Professional Help

Well the Tibetan by Osmosis project has indeed morphed into something slightly different.

If you’ve been with me from the start you saw me initiate a project to see if I could learn a foreign language solely by listening to internet news audio. That is, learning by what I call “osmosis”.

And then you promptly saw me come up with a variety of non-osmosis ways to cheat and fast-track the project. Such as…

(1)…asking Tibetan shop owners to help with translations
(2)…memorizing lists of high-frequency vocabulary words
(3)…reading Tibetan news to learn spelling for dictionary look-ups

Ready for my latest (and by far most effective) osmosis sneak-around?

About two weeks ago I began taking occasional (1 hour / week) Tibetan lessons from a real Pö-ba via Skype.

Of course, I’m still listening to my daily hour of Radio Free Asia (RFA). But now I actually have someone to ask when I repeatedly hear a phrase, instead of waiting 2, 3, 4, 5+ weeks for osmosis to happen.

It all started when I was exploring other Tibetan language websites and came across The Tibetan Language Student. Guess what? They had a forum where you could ask questions about Tibetan! 🙂

Guess what? Most of the queries they got were for people wanting translations in order to get Tibetan tattoos! 🙁

So they shut the forum down – can’t say I blame them. However I did see a note on their site that they do translations and/or instruction for a small fee.

After a few email exchanges with the very friendly authors, Sonam and Trausti, I set up periodic Skype lessons with Sonam.

The first part of the hour, I quiz him on phrases I’ve picked up on from RFA. We have a lot of fun with this, particularly because the version of Lhasa Tibetan they speak seems to use an above-average amount of politeness (or “sweet-talking” as Sonam would say).

So he translates, and then often tells me that I would only speak this way if I were talking to an elder or rinpoche. When I run out of questions we burn the remaining time doing a normal Tibetan lesson – mostly dialogue back and forth.

Though Sonam was born in Amdo, where they speak quite a different dialect, he spent a lot of time in Dharamsala and really knows his stuff when it comes to standard (central) Tibetan, which is what he teaches.

But if dialects are your thing, he’ll gladly impart a little Amdo too. Here’s an example of the difference in case you’re curious.

Are you from Amdo?
Chay-rang amdo-nay yin-bay? (Central Tibetan)
Cho amdo-nee uh-yin? (Amdo Tibetan)

Fun, huh?

So now one hour a week is spent Skype-ing rather than RFA-ing. Stay tuned to see what other sneaky ways I come up with to learn a foreign language via the internet…

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