Study Tibetan with a Translator: Online Courses in Colloquial, Classical & Modern Literary Tibetan Language

Contact for more information

Email: TibetanTeaching@gmail.com

WhatsApp, Signal & Telegram: +40 769 824 828

It is preferred and recommended that you get in contact by using WhatsApp, Signal or Telegram.


  • Do you want to study Tibetan language online, for real this time — but with a seasoned scholar and translator who can accurately and clearly explain Tibetan vocabulary, etymology and grammatical structures in fluent English?
  • Are you curious about how a translator would analyze a Tibetan text? Are you interested in getting practical advice on translation directly from the source?
  • Do you have the aim of being literate in classical Tibetan (Dharma language), but also want to know how to pronounce classical Tibetan texts properly?
  • Do you wish to learn how to speak contemporary, up-to-date colloquial Tibetan in an authentic manner from a translator with native-level fluency in Tibetan, according to the most easily understood standard dialect (Central Tibetan), just as it’s spoken by the Tibetan communities in India and Nepal?
  • Do you need to study or review a particular Tibetan text in detail? Would like like to engage in a more thorough investigation of a specific Tibetan text, in a comprehensive manner of linguistic and doctrinal analysis?
  • Or perhaps you’d like to learn how to read your favorite Tibetan teachings and practices?

Deepen your Tibetan language studies and expand your linguistic horizons with Erick Tsiknopoulos, a seasoned Tibetan-English translator and scholar of Buddhist texts.

Having studied Tibetan since 2004, translated Tibetan professionally since 2008, and lived in the Tibetan communities of the Himalayan region for 11 years (2008-2019), Erick Tsiknopoulos offers students a uniquely comprehensive learning experience.

Take advantage of this rare opportunity by joining an online course in classical literary (Dharma language), colloquial spoken, or modern literary Tibetan.

Thönmi Sambhoṭa (c. early to late 7th century), traditionally held to be the inventor of the Tibetan script.

Erick Tsiknopoulos offers a unique and effective online learning experience for Tibetan language students and Tibetan enthusiasts of all levels. As a professional Tibetan-English translator, scholar and practitioner of Buddhism who has been studying Tibetan language since 2004 and working as a translator and language teacher since 2008, he helps students of Tibetan attain their linguistic aims and learning goals.

How it’s done: Students study directly with Erick Tsiknopoulos in one-on-one, private sessions. Classes are held live with the teacher via video and/or audio call, using Google Duo, Zoom, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram or Skype. Group courses are also available!

Who the teacher is: Having spent 11 years in South Asia studying Tibetan language, literature and Buddhist philosophy while living in the Tibetan communities of the Himalayan region (from 2008 to 2019), Erick Tsiknopoulos offers Tibetan language students a rare insight into the subtle cultural, social, symbolic, historical and psychological dimensions of the language, including perspectives which are often relatively unknown and overlooked outside the Tibetan communities themselves. Drawing upon these experiences, he utilizes a distinctive and highly qualified cross-cultural teaching approach which is bilingual in nature, and adapted for English-speaking students.

Aside from his extensive field research and linguistic study in India and Nepal, the primary areas of expertise which inform his Tibetan language teaching methodology are his many years of translating Tibetan Buddhist texts since 2008 (totaling several hundred texts for various projects), his fluency in the Central Tibetan (Ü-Tsang) dialect of spoken Tibetan, and his ongoing Buddhist studies and practice since 1999; as well as his readings in both Eastern and Western religions, philosophy, history and languages.

What we study: Courses are flexible by design, and every course is specifically designed to suit the student’s personal learning goals and individual study aims. For each course, students can choose to focus on classical literary Tibetan (Dharma language), colloquial spoken Tibetan, or modern literary Tibetan as their main subject of study. However, often these three are also taught in combination.

Group courses are available upon request, and group classes of up to 20 students at a time have been held in the past. If you are interested in a group course, please email or message with details (number of students, etc.). Discounts are offered for larger groups (3+ people).

The Tibetan Translation Training Course (200 hours) is a specialized program which teaches aspiring translators how to translate Tibetan texts into other languages.

Special reading courses in Tibetan texts: As the main object of study during courses, students may choose to study specific Tibetan texts, including advanced Dharma teachings, philosophical treatises and modern literary works. If you would like to do a thorough, careful reading of a particular text in your classes, please state your interests. The most popular special reading courses are those focused on Tibetan texts which are relevant to the student’s personal studies, research, academic work or spiritual practice. Special courses on Tibetan-English translation theory and technique are also available upon request.

