Monday, December 20, 2010

What I have learnt from trying to learn Sanskrit

One of the reasons my blog has been a little neglected lately is that I have been trying to learn Sanskrit. Learning a new language is hard work – especially for someone like me, who has poor aural skills ! What have a learnt during this journey ?

The key is to find a good teacher, and I have been very fortunate in finding a superb guru ! This is Mr Sudhir Kaicker who teaches Sanskrit out of the love of his heart – and keeps me going when I falter or feel that I am never going to make any progress ! He never criticizes and is extremely patient and supportive. He’s taught me a lot – and not just Sanskrit, but how to help others to learn !

However, the surprising lesson for me was the discovery that I learn a lot from other students ! We are all in the same boat – and while struggling to swim, we end up teaching each other quite a bit. The other student with me is Mr Ravi Gogte, who is far more advanced than I am, so it’s very helpful to have someone I can ask for help when I am stuck !

To teach optimally, teachers should organize students in small groups ( of 2 or 3) so they can help each other to progress. The best way to learn is by teaching someone else – and it’s much easier to learn from your peers, as the problems you encounter are very similar and you are on the same wavelength. Also, a little bit of friendly competition helps to keep you on your toes.
I also find that it takes me a long time to learn a new concept – and it’s much easier for me to understand this when it is presented to me in many different formats ( until it finally sinks in !) This is why I have bought a lot of books; and study from all of these in parallel. Each book has strengths and weaknesses – and by using them together, I can learn more efficiently.

Incidentally, all my Sanskrit classes have been online on Skype. Using a blended model of online learning with books helps me quite a bit – and there are a not a lot of clever online resources I enjoy exploring. I especially like the Sanskrit Ipad app called Sanskrit primer.

So why am I learning Sanskrit now ? Good question – and one I’ll answer later !

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