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Tamil Language Schools On the Rise in United States

by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang /
Grade 2 class picture of Los Angeles Tamil School, an affiliate of California Tamil Academy.Courtesy of Los Angeles Tamil School

Tamil language schools are sprouting up across the country with the help of California Tamil Academy, teaching Tamil language and culture to children growing up in America.

Related: Asian Immersion Schools Surge in Popularity to Meet Demand

“Our primary objective is teaching Tamil, an ancient South Indian language,” Rajendra Mallichetty, President of Los Angeles Tamil School, an affiliate of California Tamil Academy, told NBC News, including reading, writing, speaking, and listening, “and support cultural activities like drama, dancing, and music.”

Described as “the mothership,” California Tamil Academy was founded in 1998 in the Bay Area, and now has six branches, 40 affiliated schools in 13 other states and two other countries, 5,500 students, and 700 volunteers including teachers and parents. California Tamil Academy provides academic and technical support to help those who want to start independent Tamil schools. Some public schools give students high school credit for studying Tamil at language schools.

The benefits of learning Tamil go far beyond the academic. “Sometimes it is heartbreaking. The grandparents [who come from India to visit] want to bond with the grandkids, and the grandkids want to bond with the grandparents. But language is the barrier,” said Mallichetty. “However, after a few years of Tamil School, kids can talk to their grandparents and have lots of fun with them.”

Related: China, India Replace Mexico As Top U.S. Immigrant Origin Nations

Tamil is the official language of Tamil Nadu in India and one of 23 official languages of India, one of two national languages of Sri Lanka, and one of four official languages of Singapore. It is spoken by about 65 million speakers worldwide.

 Students of Los Angeles Tamil School, an affiliate of California Tamil Academy, in cultural performances for their school’s Annual Day Courtesy of Los Angeles Tamil School