Spoken Sanskrit II.

Five years ago I posted about the phenomenon of Sanskrit as a spoken language; now Amara Hasa posts at the Log about a project that involves spoken and communicative Sanskrit:

Our project is a free online library of Sanskrit stories for learners. What makes these stories special is that they follow the current best practices from second language acquisition research.

Specifically, we aim to provide the learner with as much compelling and comprehensible input as we can, since this is a vital and necessary factor in developing communicative proficiency. Here are some specific techniques we apply to keep the input rate high:

– We use a highly restricted (“sheltered”) vocabulary to avoid overwhelming the learner with new lexical items. […]

– We use unrestricted (“unsheltered”) grammar so that all utterances follow normal Sanskrit grammatical patterns, without any attempt to teach a specific rule. […]

– We provide illustrations and word-for-word translations to establish meaning and avoid the pitfalls of some immersion-only approaches. Our simpler stories also have per-sentence translations so that beginners can be confident that they understand what a sentence means.

– We prioritize learner choice and understand that language acquisition is highly dependent on factors like interest and motivation. The more that a learner can choose content that is personally compelling, the more fun they’ll have, and the more they’ll want to read in the future.

Under the constraints above, we simply try to provide the most engaging content that we can. Our content mainly takes the form of stories, which closely aligns us with TPRS methods. But it is also true that many people learn Sanskrit to read a specific text of interest, so we are also working on graded adaptations of major works, such as the Ramayana, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Panchatantra.

The site is Sanskrit for everyone, and it seems like a Good Thing.


  1. David Marjanović says

    Looks like it teaches entirely passive competence in the grammar.

  2. Any kind of input is passive competence. The only person I know who found Russian easy and enjoyable is a girl with no previous experience with foreign languages who tried TPRS materials. I’m not sure though, what exactly helped: no previous experience or TPRS.

    We provide illustrations and word-for-word translations to establish meaning and avoid the pitfalls of some immersion-only approaches.

    At this point I must break into evil laughter:-E After a century they again come up with interlinear. What preveneted them from visiting biblehub and realizing that one can learn to read in Greek rather effortlessly this way? All these decades?! I think, there are Sanskrit books with interlinear translations, but mostly published in 19th century.

    Having this said, immersion in Sanskrit sounds interesting. In a host family?

    P.S. actually, I heard from someone that some do speak Sanskrit at home. If true, it makes it differnt from. say, literary Arabic:/

  3. Yes, some do; see the first link (“five years ago”).

  4. Since the convo here has quieted, I’m picking this thread for an unrelated comment:

    My 6-year old daughter discovered the Duolingo app on her school tablet yesterday and has been enthralled ever since. This morning, her sister asked what language she was learning, and she said “well, I’m focusing on German, but I’m doing a bunch of others too.”

    She brought me the tablet to try it and the sentence it pulled up at random was Meine tochter ist klug.*

    Such a proud father!

    I’m not sure dabbling in a dozen languages is going to be productive. She seemed to pick up on the fact that German was similar to English. I’d probably push her to Spanish, but if she chooses on her own, it’s great.

    * Not truly at random, of course. These are among the first words it presents. But it felt serendipitous as she showed it to me.

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