The Use of Sanskrit Words in English
Sanskrit words
I wanted to share some thoughts on a trend that has been gaining traction on social media and various platforms for last few years – the use of Sanskrit words instead of their English counterparts. While this trend might seem appealing at first glance, I believe it’s essential to delve deeper into its implications and consider whether it genuinely serves a meaningful purpose.
The trend encourages replacing English words with their Sanskrit equivalents without providing any context or explanation. In my view, this approach raises some fundamental questions. First and foremost, does it effectively communicate the intended meaning to the reader or listener? Simply substituting English words with their Sanskrit counterparts without ensuring clarity in context can lead to confusion rather than enlightenment.
Moreover, it’s worth noting that many Sanskrit words are already incorporated into the English language. I wonder what difference it has made to the use of Sanskrit words in English.
The essence of effective communication lies in conveying ideas and concepts clearly and concisely. Language should be a tool that facilitates understanding and bridges the gap between individuals with diverse backgrounds and linguistic abilities. In this context, it’s vital to prioritize clarity over the arbitrary replacement of words.
As an example, I recently observed a situation that highlights the potential pitfalls of this trend. During a speech at a school, the speaker used the Sanskrit word “आत्मा” to convey a sense of spirit or essence within the school. However, this led to a moment of confusion and even fear among the students, who initially associated “आत्मा” with ghosts.
If we are to promote the use of Sanskrit words in English, it should be done in a thoughtful and methodical manner. Here are some key points to consider:
1. Always provide context when using Sanskrit texts. Explain the intended meaning and how it fits into the conversation or text.
2. Ensure that the use of Sanskrit words enhances clarity rather than obfuscating the message. If using the English equivalent achieves better understanding, it should be preferred.
3. Acknowledge that language is dynamic and evolves over time. Many Sanskrit words have already become an integral part of the English language. This is good but these words have in English dictionaries do not convey the various experiences associated with the words and hence we find their usages only in some fixed senses. In this is not the reality when it comes to Sanskrit.
4. One also needs to be mindful of the audience’s familiarity with Sanskrit and their ability to understand and appreciate the words used.
To conclude I would say while embracing the richness of Sanskrit language is admirable, it’s equally important to prioritize effective communication through a proper explanation of the word and not merely putting it in the place of the English word.
By using Sanskrit words judiciously, with proper context, and a commitment to clarity, we can preserve the beauty of language while ensuring that our message reaches and resonates with a broader audience.
I encourage you to engage in this discussion thoughtfully and consider the impact of language choices on the clarity of communication.
Featured image courtesy: Wikimedia.
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Sampadananda Mishra

Sampadananda Mishra is a Sanskrit scholar, SahityaAkademi and President of India Awardee. He is Director at Centre for Human Sciences, Rishihood University.

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