Monday, December 26, 2005

Frequently Asked Questions

Please read this from time to time, and especially if you are new to this blog. Any new entries will show up as the first entries.

Q: I just found this blog, how should I catch up?
Just go back to the archive entries from November and read backwards. There's no rush, at some point you might catch up or not, but it's more important to learn the basics as future entries build on top of old ones.

Q: I would like to see how the Tibetan words look like?
I've been experimenting with Unicode Tibetan strings, and it could be made to work, after a lot of pain, and installation of the right fonts. Alas, the Windows and Mac platforms, still today, are not working properly concerning Tibetan glyphs. Until then, the entries are here as Wylie encoded text -- it's good to learn Wylie, anyway, as a lot of Tibetan material is presented on the web as Wylie encoded text.

Latest news is that Windows Vista fully supports stacked Tibetan letters, and eventually the next MacOSX version, so we might switch over to Unicode when there's a bigger penetration of these systems amongst users.

Q: But I would still like to type in the Tibetan words mentioned here?
Excellent question. I recommend using TibScanner, mentioned in this blog post. Type in the wylie into the window, after installing the needed fonts (the TibScanner page has the information), and you should see the text rendered as real Tibetan.

Q: I've tried to learn Tibetan before, but it takes so long to learn it...
It depends per individual. However, the rule to learn a language, or a craft, or playing the guitar, or painting, is to spend 10-20 minutes every day or more on it. This is far better than a huge vacation effort that is then forgotten later. This constant pattern recognition will create the needed causes for you to learn it. This, and especially helping someone else out with teaching them a language, a craft, and so on.

Q: How could I ever learn the grammar?
Well, some grammar is good to know, but it's more important to learn the linguistic patterns. The Tibetans took the grammar from Sanskrit, so it's highly confusing to map the grammar rules to us here in the West. There are many brave approaches, but most of them invent new terms and forces us to learn them.

Note that if you just want to read and translate texts, you should be able to see the big picture patterns after a while. Then based on these patterns it's good for you to learn more of the use, so you see more patterns. This is the approach taken here. Personally I understand the need for learning the grammar, but it does not need to become a burden.

Q: Why are some posts repeats?
I'm going through the original postings, adding bitmaps with Tibetan fonts, and othewise updating the entries. Depending on the blog reader setup, you could tell it (such s Bloglines which I recommend) to ignore repeat postings. Anyway, repetition is good!

Q: What's this mixture of Tibetan and English?
You mean sentences where Tibetan dang English bkra nams are mixed together? It's a way to see patterns, to recognize Tibetan words, the more you see a mixture and longer sets of Tibetan words, the sooner you start recognizing them in any Tibetan text.

Q: Why no articles on learning how to recognize and write Tibetan letters?
There are many excellent web sites available showing how the Tibetan fonts look like, and how to recognize them. So please use those and support those who make such sites.

This site is mostly focused on a practical pattern approach to see words, grammar and sentences in use so that very soon you get the feeling and understanding how classical Tibetan works.

Q: What does jigtenmig mean?
See this blog article. I apologize for the non-Wylie spelling of jig, ('jig), but I wanted an easy word to remember (translator), and also easy to do Internet searches on.


Anonymous said...

How wonderful to discover your blog!

I'll be back!!!

Michael Hennessy said...

Hi Kent,

I've just started reading your very helpful and interesting blog.

My question: What is the 3rd syllable in 'jig ten mig? 'jig.ten I am familiar with but not the "mig" part. If I could find the Wylie spelling I could look it up.

I consulted the FAQ but no luck. If you've explained this term elsewhere, let me know.


Kent Sandvik said...

Thanks for the feedback, appreciate it! I made a new FAQ entry that points to another posting talking about this word.

At the same time I went through the posting and added one FAQ entry related to no articles about letters, and updated the one about Unicode use and current computer platforms.

Ali Glenny said...

This blog is great. I've just started learning classical Tibetan and will definitely work through your stuff. It's very accessible.

I'm delighted to find out that I can pretend to be Mongolian and pronounce all the syllables (even if it does make me feel as if I've got too many teeth); however, I'm curious to know how the written word and the spelling have come so far adrift. Is this a historical process - like Old English / modern English, with Mongolians speaking a very old dialect? Also, are there any audio resources available that you know of? I'd like to hear how the people in Lhasa pronounce the words.

Thanks, Ali

Kent Sandvik said...

Thanks for the feedback. Yes, it's a valid point how the written and spoken Tibetan has deviated. Many books, such as Beyer's The Classical Tibetan Language has described the background to what happened.

It's very common across all cultures, the English spoken today has variations, and even more, especially as we have now entered the Internet cultural phase where English is the lingua franca, and will be modified based on the usage models.

There are places still today where the ancient Tibetan is spoken as it is written, parts of Mongolia and Ladakh. I've heard monks in monastery debates have to spell out the terms they debate about so those with alternate dialects know what it's all about -- using the Ladakh dialect of really pronouncing the spelling might be an interesting alternative to solve this problem!

cigay said...

Great blog. Keep it up. I will visit regularly.

Kent Sandvik said...

Thanks. Apologies for the infrequent postings, it depends on my workload, vacation and similar things but I think for the rest of July and August I should again have time.