Kyeuchung Lotsāwa (c. early to late 8th century), one of Padmasambhava’s 25 main disciples. He became a translator at a very young age, hence his name, which means “boy translator.” He remained a householder his whole life, and had the ability to magnetize birds.

COURSE DETAILS

Choosing a course: 5 Options

Courses of varying length are available, from 10 to 200 hours total. These are as follows:

  • Brief Course (Express track): 10 classes
  • Short Course (Compact track): 20 classes
  • Regular Course (General track): 60 classes
  • Long Course (Intensive track): 100 classes
  • Tibetan Translation Training Course (Translator’s track): 200 classes
Course name No. of classesNo. of hours totalProficiency levelsSubject of study
Brief Course10 10 All — beginner, intermediate & advanced studentsAny — Colloquial, classical and/or modern literary Tibetan
Short Course 20 20 AllAny
Regular Course 60 60AllAny
Long Course 100 100 AllAny
Tibetan Translation Training Course200 200AllClassical literary (60%), spoken colloquial (30%) &
modern literary Tibetan (10%)
Chart of the 5 course options.

Course descriptions: Which one is right for you?

  • Student favorite: Most students choose to study in the best-selling Regular Course (60 hours). There are many important reasons for choosing a Regular Course (General track): some students want to study for a longer period of time, and thereby make more progress in their studies; others because they are working toward a specific learning goal — for example, improving one’s Tibetan for the sake of future study in a university program, living at a monastery/nunnery, doing a spiritual retreat, or travel and pilgrimage in Asia. Regular Courses are usually completed within 4 to 5 months.
  • Brief Courses (Express track): The minimum amount of study is 10 hours in a Brief Course. Brief Courses are usually completed within 1 month.
  • Short Courses (Compact track): Some students may wish to do a shorter course designed to review a particular topic, conduct research or translate selected Tibetan texts in the context of specified readings, and this can often be done conveniently within the context of Short Courses (20 hours), which are usually completed within 1 to 2 months.
  • Regular Courses (General track): For most beginning and intermediate students, it is recommended (but not required) to sign up for at least a Regular Course (60 hours) at minimum, in order to make more significant progress in one’s Tibetan studies. This is the course which is preferred by most students, as they usually find it to be more ideal and suitable for their learning goals. Regular Courses can usually be completed within 4 to 6 months.
  • Long Courses (Intensive track): The option of the Long Course (100 hours) is designed for those who wish to go deeply into their Tibetan studies in a more intensive and thorough way, and thereby make swift and substantial progress in the language in a relatively short amount of time. After completing this course, students will have mastered most of the key elements of Tibetan. Long Courses are generally held over the duration of 8 to 10 months.
  • Tibetan Translation Training Courses (Translator’s track): The Tibetan Translation Training Course (200 hours) is a specialized, concentrated program for training Tibetan-English translators, by the end of which students should be proficient in translation theory and technique, and well-equipped to translate confidently from Tibetan into other languages. In this course students will learn how to translate Tibetan texts under the direct guidance of a translator, and will accomplish several translation projects under the teacher’s supervision. After completing this course, students will be knowledgeable in Tibetan language and literature, have a strong level of literacy in Tibetan, and be competent in Tibetan translation. The Tibetan Translation Training Course is intended to be completed within 18 to 20 months.

Note: Course length, or how long it takes to complete each course, is primarily determined by the number of classes per week. For example, if students do 4 classes per week they will complete a course much faster than if they do only 2 classes per week. Generally no fewer than 2 classes per week is recommended, and students may choose to do up to 5 classes per week, and in some cases even 6/week.

Course fees: Cost per course

Classes are currently offered at the flat rate of €25 Euros per hour. Hence the fees for each course are as follows.

  • Brief Course: 10 hours = EUR €250
  • Short Course: 20 hours = EUR €500
  • Regular Course: 60 hours = EUR €1500
  • Long Course: 100 hours = EUR €2500
  • Tibetan Translation Training Course: 200 hours = EUR €5000
Course name No. of classes No. of hours total Course fee
Brief Course 10 10 EUR €250
Short Course 20 20 EUR €500
Regular Course 60 60 EUR €1500
Long Course 100 100 EUR €2500
Tibetan Translation Training Course 200 200 EUR €5000

* Sign up for a Tibetan language course today,

by messaging Erick Tsiknopoulos through WhatsApp, Signal or Telegram: +40 769 824 828!

…Or by emailing TibetanTeaching@gmail.com.

WhatsApp, Signal or Telegram are the preferred modes of communication for Tibetan classes.

