Published: 21st February 2020
International Mother Language Day: This 16-year-old from Czech Republic can read, write and also sing in Tamil
Jakub Hubert Butler, a native of Czech Republic moved to Tamil Nadu eight years ago. Today, he can read, write, converse and also sing in Tamil
"The first few words I learnt were Amma (Mother) Appa (Father) Sapadu (Rice) and Kolambu (Curry)," laughs Jakub Hubert Butler, who is from the Czech Republic. Butler moved to Tamil Nadu eight years ago for the purpose of his education. "My parents moved me here as they were impressed by the varied culture and languages," explains the Class XI student of St John's Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Coimbatore. He surprises us by telling that he can speak and understand Tamil fluently. Need proof? He passed the Class X board exam with Tamil as his second language!
Ask him how he began learning the language, and he says, "People used to talk to me in Tamil when I was new here. I started learning Tamil as I wanted to converse with them. Now, I know how to write, speak and read Tamil."
Understandably, it would not have been easy to understand a completely different language which shares no commonality with his mother tongue. So how did he overcome the challenge? "My mother tongue is similar to French. There was nothing common between Tamil and Czech. I used to understand and grasp the meaning of Tamil words," shares the 16-year-old.
But it did take a lot of work, Jakub says, "My Tamil teacher A Sakthivel, used to spend time with me every day. I tried to learn the topics which were comparatively easy while preparing for the board exams. I spent an hour every day on Tamil even when I had other exams the next day."
Talking about the training he underwent, his Principal, P Baskar shares, "We were concerned about him taking Tamil as his second language as there were two papers and it is necessary to pass in both. But he was sure that he would write the exam and we tried to encourage him by giving him extra care and attention. However, he cooperated with us well by investing more time on Tamil and finally we got the result." He adds, "Being a left-handed person, the way Jakub writes, it may look a bit different. It may also seem that he is writing words in reverse. But, in the end, it would look neat."
To see a foreigner talking an Indian language is always exciting and that's what happened when Jakub went to the market with his dad two years ago. "My dad was here to visit me (his parents are in the Czech Republic), and the salesperson did not understand English. My dad asked me to talk in Tamil, and I inquired the price of the fruits in Tamil. The salesman was shocked, and my dad was over the moon to see me speak the language fluently," recollects Jakub.
Jakub, who is keen on learning new languages, is currently pursuing French as his second language in Class XI. However, he continues to speak, read, write and also sing in Tamil!