State of Tibetan language in Qinghai vs exile community

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State of Tibetan language in Qinghai vs exile community

Postby Sherlock » Thu Sep 06, 2012 10:30 am

I am thinking of saving up some money then studying Tibetan for a few months in an environment where it's spoken daily. Would Qinghai be suitable for this? I found this offer from Qinghai Nationalities University which seems to be interesting. However, I've read a few articles that Tibetans don't really speak proper Tibetan in Tibet any more. Would it be better to learn it somewhere in the exile community?
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Re: State of Tibetan language in Qinghai vs exile community

Postby Yudron » Thu Sep 06, 2012 10:41 am

Sherlock wrote:I am thinking of saving up some money then studying Tibetan for a few months in an environment where it's spoken daily. Would Qinghai be suitable for this? I found this offer from Qinghai Nationalities University which seems to be interesting. However, I've read a few articles that Tibetans don't really speak proper Tibetan in Tibet any more. Would it be better to learn it somewhere in the exile community?


I don't speak Tibetan, but...

Qinghai is what was known as Amdo in old Tibet. The people of Amdo speak a unique dialect that is sometimes hard or impossible to understand by people from other parts of Tibet. I once asked a table full of lamas from Eastern Tibet and Amdo what kind of dialect I should initially learn to speak Tibetan in to be the most understood by the widest group of people, even if I travel to Golok, Amdo, and other parts of Kham primarily, and they advised me to speak like my Lama, who has a very clear central Tibetan way of speaking.

But what is taught at a university in Amdo might be Lhasa Tibetan--you have to ask them.

My older lama from Tibet does feel the "street language" in the exile community has degenerated based on the poor education of teachers for children in the Dharamsala system.
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Re: State of Tibetan language in Qinghai vs exile community

Postby Indrajala » Thu Sep 06, 2012 2:10 pm

Sherlock wrote:I am thinking of saving up some money then studying Tibetan for a few months in an environment where it's spoken daily. Would Qinghai be suitable for this? I found this offer from Qinghai Nationalities University which seems to be interesting. However, I've read a few articles that Tibetans don't really speak proper Tibetan in Tibet any more. Would it be better to learn it somewhere in the exile community?


Kathmandu is the place to go. Minimal funny business from the government (Nepal is largely an anarchy actually) and you have access to plenty of teachers from every tradition.

http://www.sakyaiba.edu.np/
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Re: State of Tibetan language in Qinghai vs exile community

Postby Tom » Thu Sep 06, 2012 2:15 pm

I was just in Qinghai last month and I think Yudron summed up the situation quite well. You can get by but you wouldn't want to learn Tibetan from scratch there unless you specifically want to learn Amdho dialect.

Even if the University in Qinghai is teaching Lhasa dialect, I think (and I have studied Tibetan in Chinese Universities) that your money is better spent finding someone locally who speaks both Tibetan and English well and paying them to teach you basic conversation skills and then heading to Dharamsala for immersion - you might also go to South India (access to central Tibet at the moment is just too random).
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Re: State of Tibetan language in Qinghai vs exile community

Postby Sherlock » Thu Sep 06, 2012 4:54 pm

I have done a bit more research and it seems like the univilersities in Qinghai and Sichuan teach local dialects of Tibetan. It is actually possible to register as a student and take a bare minimjm number of classes while getting a tutor. Still maybe there is a risk of not being understood elsewhere although some sources claim Khampas don't really understand Lhasa dialect either.

Tibet University in Lhasa has its own programme too which is slightly more expensive but then in the TAR there is the thing about visas. I am Han Chinese which I don't know whether will help?
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Re: State of Tibetan language in Qinghai vs exile community

Postby commentator » Fri Sep 07, 2012 6:10 am

Kham and Amdo are both spoken in Qinghai. Kham is spoken in Yushu, which is larger than the nation of Nepal. Amdo is spoken elsewhere in Qinghai, i.e.,. Golok, Haibei, Hainan, Huangnan, and Haixi, as well as by more than 100,000 Tibetans in Haidong Region. You could enroll in either Qinghai Nationalities University or Qinghai Teachers University. The quality of the instruction is pretty much up to you, and you can always English speaking Tibetan tutors who will teach you as you as many hours as you are willing to pay for. There is a growing corpus of Amdo Tibetan teaching materials, e.g., go to uztranslations and search for /Tibetan/ and you'll find all sorts of things. If you wanted to learn Central Tibetan in Qinghai, it would be more difficult, because few speak it. The key question is what your purposes are in learning oral Tibetan. There is on /standard/ oral Tibetan--about the best you can do in that regard is a herder's dialect, and there are plenty of students in Xining that speak the nomad dialect. More than 90% of the Tibetans in the world live in China consequently, it makes sense to learn Tibetan there, if you want to live in China. The exile contention that Tibetans in China do not speak /proper/ Tibetan is as delusional and hurtful as saying that there are no "real" Tibetans lefft in China. If you plan on being mostly in the exile community, then by all means go to wherever they are, particularly India, and learn their Hindi-flavored speech--you also won't find many younger Tibetans in the exile community who have much competence in written Tibetan.
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Re: State of Tibetan language in Qinghai vs exile community

Postby Sherlock » Fri Sep 07, 2012 6:30 am

commentator wrote:Kham and Amdo are both spoken in Qinghai. Kham is spoken in Yushu, which is larger than the nation of Nepal. Amdo is spoken elsewhere in Qinghai, i.e.,. Golok, Haibei, Hainan, Huangnan, and Haixi, as well as by more than 100,000 Tibetans in Haidong Region. You could enroll in either Qinghai Nationalities University or Qinghai Teachers University. The quality of the instruction is pretty much up to you, and you can always English speaking Tibetan tutors who will teach you as you as many hours as you are willing to pay for. There is a growing corpus of Amdo Tibetan teaching materials, e.g., go to uztranslations and search for /Tibetan/ and you'll find all sorts of things. If you wanted to learn Central Tibetan in Qinghai, it would be more difficult, because few speak it. The key question is what your purposes are in learning oral Tibetan. There is on /standard/ oral Tibetan--about the best you can do in that regard is a herder's dialect, and there are plenty of students in Xining that speak the nomad dialect. More than 90% of the Tibetans in the world live in China consequently, it makes sense to learn Tibetan there, if you want to live in China. The exile contention that Tibetans in China do not speak /proper/ Tibetan is as delusional and hurtful as saying that there are no "real" Tibetans lefft in China. If you plan on being mostly in the exile community, then by all means go to wherever they are, particularly India, and learn their Hindi-flavored speech--you also won't find many younger Tibetans in the exile community who have much competence in written Tibetan.


Thanks for the info! The standard of oral Tibetan outside of monasteries and nomadic camps has probably declined in all communities due to influence from majority languages. I am actually more interested in Classical Tibetan but learning a colloquial language would help in receiving teachings orally too and it seems that it is mostly in Sichuan and Qinghai that there are some gars set up which are outside of the government controlled monasteries so perhaps Kham or Amdo would be more useful there. Amdo seems to be closer to the written language.
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Re: State of Tibetan language in Qinghai vs exile community

Postby Sherlock » Sun Sep 09, 2012 8:53 am

I went to a class at a local Dharma centre with a Khenpo from Kathog monastery today. It seems that his dialect is a strong version of Kham, e.g. he says "loke" not longku for sambhogakaya. He speaks Chinese but not English. I don't know whether I should continue learning from him but he is quite free so he says I.can call up any time there are no other activities and vis8t the centre to ask him questions.
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