Alternatively, you can use the registration form below:

Course payment info: How to pay

  • Courses are to be paid in the currency of Euros (EUR), or the equivalent in United States dollars (USD).
  • PayPal is the preferred mode of payment.
  • PayPal email addresses: tibetanteaching@gmail.com, trikayatranslations@gmail.com, e.tsikno@gmail.com
  • Please cover all transfer fees. For PayPal payment, in order to avoid transfer fees, please select “For friends and family” before sending payment. Doing this generally eliminates transfer fees. If this is not possible, please include an extra 5 percent of the total bill in order to cover transfer fees.
  • Other methods of payment (non-Paypal), such as Transferwise or direct bank transfer, are also possible. As with PayPal, any transfer fees incurred must be reimbursed.
  • Courses are to be prepaid before starting classes.
  • Refunds are not given after the first class session.

Course basics: Guidelines & Practicalities

  • Connection methods for the classes are Zoom, Google Duo, Google Hangouts, Skype, WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal. These are the main apps used for class connection. Students may choose from any of these connection methods according to their needs and preference. The teacher will provide you with the relevant connection details.
  • The length of each class is generally 1 hour or 60 minutes in length. Classes often run overtime by 5-15 minutes, but in general, extra time is recorded and counted toward the total course length.
  • Longer class times, such as one and half hours (90 minutes) or two hours (120 minutes) are available upon request, and fees for each class will be adjusted accordingly.
  • Classes are held 1 to 5 times per week, depending on the student’s preference and the schedules of both teacher and student. In some cases, 6 classes/week may be possible.
  • As a minimum, 2 to 3 classes per week is recommended for most students, in order to maintain more continuity and regularity in one’s study.
  • Class scheduling is arranged between the teacher and student; class times are agreed upon by both parties. Time zone differences must be taken into consideration for class scheduling, and will be discussed prior to fixing the timetable.
  • English and Tibetan are the languages of instruction. Tibetan language medium is generally only for more advanced students already strongly familiar with colloquial Tibetan, or else those who would like to learn spoken Tibetan in a more immersive way. Erick Tsiknopoulos is able to teach in the Tibetan language itself, teaching classes in colloquial spoken Tibetan, if desired or applicable. However, the vast majority of students choose to study in the medium of English.

Proficiency levels (for student reference)

Each course can be taught for students at all levels of Tibetan language proficiency, from absolute beginners to long-time students who have been studying Tibetan for up to 15 years. Broadly speaking, all Tibetan language students fall into the following categories:

  • Beginner level refers to students who are new or relatively new to the language, or who have only learned the fundamentals of reading, writing and speaking (0-100 hours of previous study). This includes most students who have taken only one semester/short course in Tibetan, or who have been studying Tibetan for one year or less. This initial level is usually finished after around 100 hours of study (75 to 125 hrs. depending on the student), and generally takes 6 months to 1 year to complete.
  • Intermediate level refers to students who have taken some Tibetan classes before, have attempted a serious study on their own (with textbooks), and are able to read and understand Tibetan to some degree of comprehension (100-1000 hours of previous study). This includes most students who have taken only two semesters or short courses in Tibetan. This could be further divided into Lower Intermediate level (100-500 hours of previous study) and Upper Intermediate level (500-1000 hours of previous study). This level generally takes 2 to 4 years of total study for most people to complete.
  • Advanced level refers to students who have the ability to read, write and speak Tibetan to a functional degree of literacy and fluency, but are still working on building vocabulary and mastering some aspects of grammar (1000-5000 hours of previous study). At this stage, students are ready to enter into a more detailed and in-depth study of Tibetan language and literature, especially in the context of private classes with scholars, teachers and translators. This could be further divided into Lower Advanced level (1000-2500 hours of previous study) and Upper Advanced level (2500-5000 hours of previous study). This level generally takes 5 to 8 years of total study for most people to complete.
  • Advanced Level proceeds until 5000 hours of previous study are reached, after which one achieves Mastery level (5000-10,000 hours of previous study). At this point one has a keen understanding of Tibetan, a high degree of proficiency in reading and hopefully also speaking and writing the language, and quite possibly has gained good translation skills as well. This could be further divided into Lower Mastery level (5000-7500 hours of previous study) and Upper Mastery level (7500-10,000 hours of previous study). This level generally takes 9 to 12 years of total study for most people to complete.
  • Following that is Expertise level at 10,000 hours of previous study. At this point the student, though still a student, has not only gained mastery of the vast majority of aspects of Tibetan language, but is also essentially an expert on the subject. Here one should be able to confidently teach others Tibetan language as a language instructor (if required or desired), and will also probably have the ability to produce high quality, publishable translations from Tibetan.

About the instructor, Erick Tsiknopoulos

Erick Tsiknopoulos feeding the pigeons in front of the Great Stūpa of Jarungkhashor in Boudhanath, Nepal (February 2014).

