On this page about Tibetan language, you can learn the basics of spoken and written Tibetan. In addition to the online Tibetan-English dictionary, and links to online radio stations broadcasting in Tibetan, you will find here the Tibetan alphabet, using of the Tibetan script, Tibetan phrases with English translation, short story in Tibetan translated into English, examples of Tibetan Buddhist terms and names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Tibetan language (tib. bod-skad - བོད་སྐད་ ) belongs to Tibeto-Burman language family. Tibeto-Burman language family contains except Tibetan and Burmese also a lot of smaller languages mainly in the Himalayas, on the Tibetan plateau and in vicinity of the Mekong and the Salween. The Tibeto-Burman group of languages is part of the Sino-Tibetan superfamily, which compares in size and diversity with the Indo-European family.
Tibetan is basically a syllabic language. By that I mean that most of the syllables in Tibetan have meaning independent of the compound word in which they are found. For example, just as the English word “soldier” is disyllabic, so too is the Tibetan word for “soldier” (dmag mi). However, unlike the English word where neither of the syllables by itself has meaning, both of the Tibetan syllables have independent semantic content (dmag = war and mi = man). This syllabic nature of Tibetan affords tremendous flexibility with respect both to the expression of new ideas and concepts and to the expression of old ones in new ways. In fact, it is mark of literary ability and accomplishment to manipulate and recombine these meaning-laden syllables creatively.
The Tibetan Alphabet was adapted from the Lancha form of the Indian letters by Thonmi Sambhota (thon-mi-sam-bho-ta ཐོན་མི་སམ་བྷོ་ཏ་ ), minister of Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo (srong-btsan-sgam-po སྲོང་བཙན་སྒམ་པོ་ ) about the year 632.
The Tibetan alphabet consists of thirty consonants and four vowels. It is assumed that the unwritten vowel "A" ཨ་ is automatically present in all other 29 consonants. Tibetan grammatical tradition says that without this vowel all consonants would be dead (srog-med སྲོག་མེད་ ).
Vowels in Tibetan language
In the Tibetan language there are 4 vowels - i, u, e, o. In writing, vowels are marked using the four diacritical vowel signs, which are under or above the consonants.
Structure of Tibetan words
"Nying-dze" - compassion "khyi" - dog "lodrö" - wisdom, understanding
"Om mani padme hum" - Om, jewel in the lotus, hum "tashideleg" - hello
Examples of Tibetan phrases with pronunciation
Example of basic phrases in Tibetan with pronunciation and English translation. A better example of the pronunciation of the Tibetan is to listen to the radio or to watch Tibetan movies or television.
|Tibetan text||Word by word translation||English translation|
|འདི་ག་ཪེ་ཪེད།||adi ga-re red
this what is
|What is this? /ti khare rä'/|
|འདི་དེབ་ཪེད།||adi deb red
this book is
|This is a book. /ti thep re'/|
|ཁྱེད་ཪང་བདེ་པོ་ཡིན་པས།||khyed rang bde po yin pas
you self (yourself) well are Interrogative particle
|Are you well? /khyerang tepo yin-pä/|
|ང་ཪང་བདེ་པོ་ཡིན།||nga rang bde-po yin
I self well am
|I'm well. /ngarang tepo yin/|
|བོད་ལ་གནམ་གྲུ་ཡོད་ཪེད།||bod la gnam-gru yod red
Tibet in aeroplane to be
|There are aeroplanes in Tibet. /phö-la namtru yo:re'/|
|ཁོང་ལ་དེབ་མང་པོ་ཡོད་ཪེད།||khong la deb mang-po yod red
he have book many to be
|He has many books. /khong-la thep mangpo yo:re'/|
|ཚེ་ཪིང་ལ་མོ་ཊ་ཡོད་ཪེད།||tshe-ring la mo-ta yod red
Tshering have car to be
|Tsering has a car. /tshering-la motra yo:re'/|
|བླ་མས་གསོལ་ཇ་མཆོད་སོང།||bla-mas gsol-ja mchod song
lama + Ergative case tea + Absolutive case drink + past
|The lama drank the tea. /lamä' sö:ca chö-song/|
|ང་ཚོས་ཁོང་ལ་ཕྱག་དེབ་ཅིག་ཕུལ་པ་ཡིན།||nga-tshos khong-la phyag-deb cig phul-pa-yin
we + Ergative he + Dative case book a + Absolutive case give + past
|We gave him a book. /ngatsö' khong-la chatep ci' phü:-payin/|