Learn Tibetan! / བོད་སྐད་སྦྱང་ཨ་

Resources for learning classical and colloquial Tibetan Language

Check out the new Classical Tibetan wiki!

What is this page?

I am a student at Maitripa College in Portland, Oregon. When I first began studying Tibetan as part of my degree program, I was surprised to find so few resources available. No podcasts, no online dictionaries, no searchable textbooks?! As I continued the learning, however, I slowly began to discover that there is a rich web of people learning Tibetan and quite a few resources–if one digs.

I’m hoping to create a list of those resources here so other people won’t have to dig so much to find them.

If you know of something that should be on this list, use the contact form below to let me know. Or email me at andrewcarterhughes at gmail.

You can also read some of my thoughts on what makes Tibetan an exciting and challenging language to learn.


Quick Links


Alphabet and Basic Pronunciation

Links

Tibetan consonants and their sounds at pum-ba-mi-dak-ba.site

Tibetan consonants flash card style game at pum-ba-mi-dak-ba.site

Videos

Dr. Chok Tenzin on Tibetan pronunciation (super helpful!): video 1  and video 2

Dr. Chok Tenzin on writing the Tibetan alphabet on youtube

Lama David Curtis on the Tibetan alphabet on youtube

Geshe Michael Roach explains the Tibetan alphabet on youtube

More of Michael Roach explaining the Tibetan alphabet on youtube

Books

See the listing for Fluent Tibetan below. The first volume of the series has extensive drills that are great for learning the alphabet and how to pronounce the composed ligatures (consonant clusters or stacks of symbols that constitute a Tibetan sound unit–essentially a core consonant and vowel plus any number of prefixes, suffixes, superscripts, subscripts, and secondary suffixes).


Colloquial Tibetan Resources

Online Teachers

One of my colloquial teachers, Karma Sandup, is actively looking for new students. If you are interested in taking classes online, contact me and I’ll pass along his info.

Are you a Tibetan teacher? Would you like to be listed here? Contact me.

Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo Translator Program is offering online private clases.

Media

iSpeakTibetan YouTube channel: this is a great resource with a lot of short videos.

Links

pum-ba-mi-dak-ba.site Monlam Dictionary — Searchable dictionary that contains the Monlam colloquial Tibetan dictionary.

Monlam Mobile app – Android and iOS app containing the Monlam Tibetan-English dictionary

Venerable Lobsang Monlam is a Tibetan monk from Sera Monastery in India. He has kindly made his Tibetan-English dictionary and apps open source. Check out the GitHub page.

Memrise Tibetan for English Speakers — I haven’t used any of these (I’m more of an Anki-man myself), but there does appear to be a good collection of resources on Memrise for both classical and colloquial

Schools / Study Programs

Sarah College — college for Tibetan studies in India near Dharamsala that offers Tibetan language and Buddhist studies for foreigners

Esukhia — immersion-based Tibetan language school in Dharamsala

Sarnath International Nyingma Institute – they are running an on-line course is based on Franziska Oertle’s innovative text, The Heart of Tibetan Language

Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo Translator Program (LRZTP) – is currently running online colloquial Tibetan classes, their Foundations in Tibetan Language Online program.

Erick Tsiknopoulos runs the Trikāya Translation Committee and offers translation services and online classes via his website.

Books

The Heart of Tibetan Language: A Synthesis of Indigenous Grammar and Contemporary Learning Methodology, Franziska Oertle — Nice book (used by the LRZTP translator program) for learning colloquial Tibetan available as an ebook on google books

Audio and a really well done Anki deck (with audio!) is also available from Franziska Oertle’s website

Manual of Standard Tibetan: Language and Civilization, Nicolas Tournadre — Classic textbook for learning Tibetan language and grammar–kinda the standard for classical Tibetan. See it on Shambhala Publications.

Anki deck for Manual of Standard Tibetan available on Anki web

Fluent Tibetan, Volumes 1-3, Dr. William Magee, Dr. Elizabeth Napper — A three-volume series developed by the Tibetan studies department at the University of Virginia that emphasizes repetitive drills and natural language acquisition. I found the first volume particularly helpful when I was learning the alphabet and how to pronounce syllables.

Audio for drills from Fluent Tibetan available on the Shambhala Publications website.

Spoken Tibetan Basics, Tenzin Tharpa, Sangye Tsultrim — free ebook on Google books

Tenzin Tharpa from Sera Jey Monastery, Bylakuppe, India, actually has a large selection of free dharma ebooks available. Check out his website.

The New Tibetan-English Dictionary of Modern Tibetan 2nd Edition, Goldstein — A good Tibetan to English dictionary

English-Tibetan Dictionary of Modern Tibetan, Goldstein — English to Tibetan dictionary (not as complete as the Tibetan to English dictionary)

The Tibetan Phrasebook, Fassassi — Phrasebook intended for people wanting to learn conversational Amdo Tibetan. According to the description, “the emphasis is not on the classical didactic grammatical approach, but the practical acquisition of the colloquial language.”


