What Am I To Do?

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Capo Famiglia
Full Member
May 19, 2014
London UK
So – my friends. I’m two weeks into my Sanskrit course now, and I need your help ... particularly if you know anything about higher education.

The tutor is extraordinary. I mean really, truly extraordinary. His knowledge – not just of Sanskrit, but probably every language in the universe – is staggering. His presentation is world-class. I watched him for two hours on the first session, and my jaw did not leave the floor. Seriously impressive.


This is not a full-time course. There is no qualification at the end of it. I’m just doing it to broaden my mind... as indeed I did anatomy last year. And, dammit, to have some fun.

The require pace is rather frightening. In essence, it’s not difficult... rote learning of symbols and their associated sounds. Yeah, I can do that.

But the demands are... a bit crazy. There is no way on earth I’m going to learn as much material as apparently I have to – every week. I’ve got a job! I have two film deals to do at the moment!

If the pace were to ease up, I’d really enjoy it. As it is, at the moment it’s turning from a recreational pleasure into a nightmare.

What am I to do?
Well, I can kind of empathise with you Pete. I've just started learning Mandarin, which is kind of alien to me and there are so many weird pronunciations, as well as characters to learn in addition to the pinyin - phonetic spelling. It is great fun, though, and I don't want to give it up, but the pace is quite fast. I have 3 hours a week with homework, coursework and an exam at the end of Semester 2. Holding down a full time job (in Higher Education), as well as studying my MA Writing - so I get where you are! I'm trying to do a little bit every day - even if it is just writing down the characters or listening to the pinyin on an app (there are loads of apps available for language learning). And I see it as a long term commitment - I know I'm not going to get it overnight. I'm about 3 weeks in and I can't remember everything we learn from one session to the next, so I just try and do as best I can and hope that is enough. Is it worth talking to the tutor about the volume of work?
A few questions for Pete. Is this Sanskrit course a one-on-one, just you and the tutor, or are there other students involved? If there are other student involved...do you think they're also taking the course for recreational pleasure?
Thanks for both these responses, most helpful. And Frances, your own commitments seem even more intense than mine, so sympathies ;)

Yes, I’ll try talking to him. Three of the 12 initial students seems to have dropped out already, which can’t be good, I’d have thought.

Diamond, as per above. And it seems to be quite a mixed bag re students. Some of them are clearly taking full-time courses there (maybe in Sanskrit) so this is merely evening revision for them. Others, like me, are just wanting to broaden our minds.

The essence of Sanskrit appears to be that it is a rules-based language. Which is why, for a while, it was touted as he ideal language for Artificial Intelligence applications. At a reasonable pace, I’ll be able to get a reasonable grasp... but this isn’t a reasonable pace...
As Diamond says, and how is the stall set out, P, is there a public link? I'd say the tutor needs this feedback. Knowledge and teaching skill is part of the package. Syllabus and spec need to be appropriate. What can he do, to facilitate you and maybe others, to stay onboard? A course is not a brick, it is a malleable entity, why should he not be able to respond to this concern, especially if there is no standardised bar to hit in a given timeframe. A recreational course ought to be student centred; stimulate not saturate appetite; it's not about him, or shouldn't be. There's a minimum attendance he'll need, or this used to be the case, for a recreational course to remain viable. 12 used to be the magic number.
As a Teacher of English as a Second Language, I always ask for feedback on the course I'm giving. It's part of the first lesson, an agreement between me and the students that we promise to tell each other if something's not working out or if anyone's worried about anything at all - even if the course feels too difficult or easy. A teacher appreciates feedback and constructive criticism, and can adjust things to suit the majority. Of course, on the first day the students would've been presented with an outline of what they can expect and are expected to do on the course.
Yes, that was pretty much the way last year’s anatomy course functioned.

But in this case, the tutor is entirely different. I don’t think he wants feedback. The chap is exceptional, no question about it. His first lecture was a real tour-de-force, utterly brilliant.

I think he will teach this course his way, and if we can’t keep up, so much the worse for us. :eek:
What a shame. :( I think it's totally awesome that you're learning Sanskrit, but sorry the instructor is moving at warp speed. You'd think when his students started dropping out he'd get a clue… :oops:
In that case, brilliant as he may be, he is a prima donna, vanity is disrespectful in a teacher, and you'll walk. Your time is also valuable and is needed elsewhere. You've been given a starting block and some tools, you're brilliant too; it's not wasted.
Blushes... Actually, I couldn’t ‘t hold a candle to him. And I’m hugely in awe.

I’ve never been impressed with pop celebrity – people probably know I’ve worked with quite a few of them – and I just take it in my stride. But scientific or academic brilliance is something that I find incredibly impressive. Just a fanboy, really... :)
Virtuosity and skill and vision are admirable, bur we've all got blind spots, 'experts' especially are prone to developing blind spots. Well, if it's a nightmare but you also feel this is a student opportunity too good to let go, you could just decide to cut your cloth...do what you can reasonably manage and decide he he can lump it. If he can't see his student's aptitude, and that his class is one ingredient in someone's mix, however keen they are, it's a blind spot. A mark of a poor teacher, I used to teach adults, is making or allowing others to feel inadequate who were interested to come along. Like pouring weedkiller on them.
A similar thing happened to me earlier this year. I signed up for Tai Chi classes, two nights a week. That ballooned into three to five times a week, as the club tried to get new members deeply involved in their activities (including fund raising). I exited posthaste.
Fortunately I was able to find the same instruction online, and finished off the training that way. For me, now, if I can't find it online where I can control the pace, I don't take the training.
Sounds a little like how I felt when first starting to learn Russian. So much to learn, so quickly, and it was overwhelming... and I was a full time student at the time, so it was my entire focus. Sounds like the teacher is treating you as if you are full time students with loads of free time, which seems a little ambitious for an evening course! (Understatement of the century, I know...)

