Hello Malayalees! Here is a guest post by our dear Eliza Keyton who is known famously under the pen name Elikutty. I would like to thank her for taking time to write about her experiences. Hope her story inspires you to learn and improve your Malayalam. Enjoy reading! 😄
# Introduction & why you started learning Malayalam?
I am American, born and raised. I grew up in various parts of Georgia and then went to Korea at 21 to pursue a career of teaching English. I have since worked in Texas, NYC, UAE, and now Hanoi. I am a teacher, trainer, and content creator with a love for spreading knowledge and understanding of other cultures and people.
# Elikutty as a teacher and a student? How do these 2 personalities inspire you to learn and teach Malayalam?
It’s my life philosophy that we are simultaneously teacher and student throughout our whole lives. I think that we should invest time into learning about things that interest us and keep our minds active and happy. For me, I have formal training in language education, which has introduced many opportunities to explore various aspects of language, grammar, teaching styles, and learner psychology. For me, the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else, and I feel that sharing the resources I make from my own observations in Malayalam make my work approachable and relatable. I think that having a learner’s mind and a teacher’s methodology helps keep things simple and easy to understand.
# Resources you used to learn Malayalam?(Most helpful one)
The most useful resources have been the teachers that I have worked with. Whether it was my introductory teacher Yasir Arafath, or my weekly conversational partner Nita, their constant guidance has allowed me to build my understanding and experiment with new vocabulary and grammar constructions. As far as print materials go, PDF of Moag’s Malayalam courses and Gameliel’s Malayalam text have been wonderful for establishing a sense of grammar and structures for when native Malayalam speakers cannot quite explain the difference.
# Can you learn Malayalam for free? Should someone pay for it? Would it make any difference?
You can learn Malayalam for free- like any language if you make friends and find resources online you can pick up a decent understanding- however if you want to work with a professional teacher, have answers for those tricky questions, and support a Malayalee educator, I think it’s worth paying for lessons and resources when possible. Good teachers spend time and their own resources developing their skills and knowledge, and especially when the world is pressuring teachers to teach English instead, it’s important to compensate and promote those who maintain Malayalam tuitions.
# Roadblocks and how did you overcome them? and also how you are still struggling with some new challenges lately?
Learning a language is full of roadblocks, that’s a natural part of learning. My first roadblock was losing access to Skype in the UAE. I was taking lessons twice a week and suddenly it was halted and I had no way to communicate with my tutor at the time. So that’s when I went into an internet deep dive to find some PDFs. I then found out about Dr Moag’s texts, and the more recent grammar analysis by Dr Nair. It was when I was in contact with him and he sent a conversational Malayalam text that I felt encouraged to keep self studying.
A current roadblock I have is being in Vietnam during lockdown. There have been no flights into the country since March 2020, and I can’t visit Kerala or meet with my Malayalee friends to practice. It feels really isolating when you are trying to learn, make content, and connect with an audience that is physically separate from you. I try to overcome this by watching and consuming Malayalam Pop Culture, having a speaking lesson twice a week, and speaking more to my husband in Malayalam, vocabulary permitting!
# Things you do on a daily basis/regular basis to improve
I speak Malayalam to my husband, I read Malayalam content creators work and try to decipher the comment sections. I listen to music and podcasts.
# Do you set goals and track them? Or do you have your own unique way of learning ? If yes, what?
I currently am not in any regimented study program with goals. I am pretty much working with the language on a casual conversational level. If I notice a new grammar structure or something interesting, I note it down, research it, make some content about it, then add it to my repertoire. I’ve been studying nearly 4 years and am still A2/B1 level, but I’m happy with it because it’s not a race, and I am doing what I can with the schedule and mental capacity that I am equipped with.
# Your Instagram and how it would benefit other learners.
My instagram is made for those learning Malayalam with English as their first language. I think that my explanations are basic, easy to follow, and engaging. The language is made easier and promotes everyone to try and make tons of mistakes. I think that my content serves not just the language, but also the culture and people who contribute to Kerala and make up its diverse population. Language doesn’t exist without a community, and I endeavour for my page to reach out and show what that community is made of.
# What would you like to say to a total beginner in Malayalam? What advice to follow and what pitfalls to avoid?
I would suggest all learners to learn the Malayalam script. Malayalam has many sounds that do not exist in English and need to be understood through its own special alphabet. Just because it looks different doesn’t mean it is difficult. Even studying little by little, you can learn the alphabets and how to read them in a month. This will help your pronunciation greatly.
Along with the alphabet, get familiar with everyday words. Learn vocabulary in context- find phrases that are often spoken by native speakers and try to imitate them. If you are able to hire a tutor, I think it is exceptionally helpful in the early days to help build accountability and direction. If not, join an online studying group on Instagram, Telegram, or Clubhouse. Be consistent, take notes, and try to speak as early and often as possible.
# Where do you see yourself now in Malayalam in terms of the knowledge acquired? How was your transition?
As mentioned, I’m likely a strong beginner or lower intermediate user. I speak better than I read and write, but I’m happy with the progress I have made. I can speak to my in-laws, communicate with other native speakers, and help others with very basic questions about learning Malayalam. I would like to continue growing in my speaking and vocabulary, as well as connect more with other learners to expand my knowledge and confidence.
# Where do you see yourself in two year, 5 year and 10 years(language wise I mean)?
I want to start reading books properly. It would be good to read a simple novel in Malayalam or watch a movie with no subtitles. I think this is doable in a few years. I hope that my online platform continues to grow- and I can make more comprehensive resources, along with print content.
# Would you like to write your own book by compiling all the resources you made?
I’m in the process of creating a book- though I am not exactly the speediest at it. I’m working closely with an Indian publisher and hope that we can have something ready in the next year.
# One thing you love about Malayalam and Malayalees?
Malayalam has so many precise words for specific incidents. The word “to break’ for example has many forms depending on what’s breaking, who’s breaking it, and how it’s being broken. It can be a challenge to memorize at first, but later it feels really neat when you can say exactly how you want to.
As for Malayalees- their sarcasm is a whole other art form. I hope I can get to the point where I can keep up with and come back with some sarcastic rants of my own.
P.S, please feel free to like or give a feedback or ask questions.