When I was in south India many years back, I taught Tibetan to some of my foreign dharma friends. At that time I had a feeling that it would be beneficial if there were
good books that can help one learn Tibetan; books that can help people who are interested to read and write this beautiful and rich language; books that people can carry in
their classes as textbooks or self help guide so that they can learn Tibetan by themselves.
A year later in 2005, I started making such a book and finally succeeded by publishing and
printing 500 copies. With the passage of time, many people appreciated the book and
with the increasing demand, I am bringing out the improved and revised second edition.
The aim of making this particular book is to benefit students who have an interest
to learn the basics of Tibetan language starting from the alphabet. The students can be
either foreigners or those who are traditionally related to the Himalayan Buddhist culture.
Since Tibetan Buddhism spread to different parts of the world in the last few decades,
there is a significant increase in the number of foreign students who are interested to
learn Tibetan. On the other hand, the new generation of Tibetans and Himalayan Buddhists born in the foreign countries are facing great difficulties in learning their mother
language. In fact, many of the Tibetan youngsters who are put into English medium
schools at a tender age have not even seen the Tibetan alphabets let alone studying them.
In order to help these two types of people, I have prepared this book.
Generally, for Tibetan children living in a Tibetan family, learning Tibetan is not
as challenging as learning other languages like English, Chinese, Arabic, European languages, and so forth, because Tibetan is their mother tongue. The only thing that they
need in order to learn Tibetan is a little diligence, interest, resource and guidance.
To have a basic knowledge of Tibetan language, one needs to learn just 41 letters:
4 vowels, 30 consonants, 3 superscript) and 4 (subscript). If you want
to learn how to read and write perfectly, you should learn only 107 letters: 4 vowels
30 consonants 12 superscript, 10 superscript, 11 superscript , 6 subscript, 12 subscript and three punctuation marks which appear in the beinging, middle and end of the words with symbols like head letter, the dot, and the brush stroke.
The literary tibetan based upon the four vowels and thirty consonants are commonly used all over the Himalayan regions of Tibet, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia, and
so on. The knowledge of colloquial Tibetan does not ensures the knowledge of the literary Tibetan, This is a fact as there are many Tibetans who can speak Tibetan fluently, but
cannot write even a single sentence and read it correctly. Therefore, speaking and writing
both are very important.
This book is designed as a step-by-step method for learning how to read Tibetan
systematically without much intricate details. I have seen many people reading Tibetan
prayers with the help of transliterations in English, Chinese or Nepali that are mostly
incorrect. Hence, one should try to read the Tibetan without the help of phonetics to
This book will definitely enable people to read Tibetan directly without relying
upon transliteration. I also hope that after studying this book, learning to speak Tibetan
and pronounce Tibetan words will be much easier.
It is very difficult to transliterate Tibetan pronunciation perfectly into English
letters. Thus, I recommend you to learn from someone who knows Tibetan well for your
I heartily thank everyone who helped me to complete this book including Khenpo
Finally, I dedicate this book for the preservation of the Tibetan language based
Dharma and culture which has the power of bringing peace and harmony on this planet.
I pray for the longevity of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Penor Rinpoche's
Yangsi, and all the great living masters.
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