching and research in Sanskrit, Hindi and Urdu and partially supporting Tamil. There are no more university resources to teach any other Indian language unless the community comes forward and supports it, fully!

Punjabi and Bengali were introduced with community support.  When the Telugu community came forward to raise the necessary funds to create a corpus, some questions came up. The purpose of this note is to briefly address those questions.

Q1. How much money do you need? What is the time table? Can we do with less?

A corpus of $1M, earns at 5%, $50,000 per year. This money is just about sufficient to pay salary for a full time lecturer. A corpus of $1.5M gives a bit more for course development and student support activities.

A corpus of $5M, earns at 5%, $250,000 per year. This will give an opportunity to hire a tenure track person into professorial ranks and a world-class teaching and research program can be built around it. This is our long-term goal, targeted for 2015.

Any attempt to do with less than $1M is not sustainable; it simply means we are wasting our money with a half-hearted effort.. With $1M, there will be a good instructional program. With $5M, there will be an excellent world-class teaching and research program.

Remember that whatever money we raise and give to the university, it always costs much more to the university as all other expenses (facilities, services, overhead, etc.) are automatically borne by the university.

Q2. Why UC Berkeley? Perhaps we can do it cheaper at a smaller university?

University of California is a world renowned university and the Berkeley campus is its flagship campus. It attracts top rated faculty and students from all over the world. In such a rich environment, our program will also reach superlative heights. Berkeley’s already strong Center for South Asia Studies with offerings in Sanskrit and Tamil provides an ideal nurturing environment for the fledgling Telugu program to take root and flourish. Also the presence of a good linguistics program and a computer science program on the campus will provide an environment conducive for placing Telugu on the world map, a distinction it truly deserves.

Q3. Why place Telugu on the World map?

To gain the respect of the world community a language and its culture should get out of its “ghetto” status and grow into an international status. This can be done only in a university environment because language classes are taken by students from all disciplines – sociology, business administration, political science, to name a few. This cannot be achieved by a Balavihar type of activity at a community center staffed by parent volunteers.

Q4. Why teach Telugu at all at a US University? Why not strengthen Telugu in India?

Many reasons can be cited to justify teaching Telugu at a U. S. university.

(a) There are an estimated 200,000 Telugu people in California alone. New York-New Jersey corridor, Chicago area, Dallas-Huston corridor, Detroit and Atlanta metropolitan areas are other strong holds of Telugu people. Theoretically, all these people can take advantage of a strong program at UC Berkeley. Any undergraduate student enrolled at the university can take these courses and get General Education credit toward their degree requirements. So Telugu children can take Telugu as a foreign language elective, instead of taking, say, Spanish, Italian or French. In these days of globalization and international terrorism, knowledge of a foreign language is becoming a passport to admissions to graduate schools as well as cushy diplomatic postings.

(b) Eventually, our goal is to build upon this and evolve a post-graduate program in Telugu with a focus on both instruction and research and this opens up possibilities for Telugu’s to come to the USA to do their doctoral research in Telugu.

(c) A powerful Telugu program can create its own momentum. Telugu children born and bred in the US will have unparalleled native command on English. Once they develop a working expertise in Telugu, they will be able to translate the wit and wisdom of Andhras into English, put Telugu on the World literary stage and perhaps earn international literary awards for their writings and translations based on Telugu life.

(d) The Telugu language program can act as a nucleus to attract other related activities like culture, fine arts, and humanities.

(e) Many business people from multi-national corporations are looking for some rudimentary instruction in Telugu before they send their staff to AP. Now they can avail the opportunity provided at Berkeley.

(f) Many devotees of Swamis (especially Sri Satya Sai Baba) want to learn Telugu before they go to Puttaparthi. Prof. Vemuri says that he routinely gets requests from people all over the world for help in learning the rudiments of Telugu. Many Christian missionaries working in Andhra Pradesh, routinely look for some start-up or refresher course in Telugu.

(g) The US government needs people with a rudimentary knowledge of Telugu to staff their new Consulate in Hyderabad.

Although our motivating goal is to meet the needs identified in (a) thru (d), there is a broader need and we can fill that need as well.

Q5. If you offer Telugu, will students come?

Prof. Vemuri has been teaching Telugu as a Freshman Seminar – once a year – at UC Davis with an enrollment limit of 15 students. Each year about 30 students express an interest in this class although the class size is limited to 15. Typically these students are from all countries and their motivation is either curiosity or an interest in comparative langauges and linguistics.  In an informal e-mail survey, in May 2006, at UC Berkeley 30 students said that they would take a Telugu class, if offered. The secret for success is to offer the classes in a predictable manner so students can plan their activity in advance.

Q6. Who are the respondents to the above e-mail survey? Are they Telugu students or other students? Is this program aimed at teaching Telugu to Telugu children or to others? What guarantee is there that Telugu children will take advantage of this program?

When we conducted the e-mail survey, the questions went to all  students. The fact that 30 students expressed interest is in it self significant. We do not know how many of these are of Telugu origin. Besides, this is only a straw poll. What we are trying to do is to create an opportunity. We are hoping that Telugu students take advantage of this opportunity and their parents encourage their children to take advantage of this opportunity. When Telugu children see other children learn the language they will have second thoughts about their reluctance and will come forward.

When a class is offered at a university, it is open to ANY interested student. In fact, it is to our advanatge if non-Telugu students also take these classes because it is the non-Telugu students who are likely to put our language on the world stage

Read in your language

Fund Meter

Phase1 Goal: 350,000 USD
Phase2 Goal:1 million USD
Total Achieved:377,000 USD
Total Goal:5 million