  • Native English speaker. Native-level Tibetan speaker.
  • Professional Tibetan-English translator, interpreter and Tibetan language teacher since 2008.
  • Has worked as an online Tibetan language teacher since 2011.
  • Highly literate (native level) in both classical and modern literary Tibetan, and has a highly advanced level of proficient fluency in colloquial spoken Tibetan.
  • Lived for 11 years in the Himalayan regions of India and Nepal among the Tibetan community from 2008 to 2019, where he studied Tibetan language and Buddhism intensively in an immersive environment.
  • Has been working professionally as an Tibetan-English textual translator since 2009, and since then has produced English translations of several hundred Tibetan texts.
  • Many of his translations have been published in electronic and printed book form, some of them are available for purchase on Amazon.com, and most of them are scheduled for release in future publications.
  • Being familiar with most topics in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, scriptural doctrines and traditions of praxis, he is able to teach Tibetan spiritual texts by way of linguistic analysis which ascertains their literary meaning; and with reference to their specific doctrinal context.
  • His teaching methodology is based on both modern Western academic and traditional Tibetan scholastic models of pedagogy and textual exegesis. This includes hermeneutic analysis and philosophical-linguistic commentary within the broader spectrum of Buddhist and Asian Studies.
  • From a young age (since around age 16), Erick Tsiknopoulos has always been fascinated by languages, and has therefore studied many languages to varying degrees. These include, primarily, Tibetan, Japanese, Pāḷi, Sanskrit, Hindi (Hindustani), Romanian (Daco-Romanian), Spanish, Esperanto and Modern Greek, but also, to a lesser extent, Latin, Ancient Greek, Russian, Nepali (Gorkhali), Mandarin Chinese, Thai, Bulgarian, Dzongkha (Bhutanese), Indonesian (Malay), Italian, Swedish and Hebrew; and others, including several ancient languages such as Anglo-Saxon (Old English), Old Norse and Tocharian. He utilizes his knowledge of these languages in his Tibetan classes in order to supplement the overall linguistic frame of reference, and to clarify certain points of grammar or pronunciation.
  • Amazon author profile: amazon.com/author/ericktsiknopoulos

If you have any questions about Tibetan language courses, feel free to send an email to TibetanTeaching@gmail.com,

or shoot a message on WhatsApp, Signal or Telegram at +40 769 824 828.

You can also reach us by filling out the contact form below!


