Kenshou wrote:I may have been a little vague, but what I'm primarily interested in is how it is that education in Pali is handled among monks. Do they actually learn to understand Pali, and if so to what extent? Or do they only learn preset chants and key Dhamma-relevant vocabulary words? Or is this sort of education primarily self-directed? This is the sort of thing I'm interested in.
As far as I can tell, it depends. One of my teachers was originally from Bangladesh, via Sri Lanka, then Thailand. Since his mother tongue (Bengali) is quite related to Pali he had no problem understanding Pali fluently. He studied Pali and Sanskrit in detail in Sri Lanka. One of the Thai monks I discussed such things with a few days ago studied Pali since he was a Samanera, and while I don't think he is "fluent in Pali" in the way I think my Banglasdeshi teacher probably could, he can certainly understand what he is chanting. I suspect that's the case for most of the monks at my Wat.
Regarding the pronunciation I hear regional variations. The Sri Lankan monks I know have a very different accent from the Thai monks. The Thai are, to my ear, pronouncing it as it is written in Thai. As far as I can see, one learns the accent by chanting with others (at least that's how it works for me) so one tends to conform after a while. Actually, my Abbot sometimes joked to me that I might pick up the accent of my Bangladeshi teacher...