Video: Meet the American who teaches Malayalam to her Insta followers

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Elizabeth Marie Keyton reads a Malayalam story book with her husband Arjun Ullas. — Photo by Shihab
Elizabeth Marie Keyton reads a Malayalam story book. - Photos by Shihab

Dubai - Born and raised in the US, the American citizen's Instagram account is full of her love for Kerala and the Malayalam language.

By Saman Haziq

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Published: Tue 14 May 2019, 9:00 PM

Last updated: Wed 15 May 2019, 2:20 PM

A Dubai-based American woman is teaching Malayalam to the world through her Instagram account. Elizabeth Marie Keyton aka Elisa's Malayalam skills have truly impressed Malayalees on social media.
Born and raised in the US, the American citizen's Instagram account @eli.kutty is full of her love for Kerala and the Malayalam language.
In fact, if you type "learn Malayalam Instagram" on Google, the first search result you'll get would be @eli.kutty, her Instagram page, which was created almost a year ago in her bid to teach Malayalam through detailed pictures, notes and videos.
Talking about her love for languages, Eliza says she has always had this fascination with languages and already learnt Spanish and Japanese when in the US and also Korean due to her time there.
A teacher by profession, Eliza's interest in Malayalam had begun earlier in life as she had made friends from Kerala and Tamil Nadu during her tenure in the Middle East but what really got her involved in it was her husband Arjun Ullas, a Malayali based in Dubai, whom she met through social media.

"After meeting Arjun, I realised his language and his culture were important to him and I took it like a challenge upon myself to understand his language. For this, I started taking online lessons but those were interrupted after the Skype ban happened. I then decided to look for study material online or get some books to learn Malayalam, which is when I realised there is not enough content available online for those keen on learning Malayalam," she said.
Since then (almost a year), this teacher has been trying hard to solve the issue through Instagram, where she shares her notes and draws diagrams of the throat and lips showing how to create the sound of the alphabet. She also shares her videos conversing in the language. With a Master's degree in Education Administration from the New Mexico State University, she works as an English teacher in the Ajman Applied Technology High School, while her husband Arjun works as a business development officer for a UAE cyber security firm.
"Once I started making notes and sharing them online, I realised a lot of people needed help with this language. So, I ended up helping others and helping myself too. My followers include people who are foreigners married to Malayalees or Malayalees who have moved abroad who have either forgotten the language or who have children with no exposure to the language. I even have a lot of followers from Kerala who are just excited to see my love for their language," Eliza told Khaleej Times.
Eliza speaks to her mother-in-law regularly through WhatsApp, exchanging pictures and the latter even asks Eliza to read out a page in Malayalam. Eliza said this is a beautiful way to bridge cultural gaps and her ability to understand Malayalam has helped her understand her in-laws better, and strengthen their relationship further. Eliza has over 2,000 followers on Instagram that are growing steadily.

Elizabeth Marie Keyton reads a Malayalam story book with her husband Arjun Ullas.

Appreciating his wife's efforts, Arjun said: "Eliza has the kind of love towards Malayalam that most Malayalees don't have. We have some set Malayalam-only days where we try to use more Malayalam words in our everyday conversations. We also watch a lot of Malayalam movies and Eliza also cooks authentic Kerala food and has even learnt to eat using her hands."
Revealing the secret behind the name eli.kutty, Eliza said: "Her friends used to call her Eli, short form of Elisa. She later figured out that 'Eli' means mouse in Malayalam. By adding "kutty" (little), she says she made it cute!"
saman@khaleejtimes.com
 



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