An Interview with Dr. Anupama Sarna
Dr. Anupama Sarna is a Hindi Literature and Language Specialist part of a certified team of teachers that pioneered Hindi as an accepted language across many Bay Area and surrounding area schools. She has gained formal training in teaching language methodology, receiving teaching credentials through California State University East Bay, as well as completing many ‘Startalk’ teachers training programs in foreign language offered by New York University, a set of highly prestigious teacher training programs. With an extensive research background in the area of Hindi Literature, teaching experience with all age group students, and professional experience translating between English and Hindi, Dr. Sarna is so excited to join the Shoonya team as a well-versed Hindi consultant.
Dr. Sarna’s love for the Hindi language started at a very young age. Her family belonged to the freedom fighters and were very passionate about Hindi culture. Her father worked for a major Indian newspaper as both a Hindi and English journalist — an impressive feat as few were able to cover both languages simultaneously. Her mother was also a writer, so naturally, Sarna also quickly developed a knack for Hindi literature. She eventually obtained her Ph.D. in Hindi Literature from Panjab University in India, carrying her knowledge with her when she later moved to the U.S.
Based out of the Bay Area in California, Dr. Sarna is doing important work. As such a widely spoken language, Hindi is a valuable tool, particularly for the many Indians living in Silicon Valley. While some Indian parents may feel they are out of touch with their native culture, teachers like Sarna base their efforts on emphasizing history, heritage, cultural tense, festivals, and modern-day Indian celebrations to really bring students back to their roots.
“In the classroom, I am able to create an environment that is stimulating by exposing students to the cultural aspects of the Hindi-speaking world. This better enables students to understand and express themselves in Hindi,” says Sarna.
Following a project-based learning style, Dr. Sarna does her best to make Hindi learning exciting and tangible for children. Bringing lessons back to culture and heritage is always a key element of her Hindi teaching philosophy. Exposing children to different art from different regions of India (South, North, West), trying to collect important artifacts, or, these days, encouraging children to look around their homes for pieces of India, are all methods she uses to truly teach children Hindi. Sarna fosters a love for Indian culture by encouraging children to think about how the art is evolving, what influenced the art, and the cultural value behind each piece. She also advocates that students learn about things that resonate with them. If they are interested in Gandhi and his philosophy, that is the center of their project.
“In addition, I create the non-intimidating and encouraging atmosphere necessary to use newly acquired language skills by facilitating casual conversation in smaller group settings or one-on-one sessions.”
Though children can be initially intimidated when learning Hindi (or any new language), Dr. Sarna has seen incredible results by creating comfortable classroom environments for them to practice. While many Hindi teachers are afraid to explain grammar to children too early on in the process, Sarna argues that children are brilliant from an early age and can start to absorb the information when introduced from the get-go.
“It’s hard for them to grasp everything, but they start seeing why we are doing certain conjugations. Teaching like them very intelligent human beings and even having them write on their first lesson without ever being exposed before keeps them motivated and helps make sure they are not bored,” Dr. Sarna says.
Furthermore, Dr. Sarna is ecstatic to be part of the Shoonya Educational Team moving forward. Shoonya’s mission of incorporating an authentic love for culture within the language learning process aligns well with the powerful, project-based style of learning. A wealth of cultural and technical Hindi knowledge, Dr. Sarna will continue to help develop the vocabulary essential for a child’s well-rounded education. Dr. Sarna and the Shoonya team look forward to bringing children more than what most language learning platforms provide children these days — something beyond simple Hindi translations: the same authentic love for Hindi that is rooted in Indian culture, and the same passion that drew individuals like Dr. Sarna to the language in the first place.