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Should I learn Sanskrit or Hindi?

View Poll Results: Which language should I learn?
Sanskrit 19 70.37%
Hindi 8 29.63%
Voters: 27. You may not vote on this poll

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  #1  
Old 04 March 2010, 08:06 PM
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Ramakrishna Ramakrishna is offline
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Should I learn Sanskrit or Hindi?

One of my friends is Irish, and he is taking it upon himself to learn how to speak Irish. He enjoys singing and is able to sing several songs in Irish. That got me thinking that I should start learning either Hindi or Sanskrit so I can sing some bhajans and aarti.

However I am not sure which language I want to learn. I know that the Vedic hymns are in Sanskrit, but from what I've heard those are more like mantras that are to be chanted rather than actual songs that are to be sung. My favorite aarti that I would love to learn to sing is 'Om Jai Jagdish Hare'. It is in Hindi. I know that the two languages are very similar, as Hindi is based off of Sanskrit and the two languages have the same writing.

I'm thinking that if I learn Sanskrit it would pretty much only be useful for the Vedic hymns. Meanwhile there are literally thousands of aarti and bhajan songs in Hindi. But then again, aren't the Vedic hymns the most sacred of all? Hindi would also help me out whenever I visit India, as Sanskrit is a dead language and is no longer spoken.

I'm not really planning on doing an in depth study of the language and becoming fluent in it, although it would be great if one day I am. I'm just looking to learn the basics so I can sing some sacred hymns. So, which language should I learn?
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  #2  
Old 04 March 2010, 11:06 PM
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Re: Should I learn Sanskrit or Hindi?

I guess it all comes down to whether you're learning the language in order to increase your ability to communicate, or to study religious Scriptures. Hindi is one of the most widely used languages in India, so it's helpful to know it when getting around (then again, neither of my parents speak even a word of Hindi, so maybe it's not quite as helpful as one might think). On the other hand, no one learns Sanskrit in order to increase his ability to communicate with people. It's basically the Eastern version of Latin. It's not the vernacular anywhere, and it's largely useful for reading ancient religious texts.

Now what follows is just my opinion, but I feel that English is widely used enough in India that I'm already fairly well-prepared to get around if I visit. And if I were to learn a (vernacular) Indian language, I think I would want to learn Tamil, since my family is Tamilian. Personally I would very much like to learn Sanskrit so as to be able to participate more fully in pujas and other Hindu rituals. Sanskrit is the language of India's rishis and saints. It's the language of the Vedas. One might even say that it's the language of God. I know that it's a difficult task, but I would like to one day learn Sanskrit, if time allows.

Of course, what I would like to do and what you should do may very well be different things.
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  #3  
Old 15 March 2010, 06:06 AM
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Re: Should I learn Sanskrit or Hindi?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ramakrishna View Post
One of my friends is Irish, and he is taking it upon himself to learn how to speak Irish. He enjoys singing and is able to sing several songs in Irish. That got me thinking that I should start learning either Hindi or Sanskrit so I can sing some bhajans and aarti.

However I am not sure which language I want to learn. I know that the Vedic hymns are in Sanskrit, but from what I've heard those are more like mantras that are to be chanted rather than actual songs that are to be sung. My favorite aarti that I would love to learn to sing is 'Om Jai Jagdish Hare'. It is in Hindi. I know that the two languages are very similar, as Hindi is based off of Sanskrit and the two languages have the same writing.

I'm thinking that if I learn Sanskrit it would pretty much only be useful for the Vedic hymns. Meanwhile there are literally thousands of aarti and bhajan songs in Hindi. But then again, aren't the Vedic hymns the most sacred of all? Hindi would also help me out whenever I visit India, as Sanskrit is a dead language and is no longer spoken.

I'm not really planning on doing an in depth study of the language and becoming fluent in it, although it would be great if one day I am. I'm just looking to learn the basics so I can sing some sacred hymns. So, which language should I learn?
Most mantras in Hinduism are in Sanskrit, as are the Scriptures. Therefore, if you're planning an in-depth study of Hinduism at some point in the future, then Sanskrit is the way to go. If you're interested in learning it, I've scanned and uploaded some of a book that I got in Malaysia for learning Sanskrit. It's written like the old Latin primers in school - it's basically rote learning and translating phrases into Sanskrit. The one in the same series for learning Tamil is atrocious - it includes a whole pile of individual Tamil words, followed by hardly any grammar (and it's formal Tamil, not spoken Tamil) However, this book does introduce the grammar, and gives you a working vocabulary of basic Sanskrit words. You can find the book here (download it rather than viewing it on the site - it's easier). Let me know when you've finished the material there - I'll scan and upload the next part.

