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November 1, 2011 > Special Cheeni for Tots Hindi class held during Diwali

Special Cheeni for Tots Hindi class held during Diwali

By Chinmai Raman
Photos By Dr. Vishal Sharma

Being bilingual has no downside. From having enhanced logical skills, to being able to further appreciate different cultures, to improving one's IQ, the benefits of speaking more than one language are endless.

For the past one and one half years, Cheeni For Tots has been teaching Hindi as a second language, to children age three to eight, at the Fremont Main Library.

On October 25, over 80 kids and parents participated in a special Diwali session in which the new online version of their bilingual language-learning system was unveiled and made available to the local community via the Alameda County Library website.

Cheeni For Tots teaches children Hindi in a unique, innovative way. The program uses moral stories, fascinating fairy tales, and fun pictures to get kids engrossed in and excited about learning. The program even encourages basic cultural learning among tots by teaching phrases such as "Namaste" or explaining a cultural holiday. Children come together and learn in an interactive way with their instructor, repeating lines from stories and jumping up-and-down to Hindi songs.

Besides the personal instruction, Cheeni also uses online materials to supplement its story-time at the library. Through its bilingual language-learning system, it employs audio, video, and interactive graphics to make Hindi learning easy and efficient. "Talking Boards" are available online to tots and parents involved in the program, where kids, as co-founder Rakhi Sharma put it, "will be able to touch, hear, and feel the graphics, so that kids of all learning-types can start to enjoy learning."

The program started one and a half years ago when Sharma, a Harvard-trained software engineer, decided to bring her love of language learning to more people. And now, with the online version of her bilingual language-learning system, she has fulfilled her goal of "combining in-person efforts to online efforts." Sharma is thinking of expanding to other languages. "Once I perfect the Hindi system, I am thinking of moving on to Spanish," she says of her future aspirations.

Her ways of teaching Hindi have indeed proven to be popular, not just among the tots, but among their parents as well, who attend the story-times and use the Talking Boards with their children at home. "Parents like me (who don't know Hindi) can first learn the language from basics," says one parent in the program.

During the special Diwali session at the library, tots dressed up for the occasion, and learned about why the festival is celebrated. This special evening for the new online language system was even attended by a special guest - well known Bay Area singer Alka Bhatnagar.

So, if you want to join-in in the fun and learn more, visit http://guides.aclibrary.org/languages or cheenifortots.com.

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