Tibetan Language On-line and in Residence

Teacher: Gen Franziska Oertle


Tibetan Language in Residence

All Roads lead to Sarnath

The most effective and (I think) fun way of learning a foreign language is to immerse oneself into the world of native speakers. In the Fall of 2019, we provided a special opportunity for Tibetan language learners by offering a residential, two-month intensive course at SINI. Five international students from different parts of the world made their journey to Sarnath to acquire the fundamentals of colloquial Tibetan language and experience first-hand the life of Tibetan Buddhist monastics and lay friends.


From ‘Ground zero’ to ‘simple conversations’ in 8 weeks 

Starting from ground zero, first learning how to read the Tibetan script, the students joyfully progressed to being able to have simple conversations about a large variety of every-day topics, such as weather, shopping, food, health, etc. The approach of the course, unlike in traditional Tibetan educational settings, was student-centered and engaging.



Among the favorite activities of the students were the daily 1:1 practice sessions with native speakers from Tibetan University located in Sarnath, along with learning games, songs, and drills.


The vast and profound ocean of Tibetan grammar

Grammar sessions unlocked a door to the profound world of Tibetan language, where letters have genders, verbs are distinguished in terms of volition, and sacred places are referred to with honorific language! The course was based on The Heart of Tibetan Language, a synthesis of indigenous Tibetan grammar and contemporary learning methodology, authored by our Tibetan teacher Franziska Oertle. The greatest reward was to see our students try to speak with SINI residents or even other Tibetans in Sarnath.


གནས་མཇལ་བ། [gnas mjal ba] Visiting (H) a sacred place = pilgrimage

Our course also included a wonderful pilgrimage to Bodhgaya and Vulture Peak, Varanasi, as well as participation in the inspiring Tripitaka Chanting Ceremony at the Dhammekh stupa. We are aspiring and working to make this into a regular annual program at SINI.


Tibetan Language Online

Connecting over the screen

Not everyone has the necessary causes and conditions to travel and immerse themselves in the Tibetan-speaking world. So, if they cannot go to the mountain – we’ll bring the mountain to them! This on-line course enables students to learn fundamental Colloquial Tibetan from home.



The student-centered course consists of 12 modules, Module 0: How to Learn (Online) introduces students to the world of virtual learning. Modules 1-11 gradually provide access and insight into the fascinating world of Tibetan grammar and language. Like our residential Tibetan Language at SINI, this on-line course is based on The Heart of Tibetan Language.


Features and Activities 

Among the different exciting features of this course, there are:

  • short, animated key-point videos providing an overview of each lesson
  • several recorded webinars per lesson which explain the grammar in a thorough and yet accessible way
  • forums for discussions
  • 1:1 language tutor classes with native speakers
  • speaking practice in form of a variation of Rassias® method of drill
  • a challenge in the end, and
  • a large variety of other autonomous learning activities.


(Live) Interaction 

Thus, students choose and design their own individual path of learning while relying on personal guidance, advice from experienced teachers, and a significant variety of resources. In regular live webinars, they also have an opportunity to interact with classmates and teachers.


Teachers and Classmates

Several of our faculty are non-human creatures. The two doggies རྒན་སེང་གེ་ལགས་ [rgan seng ge lags] = Professor Lion and Gen Christabella, represent the synthesis of a Tibetan and student-centered approach to learning.

Among the classmates, there are polyglot Ms. Giraffe, a devoted Ms. Ostrich, and a relaxed Mr. Sloth – each with their distinct personality and learning style. They keep the key-point videos and webinars engaging and enjoyable!