Educating Τіbеtans in Τіbеtan

The American Anthropology Association’s newsletter Anthropology News has a recent post called A Fork in the Chinese Road: Educating Τіbеtans in Τіbеtan?

It’s actually a shortened version of a post from the website of the Society for Linguistic Anthropology, found here.

Either is worth a read if you’ve any interest in bi-lingual education in China, minority language rights, and possible changes in those areas of Chinese governance.

Τіbеtan Braille

You may not have heard of Sabriye Tenberken. I hadn’t. Unless you’re interested in Τіbеt studies and have a reason to learn Braille. It’s the combination of those two things that she’s now known for.

She’s got an interesting story, which I’ll sum up by pasting from Wikipedia:

Sabriye was born near Bonn, Germany, and she became gradually visually impaired and completely blind by the age of thirteen due to retinal disease. She studied Central Asian Studies at Bonn University. In addition to Mongolian and modern Chinese, she studied modern and classical Tibetan in combination with Sociology and Philosophy.

As no blind student had ever before ventured to enroll in this kind of studies, she could not fall back on the experience of previous students,so she developed her own methods of studying her course of studying. It was thus that a Tibetan Braille script for the blind was developed in 1992, which became the official script for the blind in Tibet.

Tenberken’s organisation, Braille Without Borders, is pretty damn cool. Their goal is to help educate visually impaired people in underdeveloped areas, which in many cases would involve creating a Braille script for the language of that area. With Τіbеtan Braille, it’s now the standard for the area. I’m a fan of standards when they allow for uniformity in education.

Unfortunately it’s somewhat difficult to find the full chart of Τіbеtan braille online. I even checked Tenberken’s book “My Path Leads to Tibet” on Google Books. No luck. If anyone has a chart that they can direct me to I’d love to see it.

Kurt Russell and the Tibetan comment

No, this isn’t another Sharon Stone-esque gaffe/political comment, but something rather more innocent. I was enjoying the Kurt Russell movie Soldier (兵人 in Chinese) on Chinese video sharing site Youku the other week (right, I enjoy campy sci-fi) when an interesting comment caught my eye. Now normally Youku comments are about as worthwhile as Youtube comments (i.e. completely worthless drivel), but this one was special – it was written in Tibetan. Continue…

25 Tibetan languages?

Victor Mair has an article on Language Log that discusses a favorite Sinoglot topic: the scope of language in China. The information on Tibetan is fascinating:

Tournadre estimates that there are 220 “Tibetan dialects” derived from Old Tibetan and currently distributed across five countries: China, India, Bhutan, Nepal, and Pakistan. In a forthcoming work, Tournadre states that these “dialects” may be classed within 25 “dialect groups,” i.e., groups that do not permit mutual intelligibility. According to Tournadre, the notion of “dialect group” is equivalent to the notion of “language,” but does not entail standardization. Consequently, says Tournadre, if the concept of standardization is set aside, it would be more appropriate to speak of 25 languages derived from Old Tibetan rather than 25 “dialect groups.” Continue…