Classical Tibetan Resources

Schools

Maitripa College — Maitripa College in Portland, Oregon, offers classes in classical Tibetan language and Buddhist studies, including a world-class Tibetan intensive summer program

The Dharma Farm — A Zoom-based school founded by Dr. William Magee (graduate of the Hopkins UVA Tibetan Studies program, vice president of UMA Institute) dedicated to teaching Tibetan language and Buddhist philosophy, with an emphasis on a rigorous approach to Tibetan grammar.

Tibetan Language Institute — Non-profit founded by Lama David Curtis dedicated to preserving Tibetan language and culture that provides learning materials and classes

Rangjung Yeshe Instititue — Located in Kathmandu, Nepal, founded by Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, provides a wide range of Tibetan language and Buddhist studies classes, both throughout the year and as summer intensive programs

Lotsawa Rinchen Zangpo Translator Program (LRZTP) — FPTM-affiliated, two-year Tibetan language translator program that takes place in Dharmashala, India, on a rotating basis

Nettle: Tibetan Language Learning Online. “Students in the courses presented on this site may begin by learning fundamentals of basic grammar and key vocabulary, and move on to reading and translating texts in Classical Tibetan. Units teach content relevant to producing scholarship in Religious Studies, History, or Linguistics using sources in Classical Tibetan. This program was developed by a team based at the University of Toronto, Canada.”

Nettle also has an associated Youtube channel with lots of videos called The Tibetan Language Learning Lab.

Links

Classical Tibetan Wiki — I’m entering a lot of detailed notes from Wilson and Hackett’s books as well as some Collected Topics notes into a searchable wiki format.

UMA Tibet — Institute founded by Jeffery Hopkins to support long-term translation of texts and oral teachings from Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Lots of Buddhist texts translated into English with Tibetan and English.

UMA Archives — Audio and video from teachings given by Tibetan Geshe’s during Jeffery Hopkin’s time at UVA.

Memrise Tibetan for English Speakers — I haven’t used any of these (I’m more of an Anki-man myself), but there does appear to be a good collection of resources on Memrise for both classical and colloquial

pum-ba-mi-dak-ba.site Yangsi Rinpoche reciting The Foundation of All Good Qualities with Tibetan and English and context highlighting that matches the audio so that the listener can follow along easily.

Dictionaries

pum-ba-mi-dak-ba.site UMA Tibet and Rangjung Yeshe Dictionary — Searchable dictionary that contains UMA Tibet and Rangjung Yeshe classical Tibetan language and Sanskrit terms.

Christian Steinert’s Tibetan Dictionary — Another Tibetan dictionary that has entries from a long list of different sources.

THL Tibetan to English Translation Tool — A very useful tool (with a slightly dated interface) from the Tibetan and Himalayan Library that will break a Tibetan sentence into words and look them up for you.

THL Wylie and Unicode Converter — converts Wylie and Unicode (don’t know what Wylie is yet–oh, man, are you gonna love-hate-love-hate it)

Reference Books and Textbooks

Translating Buddhism from Tibetan: An Introduction to the Tibetan Literary Language and the Translation of Buddhist Texts from Tibetan, Joe Wilson – The big red book on Tibetan grammar. Only book that systematically attempts to explain Tibetan grammar using the system developed by the Hopkins team from Tibetan and Sanskrit grammar. Not flawless, but an indispensible resource for classical Tibetan grammar.

My Anki deck on Ankiweb.net for Joe Wilson’s Translating Buddhism from Tibetan

Memrise deck with vocabulary from Wilson’s Translating Buddhism from Tibetan

A Tibetan Verb Lexicon: Second Edition, Updated and Expanded Illustrated Edition, Paul Hackett — “Yellow Hacket”, the only book that breaks down classical Tibetan verbs

Learning Classical Tibetan: A Reader for Translating Buddhist Texts, Paul Hackett — “Blue Hackett,” provides parallel English-Tibetan translation for a number of texts with very helpful translation hints

How to Read Classical Tibetan, Vol. 1:: Summary of the General Path, Craig Preston — Teaches classical Tibetan language and grammar and vocabulary by walking the reader through a complete translation of a famous Tibetan Buddhist text, Summary of the General Path to Buddhahood

How to Read Classical Tibetan, Vol. 2: Buddhist Tenets, Craig Preston — Similar to vol. 1, teaches more advanced classical Tibetan grammar and vocabulary by walking the reader thought a complete translation of a translation of a text on Buddhist Tenets

Tibetan Debate Primer, Tenzin Tharpa — An English-Tibetan primer on Tibetan debate, free ebook on Google books

Miscellaneous Media and Links

The Tibetan and Himalayan Library has a TON of video and audio in Tibetan from different regions and dialects. Everything from folk songs and parables to all the audio from Manual of Standard Tibetan.

Tibetan Audiobooks is a great YouTube channel with readings of Tibetan books in Tibetan with text shown along with it.

Beri Prince (བེ་རི་རྒྱལ་སྲས་) is a monastic from Drepung Monastery that has put up a lot of videos teaching Tibetan language and grammar. They are entirely in Tibetan. However, for more advanced students interested in learning Tibetan how the Tibetans teach it, they’re great.

There’s a Tibetan language telegram channel. I haven’t checked it out.


Suggest a Resource!

Know of a resource that should be on this list? Let me know.

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