On the other hand, if you are living in the West (which I assume you are; forgive me if I'm wrong), then you may want to learn the langauge of the majority Hindu community in your area (this may also be the language that the local temple service is conducted in). For example, in Britain and New Zealand, the majority of Hindus speak Gujarati, while in Malaysia and Singapore, the majority speak Tamil. If you're planning on visiting Northern India, then Hindi is your best bet.

My advice to you would be, if you can, learn bothSanskrit and Hindi. However, the process of learning each is very different. Sanskrit is a dead language, which means you'll mainly be studying texts and doing translations. Nobody is going to have a conversation with you in Sanskrit, so you don't need to worry about oral skills. On the other hand, Hindi is a living language, which will require practice in both speaking and writing. After you have learnt a little Hindi, practice with Hindi speakers that you know. From my experience, Hindi speakers are very impressed when you ask "ap kaise hai?" (how are you?). Same goes for Bengali speakers when I say "tumi kemon acho?" and Gujarati speakers when I say "kem cho?"
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  #4  
Old 15 March 2010, 06:17 AM
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Re: Should I learn Sanskrit or Hindi?

Quote:
My favorite aarti that I would love to learn to sing is 'Om Jai Jagdish Hare'. It is in Hindi.
The lyrics are provided on Wikipedia, as well as a translation into English. You can sing along and read the English translation - you don't need to have learnt Hindi first.

Before 1969, the Catholic Mass was conducted in Latin. The average Catholic in the pew didn't spend years studying Latin - he or she had a book called a missal which contained the prayers of the Mass and a translation into his or her native language. As the priest prayed the Mass in Latin, the average Catholic read the English translation in order to understand what was going on. They didn't need to know Latin in order to understand the Mass. Many Catholics also prayed private devotions such as the Rosary in Latin (some still do).
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Old 14 January 2011, 12:59 AM
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Re: Should I learn Sanskrit or Hindi?

Ramakrishna, have you been thinking about this decision? Sanskrit is the better choice, but a lot of the Hindu tradition and culture is communicated in vernacular languages. This is what many westerners miss out on when they only look at classical Sanskrit texts. Sanskrit is always the best choice, but depending on how much time you have, it's advisable to become familiar with more Indian languages, especially Hindi which is popular and has a wide variety of books, bhajans, lectures and movies on Hinduism.
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  #6  
Old 16 January 2011, 09:56 PM
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Re: Should I learn Sanskrit or Hindi?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sahasranama View Post
Ramakrishna, have you been thinking about this decision? Sanskrit is the better choice, but a lot of the Hindu tradition and culture is communicated in vernacular languages. This is what many westerners miss out on when they only look at classical Sanskrit texts. Sanskrit is always the best choice, but depending on how much time you have, it's advisable to become familiar with more Indian languages, especially Hindi which is popular and has a wide variety of books, bhajans, lectures and movies on Hinduism.
Namaste Sahasranama,

Really I have not thought much about this from the time I posted. I've realized that currently being a full-time college student doesn't leave me much time at all to undertake this endeavor. But it is still definitely something I would be interested in learning.

Before, I was thinking that I could learn at least some basic Hindi from my grandparents. But they moved back to Guyana to spend the rest of their lives there, so that is not likely to happen now.

Whenever I do begin, I will try to learn at least some of both Hindi and Sanskrit. The thing is that when I was originally thinking about this, I was ignorant of the fact that English is spoken by a good amount of Indians (at least more than I originally thought) and that there is such a wide multitude of languages in India besides Hindi. Although Hindi still is the most popular language, and it is very widely spoken in the part of India that my ancestors are from, Uttar Pradesh. This would still be helpful whenever I visit the land of my forefathers.

Of course Sanskrit will also be helpful when it comes to learning scriptures and mantras.

Jai Sri Ram
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Old 19 January 2011, 02:48 AM
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Re: Should I learn Sanskrit or Hindi?

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Which language should I learn?
English.

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Old 19 January 2011, 08:16 AM
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Re: Should I learn Sanskrit or Hindi?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ScottMalaysia View Post
The lyrics are provided on Wikipedia, as well as a translation into English. You can sing along and read the English translation - you don't need to have learnt Hindi first.

