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I want to learn Sanskrit using the direct method. I'm looking for the book similar to Latin Lingua Latina per se illustrata by Hans Orberg, where you basically learn Latin using the target language, not a single word is written in any other language. Do you know if there's the similar book for Sanskrit? If not what workbook do you suggest?

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First of all, Sanskrit is both an ancient and a modern language. It is still alive today, although it is spoken by fewer than a million people.

If you are learning Sanskrit as an ancient language, then reading and writing will be the predominant skills to focus on, but if you are learning it as a modern language, then you will need speaking and listening as well.

In order to learn Sanskrit as a modern language via the direct method, I suggest this video playlist. The first couple of minutes of introduction are in Hindi, after which it goes straight into a classroom setting with the teacher speaking Sanskrit exclusively. (Disclaimer: this playlist meets your requirements of being direct method but I can't attest to its overall quality, although comments do show positive feedback.)

In order to learn Sanskrit as an ancient language via the direct method, however, the first obstacle is the writing system. In the spirit of the direct method, while romanisation can help, working with Devnagari (the name of the writing system used in Sanskrit) directly and practising reading it aloud will help you to access direct method materials later.

My recommendation is as follows:

  1. Learn to read Devnagari and start with doing so via Hindi. This page shows you the Hindi abugida. There are certain sounds found in Sanskrit that are no longer distinguished in Hindi and the letters representing those only remain in words of Sanskrit origin. There are also consonant conjuncts (such as क्ष as in "ksh" in "Lakshmi"), which are much more common in Sanskrit. If you get to grips with the Hindi subset of the Devnagari writing system and what the implications are phonetically, that will give you a good springboard from which to expand out to the Sanskrit subset.

  2. Having learnt to read the Hindi subset of Devnagari, start to learn the consonants and vowels that exist only in Sanskrit, and then take a look at the consonant conjuncts. I wouldn't worry too much about learning all of the consonant conjuncts exhaustively because there are hundreds and many of them can be recognised from their component consonants. I suggest learning the more frequent ones and getting passively familiar with the rest. See here for a list of all bi- and tri-consonantal conjuncts in Sanskrit. I would use this table or a similar one for reference until you start to pick them up naturally over time.

  3. Consider your options for a textbook. I'm not suggesting it isn't possible to use the direct method to learn a language with a completely different writing system and with several grammatical features that are very different to English, but it doesn't seem that there are any readily available textbooks using that method.

You could instead try using a variety of resources that are close to the direct method, depending on your level. For example, at beginner level, you could use resources aimed at children initially to get some basic vocabulary and grammar and then move on to readers. By the look of what is available, these seem to rely on having a good grounding in Sanskrit in advance, so those might only be appropriate for the intermediate level.

Alternatively, you might prefer to use a different teaching method in favour of being able to follow a pre-established course, and in that case, I would suggest The Cambridge Introduction to Sanskrit or Complete Sanskrit.

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