Classical Tibetan Online


This year-long online course, in two modules, is available freely online at Nettle Tibetan.

Students in the Nettle courses begin by learning fundamentals of basic grammar and key vocabulary, and move on to reading and translating texts in Classical Tibetan. Units teach content relevant to producing scholarship in Religious Studies, History, or Linguistics using sources in Classical Tibetan. This program was developed by a team based at the University of Toronto, Canada. The courses were delivered asynchronously at the University of Toronto for the first time in 2016-17 and continue to be taught every year.

By the end of a year with Nettle Classical Tibetan, students should be able to:

  • Read out loud complex sentences in Classical Tibetan with accurate pronunciation and pauses indicating general comprehension of a sentence’s basic grammatical structure (even when not being sure of the precise meaning of the sentence).
  • Apply targeted strategies for deciphering the grammatical structure of a long, complex sentence and have a foundation of key vocabulary.
  • Find unfamiliar vocabulary in a range of specialised online and print Tibetan-English and Tibetan-Tibetan dictionaries.
  • Translate a complex sentence from Classical Tibetan into English.

Materials and exercises are organized into units to support ease of access and progression through sequenced learning activities. Units include targeted vocabulary lists and quizzes; one to three short video tutorials on grammar; an occasional video on contextual information; and problem sets or assignments focused on the unit’s topic(s).

The first twelve-week introductory course is based on Joe Wilson’s text, Translating Buddhism from Tibetan. The intermediate level course modules now available work with an already deciphered (tagged) Classical Tibetan digital text of the lifestory of Milarepa, with online exercises or worksheets for practice and testing. The source text for these modules are provided by the Tibetan in Digital Communication project, which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in the UK (2012-2015).

This project was funded by grants from the Canadian Ministry for Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU)’s Ontario Shared Online Course Fund and the Online Undergraduate Course Initiative (OUCI) at the University of Toronto. The project team has also received extensive support from the University of Toronto’s Director of Online Learning Strategies, Laurie Harrison, and Online Learning Coordinator, Will Heikoop.