Before 1969, the Catholic Mass was conducted in Latin. The average Catholic in the pew didn't spend years studying Latin - he or she had a book called a missal which contained the prayers of the Mass and a translation into his or her native language. As the priest prayed the Mass in Latin, the average Catholic read the English translation in order to understand what was going on. They didn't need to know Latin in order to understand the Mass. Many Catholics also prayed private devotions such as the Rosary in Latin (some still do).
However, the Latin that is used by the Catholic Church is called "Ecclesiastical Latin," and is as "similar" to the Classical Latin of Rome as Hindi is to Sanskrit. For example, compare the name of the Roman dictator "Julius Caesar" in the two languages:

1. Ecclesiastical Latin: Julius Caesar; pronounced "JOO-Lee-Uss SEEZ-Ur"
2. Classical Latin: Ivlivs Csar; pronounced "Yoo-LEE-Oos KIGH-Zahr"

Furthermore, Classical Latin has a kind of "rhythm" that is very similar to modern Italian...as opposed to the very "harsh" sound of Ecclesiastical Latin.

Personally, I'm learning Hindi, and paying attention to where the Hindi and Sanskrit converge and diverge as I do so. Of course, I have plans to spend a lot of time in India (and possibly even relocate there at some point), so learning Hindi will be of a lot of use to me.

But there are a lot of other advantages to learning Hindi...in that I can put on Bollywood movies and use them to further keep my translation and pronunciation skills "sharp." I've learned a lot of languages in my life (I speak English, Spanish, German, Latin, and Ancient Greek) and being able to watch movies in the language is an enormously helpful tool. (Trust me...the only movie with Classical Latin pronounced correctly in it is Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ." Uck!)
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Old 19 January 2011, 10:45 AM
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Cool Re: Should I learn Sanskrit or Hindi?

Learn Sanskrit, it is the best choice for Hinduism, and when you learn Sanskrit well, don't forget to translate in your native language.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BryonMorrigan View Post
But there are a lot of other advantages to learning Hindi...in that I can put on Bollywood movies and use them to further keep my translation and pronunciation skills "sharp." I've learned a lot of languages in my life (I speak English, Spanish, German, Latin, and Ancient Greek) and being able to watch movies in the language is an enormously helpful tool. (Trust me...the only movie with Classical Latin pronounced correctly in it is Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ." Uck!)
I was thinking about a good documentary or movie on Maharshi Ashtavakra, to promote in Handicaps, CM make handicaps a personal sympathy mongers and Jihadi use them for wrong works. Maharshi Ashtavakra can teach right path.
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Old 19 January 2011, 11:09 PM
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Re: Should I learn Sanskrit or Hindi?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BryonMorrigan View Post
However, the Latin that is used by the Catholic Church is called "Ecclesiastical Latin," and is as "similar" to the Classical Latin of Rome as Hindi is to Sanskrit. For example, compare the name of the Roman dictator "Julius Caesar" in the two languages:

1. Ecclesiastical Latin: Julius Caesar; pronounced "JOO-Lee-Uss SEEZ-Ur"
2. Classical Latin: Ivlivs Csar; pronounced "Yoo-LEE-Oos KIGH-Zahr"

Furthermore, Classical Latin has a kind of "rhythm" that is very similar to modern Italian...as opposed to the very "harsh" sound of Ecclesiastical Latin.

Personally, I'm learning Hindi, and paying attention to where the Hindi and Sanskrit converge and diverge as I do so. Of course, I have plans to spend a lot of time in India (and possibly even relocate there at some point), so learning Hindi will be of a lot of use to me.

But there are a lot of other advantages to learning Hindi...in that I can put on Bollywood movies and use them to further keep my translation and pronunciation skills "sharp." I've learned a lot of languages in my life (I speak English, Spanish, German, Latin, and Ancient Greek) and being able to watch movies in the language is an enormously helpful tool. (Trust me...the only movie with Classical Latin pronounced correctly in it is Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ." Uck!)
Namaste Bryon,

That's a good point. Learning Hindi will definitely be more practical outside of the specific context of Sanatana Dharma, where learning Sanskrit is seemingly confined to scriptures. But you can do so much more with Hindi, especially somebody like you with your career.

Plus, it would be nice for me to one day be able to watch Bollywood movies in Hindi without the subtitles!

Jai Sri Ram
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