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About Learn Pali

Learn to read Pali languageThis blog is to help those wishing to make a first stab at translating the Pāli language & scriptures.

Learning Pāli is not necessarily any harder than learning a modern language. Of course it demands time and effort and the more you put it the quicker and more successful the process will be.

There are many ways to approach it. Some people wish to learn the spoken language in order to chant. And some wish merely to be able to read the Pāli canon. My approach as a beginner is to stick to translating, simplifying the process as much as possible. 

[If you wish to learn the spoken language then this website will only be of limited use to you as I will ignore phonetics and pronunciation - though, I have included a playlist for the alphabet sounds on my Learn Pāli YouTube channel.]

Now the student of Pāli, once they have progressed past the initial so called Pāli Primers, will face some major learning challenges. I started this blog to record my learning and also hopefully it will be a resource to help others as I highlight my solutions to the difficulties I've encountered.

One issue I've found learning from the Pāli grammar guides available is the use of technical language. I have endeavoured to explain the grammatical terms as I have come across them. In fact, one of the best things you can do before attempting Pāli is to read through a basic English grammar guide first and familiarise yourself with the terms and concepts.

Being a classical language, the student of Pāli is faced with learning many grammatical tables for declension and conjugation. As I myself, struggle to learn these table by rote I've tried my best to avoid the need to memorise them and instead focus on how the language works. Declension and vocabulary can always be looked up and by doing so I hope the tables and vocab. will become familiar through repeated use. And there are other tools out there that already help with memorisation.  So you won't find lists of vocabulary to learn on this blog as that is what dictionaries are for! Although I do present tables of the inflections...

Another major issue has been that the text books tend to mix technical terms from Latin, Sanskrit and classical Pāli grammars. Indeed many if not all of them assume the student has learnt Sanskrit or Latin previously! This is because Pāli and Sanskrit are related and the 19th century Europeans who introduced Pāli to the West imitated Latin textbooks to present Pali, presuming their Victorian audience to already have an education in Latin, Greek, or both. It would seem, the teaching of Pali has not yet overcome this stage of development! However, the Pāli language can be learnt by anyone without any previous knowledge of classical languages and again I have endeavoured to explain terminology as I have encountered it.

The many intro primers and Pali grammar guides out there have, I think, resulted in a learning gap between the rudimentary primers and the technical and complex (especially Warder’s) grammar guides. They do not specifically deal with the issues of learning to translate Pāli for oneself - which is my main reason for this blog. However some are essential references and I encourage their use, seeing this blog as a supplement rather than an alternative.

So this blog is both a record of my learning and hopefully a guide for others. You can search for a subject or start from the beginning.

I must stress that I am not an expert by any means. I have no academic background in Pāli or any other language for that matter. As such, these posts should all carry the warning that they are to my best knowledge having read a few guide books...

I apologize if I lead anyone astray. Please feel free to comment to correct mistakes, or add information etc.

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