Language is fundamental to a human being. For this reason, it is a primary element in education. How children learn to speak is all-important and will be determined by the examples they are given. So the aim of the educator should be to present the finest language.
Linguists agree that one of the finest languages is Sanskrit. Sir William Jones, recognised as a founder of modern linguistics, said in 1786:
“The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure: more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the latin, and more exquisitely refined than either; yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and the forms of grammar, than can possibly have been produced by accident.”
The considerable benefits of studying the classical languages, Greek and Latin, have been known in the West for hundreds of years; indeed, in recent centuries some of the best education available in the world has been based upon them. However Sir William Jones has discovered a classical language par excellence, more ancient than Greek or Latin, which had been preserved intact for thousands of years.
The word ‘Sanskrit’ means ‘perfected’, for its sound system and grammar are scientifically structured. It has even been put forward as being the most suitable language for use in computers (see ‘Knowledge Representation in Sanskrit and Artificial Intelligence’, The A.I Magazine, Spring 1985).
Sanskrit also has one of the greatest literatures known to humanity. The Sanskrit epics, The ‘Ramayana’ and the ‘Mahabharata’, are inspiring and fascinating. Children love those stories and enjoy the company of great and heroic men and women.
This book forms the second part of the ‘Stories of Krishna’ and is suitable for children of about eight years of age. Part One is aimed at children familiar with reading and writing the Sanskrit script and covers:
- some of the basic parts of a sentence;
- the first four case-endings;
- three stories based on the childhood of Krishna;
- practice for reading the script.
Part Two starts with a brief revision of the main grammatical points covered in the first volume and then presents:
- the final three case-endings;
- an introduction to all the forms of a typical noun in each of the three genders;
- an introduction to all the forms of a typical verb in the present, future and past tenses;
- nine further stories based on the early life of Krishna.
The second volume leads on to a textbook of more advanced material based on the stones of Prince Rama.
Part Two, unlike the earlier volume, is not intended to be a workbook in which children write, they will need separate lined exercise books for this purpose. Where children were asked to copy words which, in this volume, are shown in grids, the gridlines themselves need not be copied.
By the time the stories are reached in this book, the teacher would do well to have familiarised himself or herself with the tales of Krishna’s childhood, around which the book is based. These will be found in the ‘Srimad Bhagavatum’, available in many translations, some expressly for children. Such familiarity will enable the teacher to tell the story naturally and simply just before it is met by the children in the Sanskrit version. As with most situations, it is best not to read from a book but rather to speak from a well funded memory and the inspiration of the moment.
Before a new story is begun, the new words should be practised orally over the course of several lessons. Words which the children have met before should also be practised again. Then the teacher should read the story, one sentence at a time, with the children merely listening and repeating the sentence after the teacher.
Following this, the children should first read the story one sentence at a time, then give a translation of each word, and finally give a translation of the whole sentence.
After this, the children should copy each Sanskrit sentence into the exercise book, writing the meaning of each word immediately underneath that word, and then, starting a new line, write a translation of the whole sentence.
In writing translations of individual words the children should include the preposition corresponding with the Sanskrit ending of the word (e.g., ‘from Rama’, ‘in the house’ etc.). For words with the Second Ending the abbreviation [2nd] should be added. Not every child will complete the whole of every exercise. Once the class has understood the particular point of grammar being taught, the teacher should move on.
TEXTS FOR RECITATION
Appendix 1 to this volume comprises a small selection of suggested Sanskrit texts which the children could recite on a daily basis. It has been found that this often enhances the children’s experience of the beauty of the language and of its fluent pronunciation. The selection is, of course, only a sample of what can be found. Teachers may wish to add some of their own favourite texts.
Regular practice of all the noun declensions and of the conjugations of verbs so far covered needs to continue as the course proceeds.
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