How to learn Sanskrit if you know English?
Sanskrit or संस्कृतम्, saṃskṛtam, a classical language of South Asia, that connotes several Old Indo-Aryan varieties, is a sacred language of Hinduism, the language of classical Hindu philosophy, and language of historical texts of Buddhism and Jainism.
“Sanskrit” can also more narrowly refer to Classical Sanskrit, a refined and standardized grammatical form that emerged in the mid-1st millennium BCE and was codified in the most comprehensive of ancient grammars, the Aṣṭādhyāyī (“Eight Chapters”) written and composed by Pāṇini ( पाणिनि, a Sanskrit philologist, grammarian, and revered scholar in ancient who finds a mention between the 6th and 4th century BCE, also considered the “first descriptive linguist”, and even labelled as “the father of linguistics since the discovery and publication of his work by European scholars in the nineteenth century).
Coming to our topic for today, how to learn Sanskrit if you know English! Let's see.
Sanskrit and English are not mutually dependent languages, which means that whether you have learned English or not has no bearing on your ability to learn Sanskrit. Despite the fact that Sanskrit and English are both Indo-European languages with many similarities, there are unresolvable differences between them.
English is a member of the Germanic language family, while Sanskrit is classified as an Aryan language. Other languages in the Germanic family such as the Anglo-Saxon, German, and Gothic that bear similarities to English can help a learner to learn English easily if a learner knows them, unlike the Sanskrit language. On the other hand, Sanskrit encompasses the Aryan languages such as Avesta, Hindi and its dialects, and the languages spoken in the northern part of India.
A notable difference between Sanskrit and English is the absence of a cerebral group of consonants in English. Sanskrit, on the other hand, has a cerebral group of consonants. Cerebral is the sound produced when the tip of the tongue makes contact with the roof of the hard palate. The cerebral sounds are the sounds of the letter ‘t’ in words like ‘train,’ ‘content,’ and so on. The cerebral is thought to have been borrowed from the Sanskrit language. At the same time, another interesting difference between Sanskrit and English is the lack of a neutral vowel present in the vowel list of English. The neutral vowel can be heard when saying words like ‘bank,’ ‘cash,’ and so on. Sanskrit on the contrary does not have a neutral vowel. Such significant differences cannot help you learn another language if you know one of English or Sanskrit!
When it comes to pronunciation and usage, however, there are no hard and fast rules in English. Several words in English are interchangeable, whereas words in Sanskrit are generally not interchangeable. Sanskrit is thought to be one of the world’s oldest languages. Old English, on the other hand, is said to be only 700 years old. In India, Sanskrit is the mother tongue of several other languages, including Hindi, Marathi, and Gujarathi. Again an important point that can help you understand that whether you know English or not is completely irrelevant to learn the Sanskrit language.
In fact, the speakers of the English language must study this as a new language and learn it from scratch because it does not have any ‘helpful’ similarities with English and there is nothing that can be of help when learning Sanskrit from scratch, other than your motivation, your attitude and a strong desire to learn it. FSI places languages such as Hindi, which are derived from Sanskrit, in Category IV on the basis of the ease of learning them, for an English speaker. So languages like Hindi can be learnt in 44 guided weeks or 1100 guided hours and an equivalent amount of time invested to practice it. This clearly indicates that language like Sanskrit will take even longer to learn for an English learner to learn. Please bear in mind that Sanskrit is not an easy language for English learners to learn however it is not impossible either.
Sanskrit is thought to be a ‘Devabhasha,’ or ‘God’s language.’ This is due to the perfect grammar of the language when it comes to pronunciation and usage. Most importantly, Sanskrit has influenced many other languages spoken around the world, including French, English, Russian, German, Italian, and Greek, to name a few. On the other hand, there is no evidence of English influence on the Sanskrit language.
The United Kingdom and the United States of America are the primary speakers of English. It is also widely spoken in other parts of the world, such as Australia, South Africa, India, and parts of Europe. Sanskrit, on the other hand, is no longer spoken. It was previously spoken in India and some eastern countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia. Sanskrit’s status, function, and place in India’s cultural heritage are recognized by its inclusion in the Constitution of India’s Eighth Schedule languages. However, despite attempts at revival, there are no first-language speakers of Sanskrit in India. In each of India’s recent decadal censuses, several thousand citizens have reported Sanskrit to be their mother tongue, but the numbers are thought to signify a wish to be aligned with the prestige of the language.
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