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Sanskrit: A Complete Course for Beginners (Teach Yourself Books) 2 Sub Edition

3.4 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0844238258
ISBN-10: 0844238252
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Companies; 2 Sub edition (January 11, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0844238252
  • ISBN-13: 978-0844238258
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #479,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Benjamin P. Wing on May 27, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
i read the reviews and then purchased this book, and so far i'm extremely happy with it. but i'm perhaps close to the "ideal" audience for the book -- i have experience with latin and linguistics. [in fact, i very much appreciate the linguistic explanations, which annoyed another reviewer so much, as it has helped me make sense of a lot of otherwise very confusing aspects of sanskrit. if you don't like the info, you can always ignore it.]
you have to know how to use a book like this. it's dense and assumes some general linguistic knowledge, so you may need to skip back and forth as particular aspects become clear. [the author in fact expects you to do this -- in order to keep related info together, he often includes advanced info, denoted with parentheses, that you are not expected to tackle until you handle later chapters.] you definitely need to keep referring to grammatical and sandhi tables. but the fact is, sanskrit is *not* an easy language by any means. if you haven't already learned another language, you really shouldn't be starting with sanskrit. this book does a remarkably good job of covering the essentials of sanksrit given its size -- something that would not be possible if it had to spend a lot of time on detailed explanations of basic linguistic concepts.
imo, this book does a lot of things right:
[1] it does not force devanagari down your throat. i have nothing against devanagari, but having to learn even a simple language while dealing with an unfamiliar alphabet makes it orders of magnitude more difficult. i speak from abundant experience here. e.g. recently i also tried tackling ancient greek, and soon gave up because of this -- and the greek alphabet is far easier than devanagari.
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Format: Paperback
Although Coulson's 'Teach Yourself Sanskrit' is, in many ways, an excellent and extremely thorough textbook, it is hardly suited to the average beginner. Most of us are drawn to Sanskrit because of a prior interest in The Bhagavad Gita, The Upanishads, The Mahabharata, The Ramayana, even The Hitopadesa. Coulson, however, has chosen - perversely it seems to me - to draw all of his examples from Sanskrit drama, a branch of Sanskrit literature which is of minimal interest to most readers. Even worse, he seems to have designed the book primarily for exceptionally gifted students, and for those who are already competent in an ancient inflected language such as Latin or Greek. His procedure, in other words, betrays an elitist attitude that has resulted in a book which, rather than teaching anyone Sanskrit, is far more likely to put them off for life. I gave up in despair about halfway through the book, and so have many others.

This is a pity, as Sanskrit is an exceptionally beautiful language, but there is a remedy at hand. Instead of wasting one's time with Coulson, the beginner would be far better off acquiring a copy of Thomas Egenes Introduction to Sanskrit, Part 1 and, once having worked through that and to practise your reading, his Introduction to Sanskrit, Part 2. Almost all introductory treatments of Sanskrit have been produced for linguists and philologists, but here finally is a truly practical and useful primer of Sanskrit for ordinary folks and human beings.
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By A Customer on March 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
Coulson's text is a nightmare to use if you don't already know some Sanskrit. I highly suggest starting off with Thomas Egenes "Introduction to Sanskrit, Part I." Egenes text consists of 18 concise but simple lessons which provide one with a foundation in basic Sanskrit for building upon with more a thorough text. (In fact, Egenes states that his text is a "pre-primer;" I have to say, it is a most excellent one.) Coulson's text becomes much easier to comprehend.
I also recommend taking a look at Devavanipravesika, the text used by Berkeley for its Sanskrit course. It is very thorough and not as difficult as Coulson's.
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Format: Paperback
I have a real love-hate relationship with this book. On the positive side, it is a pleasure to appreciate Coulson's obvious love for the language and its esthetics: just read his Introduction and groove on his lusty and generous enthusiasm. Also note the fullness with which he covers (in Chapter 15) two very essential topics which are usually omitted from primers: how to use Sanskrit commentaries, and how to recite and enjoy Sanskrit verse (with examples of the different meters). All this is wonderful and removed lots of scales from my eyes.
The negatives, and they're major, are: (1) he constantly and infuriatingly interrupts his task of language teaching in order to go on disquistions about conparative indo-european phonetics and other linguistic issues; (2) he not only transliterates everything, making it much too easy for the student to be lazy about learning the script, but incredibly he stops using the script altogether, halfway through the book, relying on transliteration alone; (3) most unconscionably, he unnecessarily enhances the reputation of Sanskrit as a difficult language by (a) using a convoluted system of diacritics and punctuation in order to analyze compounds to death, and (b) making incredible statements like "The devanagari script is complicated, and most students need several weeks, even months, to read it with complete fluency." Bless your heart, the script is quite regular and logical, and every Sanskrit student I've talked to finds it quite simple once it's tackled.
It's a real pleasure to note Coulson's devotion to Sanskrit drama. He's absolutely right when he says the drama is attractive and accessible.
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