Project Taproot is a novel initiative to aid learning mother tongue in a simple and fun way. The first series of Taproot was done in collaboration with URA Academy which highlights colourful illustrations and contents that are contextual and locally relevant, featuring only those animals, fruits, vegetables, objects etc, which are indigenous, commonly used and have relevance to our daily lives.
Vishü Rita Krocha
Kohima | April 19
“If we want our children’s socio-cultural identity to thrive, it is imperative that they understand and communicate in their mother tongue.” These are thoughts put across by Ketoriavi Sakhrie Metsieo, founder of Taproot, a novel initiative to aid learning mother tongue in a simple and fun way.
Being ignorant of her mother tongue-Tenyidie while growing up, she recollects that this led her to develop a feeling of disassociation from her community and further hindered her understanding of the Angami norms and customs.
“It was only after marrying into an Angami family that I now have a better grasp of Tenyidie. This progress has helped me a great deal in interacting with and understanding my own people, and that has made me realise how important language is for one to assimilate into one’s own culture,” she relates to The Morung Express.
Project Taproot is a result of her desire to help her 2-year-old son learn Tenyidie, which stemmed from her own experience in life of having to overcome a language barrier that had been a hurdle in the shaping of her identity as an Angami. Towards this end, she says, “I did not want my son to go through this same journey so when I was toying with the idea of the book series, I shared the concept with some friends and family members. Most of them shared the same concern.”
Citing instances of how most children have adapted to the English language very well but barely understand their own mother tongue, she says, “They have enough exposure—almost daily—to a variety of written and audio-visual resources to learn English and other foreign languages, but not as much for their own mother tongue. Learning of all these similar experiences motivated me to put this project into motion.”
She also underlines the need for a variety of resources to enrich the language learning experiences of children while reiterating that “the reason why kids today are picking up English so effortlessly is that they have constant exposure to a variety of resources—print as well as digital—in English.”
Keeping languages alive through Taproot
With the primary aim to develop elementary learning books for toddlers in several Naga languages, the first series of Taproot was done in collaboration with URA Academy. And in the words of Ketoriavi Sakhrie Metsieo, “This was necessary since I am still in the process of learning Tenyidie myself and I needed an external expert to verify and approve the contents. So when I pitched my idea to URA Academy they were more than happy to be a part of this series.”
Illustrated by Vitoto Sakhrie, whom, she describes as an ‘incredible artist,’ the first series also highlight colourful illustrations and contents that are contextual and locally relevant, featuring only those animals, fruits, vegetables, objects etc., that are indigenous, commonly used and have relevance to our daily lives.
Exuding hope that the series would keep them engaged and curious to learn Tenyidie, she also hopes that the “books can serve as a learning resource for children from early stages so that their mother tongue is not neglected and cater to those who missed out on learning their mother tongue in childhood.”
The first series have generated a lot of interest even as she goes on to say that, “the responses from those who have purchased the books have been very good and encouraging. When I was putting together the idea of Taproot, I had three target groups in mind—toddlers, adults of mixed marriages who are also trying to learn their spouse’s language and families settled outside Nagaland without the local community support system. And it was a delight to learn that a good number of adults who purchased the book were from the second target group. They shared how they are also learning along with their toddlers. So, I am glad the series is serving the purpose after all.”
Empowering children with simple & basic concepts of words used daily
The idea, for her, “is to start with simple and basic concepts and eventually progress to more complex ones” which is why she also began with words that are used daily. “This is so because, even before our children learn how to speak/develop their language skills, we start reading them (toddler-appropriate) books,” she elucidates.
Further expressing that the aim at this stage is not for them to learn how to say or read the word correctly but to help them associate the word/sound with the object, she says that, “at this stage, a toddler’s linguistic skill is only beginning to develop, so the grammatical rules are not so relevant. That could follow at a later stage.”
The Taproot project also aims to collaborate with different illustrators and artists for different contents and undertaking of the projects to give them a platform to showcase their art while also using their creativity to create contextual and relevant resources. For the next book, Ketoriavi Sakhrie Metsieo is working with different artists and together they are trying to create content that children can draw a natural connection to.
“A long-term goal of the project is to reach out to and collaborate with interested individuals who want to do the same in their mother tongue”, she enlightens while expressing that, “I am more than happy to work together, share idea and resources to try and support other languages.”
Shared responsibility of safeguarding local languages
“I cannot over emphasize the importance of a collaborative approach for a project like this since it is the only way to own shared responsibility of safeguarding our local languages,” she underscores.
While she hopes that the availability of a variety of creative and engaging resources would make their mother tongue-learning experience enjoyable, she is also aware that this will not happen automatically. In this regard, she emphasizes, “we, parents, have the primary responsibility to take interest in making these resources available and in teaching them” and further adds that, “it is also my hope that parents who are themselves not well versed in their mother tongue will also learn in the process.”
On the other hand, Taproot is also working on audio contents while recognizing that our local languages are tonal, and it is essential to supplement the books with audio versions to help them learn accurate pronunciation and tonal inflexions, especially for beginners.
Besides the book series, Taproot has also produced Tenyidie yearly calendar with child-friendly illustrations to help them learn numbers, days and months in Tenyidie. Another feature of the project is greeting cards and tags series in collaboration with artist m.for.apples in 6 different languages namely Konyak, Tangkhul, Lotha, Sümi, Zeme and Tenyidie.
Mention may also be made here that Taproot books are available at Room 03, The White Owl Book Lounge, MixPick Enterprise Store in Dimapur and The Common Room, Crossword, Ilandlo, The Book Home and The Gift Shop in Kohima.