Unlike all other spoken Tibetan language textbooks that I’m aware of, this one (almost) does not make use of grammatical terms and categories commonly used in European languages. Instead, you will become familiar with the notions, logic and categorizations that are used by Tibetans themselves: namely, the all-pervasive notion of “Self and Other” བདག་ & གཞན་, volitional and non-volitional (བྱེད་འབྲེལ་ལས་ཚིག་ & བྱེད་མེད་ལས་ཚིག་), etc. In this way, you too, will eventually come to understand the Tibetan mindset.
Being a strong advocate of such an approach is not personal philosophy and preference. It is, more importantly, the fruit of teaching Tibetan language from such a point of view over the past seven years. The response of all of my students to such approach has been extremely positive.
You may still ask: “Why bother to learn all these new categories?”
As you will soon realize, the Tibetan language is very particular. Letters have genders, an honorific language register is used for certain people and even sacred places and buildings, and the use of an auxiliary indicates whether or not the speaker has direct experience of what is being said. None of this exists in the English language and there are, therefore, no English grammatical categories for such functions. Learning all of these differences may seem like a headache initially – but they are profound and fascinating and I trust you will come to enjoy putting the puzzle pieces together!
Born in multilingual Switzerland, Franziska Oertle from childhood on was fascinated by foreign languages. Upon her first encounter with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama in 2005, she left her teaching job and moved to Nepal to study Tibetan language and Buddhist philosophy. Her dream and goal was to eventually understand His Holiness’ teaching in Tibetan. While doing her M.A. in Buddhist Philosophy and Himalayan Languages at Rangjung Yeshe Institute in Kathmandu, Nepal, she started teaching colloquial Tibetan there. Co-teaching those courses with a Tibetan native speaker colleague, she developed a deep interest in the indigenous Tibetan grammar and the Tibetan way of explaining the language. She wrote her M.A. thesis on Tibetan grammar and decided then to write a 4-volume language text book using that “insider” approach. Over the past ten years, she has been teaching and developing Tibetan language curricula and programs in various institutions mostly in Nepal and India. She is presently teaching modern Tibetan at the University of Virginia over zoom platform to make the course accessible for students from various universities.