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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.


Tibetan is the most widely spoken language in the Himalaya; forms of Tibetan are in use all the way from Baltistan [Pakistan] to Sichuan [China]. It is the key to understanding the region’s rich culture, its religious traditions, and the social lives of its people. It was the target language of one of the largest translation projects in history, in which thousands of Indian and Chinese Buddhist texts were rendered in Tibetan. The results of this project provide scholars with access to texts and traditions not preserved anywhere else. Students who complete the Tibetan language minor will have obtained an intermediate level ability in speaking, reading, and writing the Tibetan language. 

In these courses, the students will work through lessons in an interactive ETextbook, specifically designed for them. They also have access to online tutorials with a renowned Tibetan author.

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