March 3, 2012
An Interview with Arun Prasad
Arun Prasad is a senior majoring in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Originally from the nearby town of Los Gatos, he has devoted much of his time outside of class to learning and studying the Sanskrit language. Not only has he mastered its phonology, morphology, and grammar, but he has also read and analyzed a remarkable amount of Sanskrit’s vast corpus of literature and poetry. Since the first quarter of his junior year, he has been independently working on several computational projects to help facilitate the study of Sanskrit. Using his knowledge of web design, natural language processing, and machine learning, he has built two exceptionally comprehensive websites. His first website – a step-by-step grammar guide – has already been used by thousands. Of the 23,000,000 results returned by a Google search for the phrase “Learn Sanskrit,” the grammar guide has been ranked at number one for the past year. His second website is an annotated reading library. Its goal is to make some of most daunting works of Sanskrit poetry and drama accessible to the most inexperienced of students. The annotations are not done by hand. Instead, they are generated automatically by a part-of-speech tagger and grammatical parser that he has been programming for the past several months. He talks to us about his various computational projects, his ideas about web-based approaches to classical pedagogy, and the importance of the Sanskrit language.