Published: Nov. 18, 2011

Group Photo of the Students Currently Benefiting from the Digital Library of Tibetan Language RecordingsHow often have you heard someone say, “I speak Tibetan.”  Maybe once, possibly twice, though for most of us, the answer is probably zero. For students attempting to learn this difficult language, there are a limited number of materials available to them for instruction. Buddhist Studies Professor Holly Gayley is striving to offset the lack of resources for the study of Tibetan language through the creation of an online digital library containing prerecorded materials.

The Digital Library contains recordings from a native Tibetan speaker, Lhoppon Rechung of the Mipham Shedra in Bouder, who first reads aloud a short passage and then explains it in colloquial Tibetan. As the course that compliments the library progresses, the difficulty of material increases throughout the semester. Students begin with simple children’s stories then end with passages from religious texts covering advanced topics such as ethics and philosophy. The purpose of this library is “to create a whole bank of resources so that students can go back and review the material to improve their listening, comprehension, and speaking skills.”

Another group photo of the studentsTraditionally, instruction in colloquial Tibetan has been restricted to general conversation related to everyday activities like greetings or going to the restaurant. But this project, according to Professor Gayley, “seeks to improve the scope of language learning” by preparing students for the type of in-depth conversations necessary to conduct successful and engaging field research. The Digital Library bridges the gap between reading texts and speaking about them in Tibetan.

Professor Gayley sees this project as “a building block for developing a strong Tibetan language program at CU” that could eventually be used as a prototype for other universities and languages. The Digital Library is a work in progress that is continually evolving and adapting as students advance through the course. Next, Professor Gayley seeks to incorporate clips from Tibetan news programs, television, music videos, and variety of other media sources.

Screenshot of the Digital Library of Tibetan Language RecordingsAlthough the Digital Library is still in its early phase, Gayley says, “The program has been really successful” as it is “getting Tibetan language instruction off the ground in an innovative way.”

Professor Gayley received an ASSETT Development Award for the Spring 2011 semester. This grant helped fund the creation of the “Digital Library of Tibetan Language Recordings for the ALTEC Website”. Development Awards are given out each semester to CU professors using technology to enhance education in the 21st century.

-Written by Mark N. Sytsma, CU '13, ASSETT Reporter