About This Course
Samye Institute’s Tibetan for Practitioners home study program is designed for practitioners who wish to be able to read their practice texts directly in Tibetan, pronounce them correctly, and acquire some general knowledge of the language as well as key dharmic vocabulary.
Many Tibetan lamas, including Phakchok Rinpoche, encourage their students to chant their practice texts in Tibetan. However, this can sometimes be difficult and alienating when one has no knowledge of the language. The focus of this course is therefore on helping you to acquire a basic level of comfort with Tibetan texts, as well as to develop a feel for the language and its rich dharmic context.
We know that learning a new language can feel quite technical at times, which is why each topic of this course is set in the context of its relevance and utility to your study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism. With the objective of making you feel more at home among Tibetan texts and rituals, throughout the course you will be introduced to all of the basic features of the Tibetan pecha texts that have held the Dharma for over a millenium. In addition to the Tibetan alphabet and spelling rules, you will be introduced to layout, punctuation, numbers, and some general etymology. The course will also teach you how to read and write mantras and seed syllables, a skill essential to visualization in sādhana practices.
At the end of the Tibetan for Practitioners course, you should have gained familiarity with the Tibetan script, be able to use Tibetan pecha format texts, and have acquired some basic dharmic vocabulary and an understanding of the structure of Tibetan words. If some of you are inspired to pursue further Tibetan studies, you will thus have gained a strong foundation for taking that next step into learning the grammar that forms the structure of the language as a whole.
The course is divided into 13 Lessons with 55 individual units. Although you have access to all the units at the same time, we suggest that you thoroughly review each unit and complete the exercises in the downloadable textbook that pertain to each unit. You might wish to spend at least a week working with each unit, allowing the time to develop confidence and proficiency in reading and writing. You can work through the course at your own pace but we recommend that you spend time with each unit until you feel you have mastered it before moving on.
We’ve deliberately worked to keep the units short so that you can make progress in small chunks as you learn the language. This way even if you are pressed for time, you can keep up the continuity by simply reviewing the pronunciation of certain letters, or by reading one exercise in your textbook after watching the explanatory video.
Many exercises include some writing practice. Although you might think that you have no need to write Tibetan, the act of copying the letters helps you to memorize and internalize the language. Each of us learns differently, but it is helpful to mix up the styles of listening, reading, and writing in order to engage all parts of our brain in the language learning process. This alternation of hearing, reading, and writing also keeps things fresh and us engaged as we memorize new sounds and images.
We thank you for your interest, and welcome you to an exciting introduction to the Tibetan language!