Some Notes on the Linguistic Relationship of Tibetan to Other Languages

by Erick Tsiknopoulos

  • Tibetan is a member of the larger Sino-Tibetan language family, a broad grouping which includes its distant cousins Mandarin, Cantonese and most of the languages in China, and more specifically, represents one of the primary components of the Tibeto-Burman subfamily. The Tibeto-Burman family of languages is spoken in Western China, Burma, Northern India (mainly in the Himalayan regions), Nepal and Bhutan.
  • Therefore the closest relatives of Tibetan are the various languages of Bhutan and Burma (including Dzongkha and Burmese, the national languages of Bhutan and Myanmar respectively), as well as hundreds of other minor languages spoken in Northeast India, Nepal and Southwest China.
  • In terms of its relationship to other branches of the Sino-Tibetan family, Tibetan could be considered to be 1st cousins with the Himalayish and other Bodic languages (Tibetan is a Bodic language), 2nd cousins with the Newaric and Kiranti (Rai) languages, 3rd cousins with the Lolo-Burmese languages, and 4th cousins with the Sinitic (Chinese) and Karenic languages.
  • Tibetan is also distantly related to the Kra-Dai or Tai-Kadai group of languages in Thailand, Laos and Southwest China (including Thai and Lao). Although sometimes this group is not included in the Sino-Tibetan family (mostly due to political reasons), generally it is considered to be a distinct branch of Sino-Tibetan. For example, there are some similar words in Tibetan and Thai (a point rarely mentioned). These languages are probably also equivalent to 4th cousins to Tibetan.
  • Roughly speaking, major linguistic divergence of Tibetan from its first cousins (Bodish-Himalayish) probably began, depending on the language, between 1000 to 2000 years ago, with its second cousins (Newaric and Kiranti) between 2000 to 3000 years ago, with its third cousins (Lolo-Burmese) 3000 to 4000 years ago, and with its fourth cousins (the Chinese languages) between 4000 to 5000 years ago. For example, Ancient Chinese (c. 1050 BC) actually had a great deal more in common with Tibetan than any modern form of Chinese (esp. Mandarin), 3070 years ago; and one can imagine that two thousand years prior to that, around 3050 BC, “Tibetan” and “Chinese” may have been almost mutually intelligible. By the same token, 1000 years ago, Tamang, the Bhutanese languages and the Bodic languages of India and Nepal were much more similar to Tibetan than they are today.
  • The tendency of all languages for at least the last 5000 years has been toward diversity and proliferation; a trend which has continued until recently. As a testament to this, a new dialect of Tibetan exists in India and Nepal, Exile Tibetan or Refugee Tibetan, based mainly on the Central Tibetan dialect but very much distinct unto itself. This language could not have existed even in the most rudimentary forms before 1960, and probably started to take on a life of its own sometime in the 1980s. By the early 2000s at the latest, it was a bona fide separate dialect of Tibetan.
  • Tibetan is not related to Mongolian (a Mongolic and possibly Altaic language), nor to Sanskrit (an Indo-European and specifically Indo-Aryan language), although its classical grammar was influenced by that of Sanskrit.
  • Nor is Tibetan directly related to Korean and Japanese, although they do share many similar root-words, mostly due the powerful influence of (medieval) Chinese on these languages. However, although some have proposed distant historical, genetic and linguistic connections between Tibet, Korea and Japan (and genetically there is evidence for this), because Korean and Japanese are considered languages isolates with unclear origins (or rather, too ancient origins), this is widely disputed and debated. In the opinion of the author, it is possible that Korean and Japanese represent some historical fusion of the Sino-Tibetan, Ural-Altaic and Austronesian language families, which probably occurred roughly 2500-3000 years ago. Most linguists agree that both Japanese and Korean have linguistic elements of Altaic, Austronesian and Sino-Tibetan — specifically, Tibeto-Burman. This could be due to the confluence of different cultures and tribes meeting in the same location and mixing over time.
  • There are many Tibeto-Burman languages with over 1 million speakers. Among them are Burmese (43-46 million native and secondary learners in Myanmar and neighboring countries), Tibetan (8 million in Tibet, India and Nepal), Karen-Karenic (7 million), Arakanese-Rakhine (2 million in Myanmar), Hani (1.8 million), Meitei (1.7 million in Manipur, Northeast India), Tamang-Tamangic (1.4 million in Nepal, Sikkim and Darjeeling District, India), Bai (1.3 million in Yunnan, Southwest China), Newari (1.2 million in Nepal), Jingpo (about 1 million in Kachin, Myanmar and Yunnan, Southwest China), Nuoso (2 million) and Nasu (1 million).
  • The Loloish group of languages (a branch of Lolo-Burmese), comprising some 95+ different languages, is spoken by over 9 million people in Myanmar and Southwest China. The most widely spoken among these are Nuoso (2 million), Nasu (1 million) and Lisu (940,000).
  • Other famous Tibeto-Burman languages include Dzongkha, spoken in Bhutan (640,000 speakers), Sherpa, spoken in Nepal (170,000 speakers), Ladakhi, spoken in Ladakh, India (111,000 speakers) and Sikkimese, spoken in Sikkim, India (70,000 speakers), all of which are closely related to Tibetan.
  • Other languages in the Bodish and Himalayish branches of Tibeto-Burman include Tsangla, which has 170,000 speakers in Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh, India, the Kinnauri language, composed of a dialect cluster spoken by 84,000 people in the Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, India, which is related to Ladakhi, and Gurung is another notable language in the Tibeto-Burman family, with up to 360,000 speakers in Nepal and the Darjeeling district of West Bengal, India, as is Lepcha, spoken by 66,000 people in Sikkim and Darjeeling district, India, and some parts of Nepal and Bhutan.
  • Also of note in the Tibeto-Burman family are the Kiranti (or Rai) group of languages, comprised of about 27 different languages, including Khambu, Limbu, Sunuwar, Yakkha, Chamling, Kulung, Khaling, Thulung, Bantawa, Bahing, Varyu, Dungmali and Lohorung, which are spoken in Nepal, Sikkim and Darjeeling district, India by approximately over 1.2 million people. Most of these languages are not well documented.
  • Historically and culturally, the Newari language of Nepal is one of the most significant Tibeto-Burman languages, because Newari served as Nepal’s official administrative language during the medieval period from the 14th century until 1779 under the Malla dynasty; and it remained an important Nepalese literary language until 1847. Newari was also a major language for Buddhist literature, and many Buddhist texts are preserved in Newari.
  • Currently, the most prominent Tibeto-Burman languages in terms of culture, modern communications and publications, and influential in a political, economic and religious sense, are Burmese, Tibetan and Dzongkha, and to a lesser extent Tamang, Newari, Meitei, Ladakhi and Sikkimese.

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