Franziska Oertle (Switzerland), Juan Garcia (Columbia), Anastasia Stoliarova (Russia) Lhakpa Tsering (India) and many native-speaking Tibetan tutors are working together across time zones and countries to offer the wonderful Colloquial Tibetan program. Since starting at SINI in 2019, Franziska and her dedicated team have taught more than 100 students from countries all around the world. Her innovative pedagogy incorporates help from three very unique students: Ms. Giraffe, PhD, a polyglot who likes to study at a brisk pace; Ms. Ostrich, a devout Buddhist hoping to connect more deeply with her faith; and Mr. Sloth, a gentle soul who prefers to study slloooowwwlllyyy from his beachside hammock.

Starting in September 2022, these beloved friends provide diverse learning pathways for SINI’s human students: the Ms. Giraffe Track, a 7-month intensive course for eager students and the Mr. Sloth Track, a 1-year course for leisurely learners. These non-human learners previously came through computer-animated Zoom rooms, but starting in the second year, they will join class as live-action puppets. While imbued with lighthearted fun, there are deep educational considerations informing course creation and implementation, inspired by the theories of Dr. David Ausubel. We are excited to welcome our new human (and non-human!) learners as they begin their learning journey into the Tibetan language.

Gen Tenpa Tsering and Guusje Ebbens are working from France and the Netherlands to teach SINI’s new Beginning Classical Tibetan Course and a Beginning Classical Tibetan Translation Course. The pairing of a native Tibetan speaker and a non-native speaking teaching assistant provides a unique combination of strengths to help newcomers to classical Tibetan. Twenty students enrolled in this Beginning Classical Tibetan course and 10 in the Translation course offering. While this may seem like modest numbers, classical Tibetan courses taught at universities rarely have more than a handful of students, demonstrating an impressive scope for our initial launch. Perhaps surprising to those who have experienced difficulty studying classical Tibetan, Gen Tenpa has shared that several of his students regarded the course as a type of meditation practice. Rather than being a source of stress, learning this classical Buddhist language, which has voiced the Dharma for more than a millennium, is providing a respite from the busyness and stress of their lives. Gen Tenpa and Guusje Ebbens are committed to building upon this course and offering a comprehensive classical Tibetan study program in the future.