The Tibetan Phrasebook


The Tibetan Phrasebook is a phrasebook of the modern Amdo dialect of the Tibetan language. The Tibetan speaker's voices are native to Qinghai Province, the geographic heart of the dialect—where the majority of Amdo speakers are.

Amdo Tibetan, one of the three main dialects of spoken Tibetan, is gradually gaining notoriety in the Western world. Given that during the past half-century, a great many Tibetans fled from Central Tibet, the Central, or "Lhasa" dialect has thus become the only dialect of Tibetan that many outsiders have come to know. As a result, now in the West, it is extremely rare to find institutions teaching dialects of Tibetan other than the Central dialect. Furthermore, despite the overwhelming proportion of Amdo Tibetans making their way into Western lands from the P.R.C., and changing the makeup of the Tibetan diaspora, the phrase "Tibetan language" remains assumptively identified as the Central dialect of the Tibetan language. Nevertheless, given China's economic surge and increasingly open borders, many Western academics, business persons, and tourists traveling to Amdo Tibetan regions of China, have developed an interest in the Amdo dialect. Still, despite the increasing need for Amdo instructional resources in the West, at the time of this writing, there are few tools for learning the Amdo dialect of Tibetan. The Tibetan Phrasebook was thus conceived as a project to help address this very need.

A new edition of The Tibetan Phrasebook is available! In this version, the emphasis is placed on real-life scenarios, rather than an exhaustive treatment of colloquial Amdo Tibetan grammar. True to the socio-political realities of the Amdo Tibetan linguistic landscape, the content of this Phrasebook is meant to reflect actual situations that Amdo dialect learners are likely to encounter in the P.R.C. of 2013. Consequently, eight different scenarios were chosen to reflect situations deemed most relevant to the average modern-day student of Amdo Tibetan. The methodology within each scenario is based on drilling sentence structures by using high-frequency phrases (at actual conversational speeds) and building upon the pattern of the original phrase by using an array of examples, substituting them in one by one. For beginner to intermediate students, repeating aloud after the native speaker is crucial in being able to not only understand the subtle phonemics, but also, to reproduce them. This point can not be emphasized enough. Repetitive listening and speaking also mimics the natural language learning process, enabling the learner to gradually internalize grammatical structures.

Along with the new Phrasebook, the first edition of the Tibetan Phrasebook has since been improved, and is still available on the menu to your right. A big thanks to all of those who contributed to its making; though you may not have been involved in the newest edition, your contribution to the larger project has not been forgotten!

In addition to the digital audio Phrasebook, free for all to access, the new Phrasebook also has an accompanying digital print version. In this manuscript of the Tibetan Phrasebook's second edition, one can find a transcript of the colloquial Amdo Tibetan phrases, in English and Tibetan. Two different Tibetan scripts: the “headed” (Wylie transcription, dbu-can) script and the so-called “headless” (Wylie, dbu-med) script are displayed. The new e-book thus allows the learner to gradually expand listening and speaking skills into the written word. By reading along with the transcript, the learner is able to catch spoken material that may otherwise escape the untrained ear. Furthermore, by introducing common varieties of Tibetan writing early-on in the course of study, one is prevented from developing the habit of only recognizing a single form of the written language. There are many variations of Tibetan writing, but a mastery of these two principal categories allows for easy acquisition of their variants.

Finally, I'd like to thank my co-authors and teachers, Dr. Ringzin Dorje and Gabzang Tseten, Dr. Mona Schrempf, Chaksham Tsering, along with everyone else who helped make this edition a reality. Of course, any mistakes found herein are solely the responsibility of the authors, and we welcome any help in redressing any errors that we may have made.

EzDean Fassassi

Xining, Qinghai Province
May of 2013.