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Understanding Tibetan allows speakers to access rich cultural texts and traditions, to play a part in preserving these traditions and gain contemporary links to a country and region undergoing rapid change.


Tibetan is the most widely spoken language in the Himalaya. It is spoken in Tibet, parts of China, northern Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and parts of India. It is also used in Mongolia by followers of Tibetan Buddhism. It has an alphabet of thirty letters, no punctuation and has its own unique counting system. As the only living language that gives direct access to ancient Bon religion and Mahayana Buddhism, Tibetan opens the door to a vast repository of literary, scientific and philosophical wisdom and is the primary language of classical Tibetan art, music, dance, literature, medicine, history, astrology and logic. Apart from classical literature, Tibetan also provides a window to the modern Tibetan art and literature including movies, novels, poems, music, songs, and news. Tibetan is also essential for studying the culture, history and languages of the Himalayan region.


The Tibetan program at the ANU introduces students to the Tibetan Language in both its spoken and literary forms. By the end of our program, our students can confidently

  • Pronounce all Tibetan consonants, vowels, and the changes that occur when letters are stacked.
  • Recognize the Tibetan Uchen script, and construct words and sentences from its syllabary.
  • Use an active vocabulary of around 250 words.
  • Identify and use the basic colloquial sentence structures that will allow them to conduct everyday conversations and to read simple Tibetan texts.
  • Communicate in speech and writing about the people they meet, their families, the quantity and quality of things and people they encounter, and when and where people are travelling.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the importance of family, travel and surroundings to people who inhabit the high mountains of Tibet.

Study options

Our program was one of the first at the ANU, and certainly the first Tibetan program worldwide to be offered with an entirely online option. Our first-year program is based on ‘‘Introduction to the Tibetan Language’’ (ANU Press), a well-designed multi-media introductory eTextbook. Each week, students work through the eTextbook lesson, which includes reading, writing and speaking exercises, before meeting for a 1.5 hour workshop each week. During the online classes, we review the week's material, talk, and compose together. Our teacher is a native Tibetan who has rich experiences in teaching Tibetan to non-Tibetan students.  Currently, we are working on a program for second year students. Our program is available to any ANU student, or to external students and interested members of the public through Open Universities Australia.

Undergraduate courses Tibetan 1 and Tibetan 2. See ANU Programs and Courses for study options. See Open Universities Australia for studying Tibetan 1-2 as subject.

The School of Culture, History and Language places a unique emphasis on in-country experience. For more information on exchange programs and in-country language opportunities, visit the ANU global programs or enquire education.chl@anu.edu.au.

Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team