Enhanced by vibrant illustrations, this picture book introduces children to a few common phrases in each of the many languages of India.
On the book’s first page, an illustrated map shows the official language in each region of India, written in both English and the native script. The facing page explains that “India is a big country. People speak different languages across the country.”
In each subsequent page pair, a language is introduced. The map remains on the left-hand page, and here the associated region is clearly displayed. Opposite, a man, woman, and child are shown in what one assumes is local traditional dress. For each language, five phrases (“hello,” “goodbye,” “thank you,” “how are you?” “I am fine”) are shown in the local script and transliterated into English.
The illustrations are bright and colorful, but additional context would be welcome; aside from the phrases and the name of the language and region, there is no information about the clothes worn by the illustrated people or whether the clothing colors or fabriclike patterns depicted on each page hold special meaning. The text also doesn’t offer more information about the region, history, other local languages (not to mention dialects), or how culture and language might be tied together. Indeed, two official languages of India—Sanskrit and Maithili—are not included in the book, since they are recognized but not official languages in any given region.
As a result, this book may be of interest to young children who have a direct connection to one of India’s regions or languages, but is only a loose springboard for anyone wanting to learn more about any of them. This lack of context also makes for dry reading: Early readers may grow tired of trying to pronounce words in 19 languages.
Despite a valuable premise and beautiful illustrations, The Languages of India for Kids is the most basic kind of introduction and will struggle to truly engage a young audience.