Teaching programming in the Kannada language

An Arduino board is a tiny bare-bones computer.

When Arduino programming is taught in rural India, a problem that is often encountered is that students can only read and write their local language, and the Arduino programming language is English.

(This problem was first described to us by Prakash of Simple Labs in Chennai, a startup that has made it their mission to teach electronics and robotics to children in rural Tamil Nadu using Arduino).

So, we thought we’ve tried to solve the problem, and with help from the Arduino India office, we’ve managed to develop an extension to the Arduino programming environment that allows Arduino boards to be programmed in Kannada.

Here is a screenshot of a program to make an LED attached to Arduino pin number 13 blink on and off every couple of seconds.

programming_kannada

To do this, we had to translate various commands and functions into Kannada.

For example, we translated the return value of the function “void” as “ಖಾಲಿ” (pronounced ‘khaali’).  The word “ಖಾಲಿ” is short, in common use and unambiguous, so we chose it over “ಶೂನ್ಯ” (‘shoonya’) which could also mean zero.

The most difficult translation for the South Indian languages turns out to be the two words in English that are at the core of all programming and logic – the words ‘if‘ and ‘else‘.

There is no word for ‘if’ or ‘else’ in Kannada or Tamil.

For the moment, we’ve approximately translated ‘if’ and ‘else’ as “ಆದರೆ” and “ತಪ್ಪಿದರೆ” in Kannada.

Acknowledgement:  Many thanks to Padmalekha Kydala Ganesha for helping us translate mathematics and physics terms used in Arduino into Kannada (in particular ‘analog’ and ‘to the power of’).

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