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Telugu at Berkeley
- Dr. Venkateswara Rao Vemuri
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Center for South Asia Studies Dear Friends, We write to introduce to you The Telugu Studies Initiative which aims to make Berkeley, and by extension, the Bay Area, a premier site for the cultivation and development of Telugu literature, humanities, performance and social science outside of India. The first step of this initiative is the teaching of the Telugu language. Well over 73 million people, the world over, speak Telugu, and it stands second only to Hindi in India as to the number of native speakers. Now there is a strong Telugu community in North America, especially in California and more so in the San Francisco Bay Area. Yet, in the United States only the University of Wisconsin has a regular program in Telugu at all levels - which, we hope, will continue after Prof. Narayana Rao retires. There are attempts to teach Telugu at beginning levels at other universities such as the University of Chicago, Columbia University, the University of Michigan, and the University of California, Davis - but none like the rigorous program at Wisconsin. The absence of a rigorous Telugu language instruction at the University of California, Berkeley, the flagship university of the State's university system, is a major lacuna in the nation's curriculum. At present at the Berkeley campus, the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies offers Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil and Punjabi. Recently Bengali has been added to this list. The University funds Sanskrit, Hindi and Urdu. Tamil is partially funded by the university with supplemental funds from the Tamil community. Punjabi and Bengali are completely funded by local community funds. With the prominent role Telugu people are playing in many walks of life in the United States (such as the medical and IT professions), we firmly believe that Telugu language courses must be offered to UC Berkeley Students, and through Berkeley, to students at other universities. A recent informal e-mail poll conducted at the Berkeley campus revealed that there are more than 30 students interested in taking Telugu classes - if offered on a regular basis.

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