The Sanskrit language was termed as Deva-Vani (‘Deva’ Gods – ‘Vani’ language) as it was believed to have been generated by the god Brahma who passed it to the Rishis (sages) living in celestial abodes, who then communicated the same to their earthly disciples from where it spread on earth. The origin of the language in written form is traced back to the 2nd millennium BCE when the Rig Veda, a collection of sacred hymns, is assumed to have been written after being continued for centuries through oral tradition and preservation of verbal knowledge in the Guru-Disciple relationship. The purity of this version (Vedic period, 1500 – 500 BCE) of Sanskrit is doubtlessly reflected in the flamboyance of the perfect description of the forces of nature in the Rig Veda.
To learn Sanskrit, start with the sounds made by each of the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. From there you can expand your vocabulary and enrich yourself with the beauty of this classical language. In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the ways to learn Sanskrit systematically in a short period of time.
Ways to learn Sanskrit:
- Pronounce long vowels exactly twice as long as short vowels – Each of the short vowels can be made longer by drawing out the pronunciation. The sound of long vowels and short vowels also differs, much like long and short vowels in English. A long vowel is indicated by a macron, a long bar over the letter.
- Organize consonant sounds by their points of pronunciation – If vowels are the sound of the breath, consonants represent a stoppage of breath. When you pronounce words in Sanskrit, you stop the breath at different parts of your mouth to form the consonant sounds. There are 5 pronunciation points in Sanskrit, related to the part in your mouth where the air flow is stopped: the soft palate, the hard palate, the hard bump behind your teeth on the roof of your mouth, your lips, and the base of your teeth.
- Greet others politely by saying namaste – Sanskrit is considered a sacred language, and this is reflected in the way people use the language to communicate to each other. Namaste is used both when greeting someone and when departing from their presence, and at any time of day. The word namaste literally translates to “the divinity in me bows to the divinity in you.” It may be accompanied by an actual physical bow or nod of the head.
- Read poetry and sacred texts written in Sanskrit – The Digital Library of India scanned at least 34,000 texts in Sanskrit. You have a huge array of books to choose from. Reading will not help you get along with the grammar but also with sentence formation. It will also help in building your vocabulary, which will eventually lead to a better learning experience.
- Practice, practice, practice – You must keep on practising every single day for at least more than an hour to create a firm hold on the language. This applies for every language that you choose to learn and not only Sanskrit. Find a partner to practice your Sanskrit speaking skills with, and you’ll become an expert in no time.
As you go through your day and practice using your learned new language, the key is to resist the urge to feel conscious about your conversation. Instead, drag yourself out of your comfort zone and put yourself in situations where you are vulnerable to use the newly learned language. Success in learning a new language comes when you try. Following this technique will make learning your new language easier and more fun. By placing yourself in situations where you are forced to use your learned language, you’re bound to learn faster.