I would say that people who are generally busy tend to be very good at time management: doesn't necessarily stop you feeling overwhelmed, o'course, but in some ways you're probably more equipped than people with fewer demands on their time.

It wasn't so intense, but I did an evening course in Japanese in my fourth year at uni, and ended up having to approach it in a way that just said, okay, I'm doing this for fun, and what sticks, sticks. Ideally you have time to do the work, but sometimes you just don't. Doesn't mean you can't get something out of it along the way. Does that sound like it might be feasible in the context of this course? I don't know how it's structured and how the classes are run, so I'm just throwing out ideas.

I think my gut feeling would be to talk to the teacher if at all possible, and to try and make it work for you. That might mean that some of it goes over your head or you don't learn as much as you'd like, but if you can glean enough information to give yourself a grounding (with an eye towards building on that later) and keep it fun, then it isn't necessarily the end of the world if you don't keep up per se... if that makes sense?

Obviously the best thing would be if he remembered he was teaching a course to a bunch of people with other time demands, but if you can go with the attitude of "well, I'm going to learn something, and it's interesting, and I'm not going to worry about all the stuff which will go right over my head", then it might become a bit less daunting? Depends on the nature of the class, of course, but it might help. If it's very interactive that might be an issue, but if he's fond of the whole lecture thing well... you may get away with not being as genned up as would be ideal.

Another thought that occurs to me: sometimes teachers pile on during the start of a course to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were - not, if you ask me, a particularly good teaching method, but it's not that unusual. The pace might ease up. Might not, of course, but it's possible. Sadly, academic brilliance doesn't always help with the teaching, I think some teachers assume everyone is as brilliant as they are, which isn't very helpful to us mere mortals... That's happened to me a lot...

The fact that a quarter of the students have already dropped out should really be telling someone, somewhere that there is something amiss - if not the teacher himself, the school should be keeping an eye? I would have thought that someone up the chain of command would want to know, anyway... I mean, you're a student, but you're also a paying customer, right? It isn't unreasonable to expect that a course should meet the customer's needs, and if something is being advertised as an evening course and being taught as if you're an undergrad, then there's something wrong somewhere.

Hmmm... I don't know if I'm being any use here whatsoever :oops: I do think there's value in sticking with it IF (and only if!) you can find a way to do so without it sending you totally doolally :confused: If you can make it work for you - say, by accepting that you aren't going to catch everything but you will learn something - then go for it. If it becomes apparent that coasting somewhat just isn't going to work...

I'm a linguist, I'm kind of wired to say take any chance you can to learn any language available, so I am admittedly biased here :D But... When it's a subject you've a passion for and you're excited about - I mean, it is emphatically not worth losing your sanity over, but I do think it's worth trying to see if you can make the opportunity work for you. If that makes sense?

Huh... Okay the late hour is showing... I am sorry this is long. Languages are a passion so yeah... I really hope you can figure out a way to make it work for you, it's such a shame when something one is excited about becomes a source of stress instead of pleasure :(

Okay, last thought and then I will shut up :p I remember finding a series of books some years ago aimed solely at teaching various scripts... of course, now I'm looking and can't find 'em :rolleyes: but such things do exist and sometimes they have really helpful tips on dealing with a given script. I also, when trying to find said series, stumbled across a site aimed at helping people learn Devanagari: http://www.avashy.com/hindibhasha/index.asp - I'm on my iPad and the script won't run so I have to admit I can't attest to how good it is :eek: but it might be worth looking into.

I really hope you can find a way to make it work for you, Pete, I remember your anticipation for the course. Good luck.
I once did an Open Uni degree while being employed in a job requiring significant overseas travel; so I sympathise with your position. I found that I could not give the course the attention that I wanted to give it, and ended up doing just enough to get through the exams - and doing 'just enough' is not in my nature. It was a compromise that I was forced to make; anything else would have unacceptably interfered with health, family or day-job, or all three. That's probably not what you wanted to hear, but it was my experience.
Well, rather sadly I’m off the course. The tutor is a brilliant person, no question about that. Phenomenal, in fact.

He’s not – ahem – the best teacher in the world, though. And that’s putting it mildly.

The place I enrolled at - no names, no pack drills – is mostly a standard uni for young people. Adult learners are clearly not their main focus, nor something they seem to have any expertise in. Or even keen to attract. I think that was one of the core problems.

Nevertheless, I’m taking some good things away. The opening lecture was a two-hour tour de force. Well worth the entire term’s tuition fees.

I now know the key textbooks, and have them and am slowly working through them... at my own pace.

For the new year, I’ll find another course (you have to, really, since Sanskrit is essentially a spoken tongue). Almost certain to be at the School of Economic Science, which is very culty, and under other circumstances I wouldn’t go near the place.

Thank you so much to everyone above... you have helped and supported me enormously... your advice is deeply appreciated o_O
I’m sure it will. It’s reinforced my interest in the language, and I do have a bit of an overview of how it works. Very rules-based... lots of 'em. I suspect learning English is actually harder...
Sorry to hear, but also totally understand why, you dropped out. Unhappy face. I was going to say: dude, take the C!
Maybe this is something you can tackle full-on after you've made your billions and can set aside more time?
Other than that, have you thought about spending a summer in Sanskritania? Total immersion is the best way to... oh, wait. Nevermind.
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Fanfare! Imaginary Lover - The Doms of Sybaris Cove #7

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