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How to Read Classical Tibetan, Volume One: Summary of the General Path Paperback – June 25, 2005
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From the Back Cover
Do you want to learn to read Classical Tibetan? If you know how to read the Tibetan u-chen script (know the Tibetan alphabet and how letters combine to form syllables -- i.e., be able to recognize a root letter, vowel, prefix, superscript, subscript, suffix, and know how to pronounce the syllable) and how to recognize words, How to Read Classical Tibetan will show you--at your own pace--all the relationships that make Tibetan easy to read. It is a complete language course built around the exposition of a famous Tibetan text on the Summary of the General Path to Buddhahood written at the beginning of the fifteenth century.
All the language tools you need to work at your own pace are in one place. You won't need a dictionary because all of the words and particles are translated and explained upon every occurrence, and there is a complete glossary at the end of the book; every sentence is diagramed and completely explained so that you can easily see how the words and particles are arranged to convey meaning. Because everything is always explained in every sentence, you will easily learn to recognize the recurrent patterns, making the transition from learning words to reading sentences much easier for you. As you study How to Read Classical Tibetan, you will learn to: recognize the syntactic relationships you encounter, understand the meaning signified, and translate that meaning correctly into English.
Review/Endorsement by Ven. Segyu Choepel Rinpoche in on 2003: ""Using this book, I improved my own comprehension and knowledge of Classical Tibetan. I am delighted to recommend it to all students who wish to deepen their understanding of this sacred language. Learning to read Classical Tibetan will give you direct access to the words of the great masters."--Ven. Segyu Choepel Rinpoche
About the Author
Craig Preston studied at the University of Virginia and has taught Classical Tibetan at the Namgyal Institute and the University of Buffalo. He is the author of How to Read Classical Tibetan, Volume 1: A Summary of the General Path, and currently teaches Tibetan and Buddhist philosophy privately in Ithaca, New York.
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Here is the link to the book you need to buy with this one:
Another book I bought at the same is:
Of the several books I have been using to learn Tibetan I am finding this one to be a hit. Once I finish this one I will likely buy Joe's book.
1) It is obviously written by a teacher who is skiiled, thorough, and loves his material. It is clear that a LOT of care and thought has gone into this book and its presentation, and this makes it perfect for self-learners (like myself). Though at first the endless diagrams and grammatical commentary might seem overwhelming, actually most of it is quite useful and as you progress you can just ignore what you feel you don't need anymore. As another reviewer pointed out, Preston also clarifies and drives home the important difference between transitive and intransitive verbs that was utterly lost on me in Wilson's "Translating Buddhism from Tibetan." Picky though it may seem at first it is a crucial difference you will eventually have to learn, and Preston gets you started. Another great thing about the book itself is that while the actual amount of text in Tibetan is small and manageable, included at the end of each chapter is the text WITH additional (traditional Tibetan scholarly) commentary, which looks like it about doubles the text you can learn from and means you can return to this book after finishing it for a much more challenging read when you feel like it.
2)This book is very much the sequel to, and dependent on, Joe Wilson's "Translating Buddhism from Tibetan." It is the absolutely perfect and logical next step after working through Wilson's book, but I have a hard time imagining getting through this book without having waded through Wilson's 700+ page tome. Preston's 'diagramming,' his grammatical terminology, even the Tibetan vocabulary itself, is all drawn largey from Wilson's book and style (Preston was a student of Wilson's). It is a controversial system (see critiques of Wilson's book on here), but personally I find it very useful. But again, I don't think there is much point in attempting this book until you have completed 'TBFT.' One last thing is that I also disagree with some other reviewers' comments: I would say the book is hardly for 'beginners', since a quite considerable familiarity with reading Tibetan script and even a decent vocabular seem pretty essential to really get through this book; on the other hand, fresh from finishing Wilson's TBFT, it didn't take me nearly as long to work through it as people have suggested. Preston suggests 60+ hours of class time, PLUS self-study, and others here have suggested a few weeks. Like I said, fresh from Wilson's book I delved straight into this one, and went through it all in 5 days, spending about 5 hours each day on it. I am now reviewing and ensuring I memorize all the vocab, but I think 35 hours or so is a reasonable amount of time to spend on it. Then you can move on to Preston's "Vol. 2" which is quite similar, and similarly excellent!
In the course of the introduction and ten chapters the author goes through the long and short titles of the tract and then the 30-line passage, breaking the text into phrases and analyzing them grammatically from word to sentence level. He does this by means of well laid out labeled diagrams in which phrase-level structure is represented by boxes containing the parts of the phrases, which may be simple strings of text or nested boxes of the same type.
He includes a full glossary of the words in the text at the end of the book, and repeats the items occurring in each phrase in the section on the phrase, obviating the need to be constantly flipping between the phrase and the glossary. As far as I could tell he does not customize or enhance the vocabulary items for the individual phrases but copies them verbatim from the glossary, including the different roots of the verbs and the variants of the mutable particles (kyi, tu and so on) each time.
He intentionally focuses on the grammatical structure and literal meaning of the text and does not get into philosophical issues, though he does include, at the end of each chapter, with translations though not analyses or special notes, extracts from a commentary on the section of text in the chapter.
As a total beginner myself I cannot evaluate the accuracy of the book, but it appears to be carefully edited, and the grammatical analyses and translations all seem reasonable to me. He uses the Tibetan alphabet throughout and rarely if ever includes any transliterations. I think this is appropriate. The Tibetan alphabet is easy to master and anyone studying the language should learn it at the very outset.
He also, following Joe Wilson in his _Translating Buddhism from Tibetan_ (Snow Lion, 1992), uses opaque and confusing terminology for the cases (1st case, 2nd case and so on). This terminology derives ultimately from the Sanskrit grammarians and refers to the Sanskrit cases (1st case = nominative 2nd case = accusative 3rd case = instrumental 4th case = dative 5th case = ablative 6th case = genitive 7th case = locative), and does not really fit Tibetan. I would have been happier if he had used the simpler and more descriptive system of Nicolas Tournadre, _Manual of Standard Tibetan_ (Snow Lion, 2003) - a very good book BTW, with an extremely clear and thorough explanation of modern pronunciation (standard Lhasa dialect) - or even avoided the notion of case altogether and simply dealt in terms of the various particles (kyi, kyis, la/r/du etc.) as is done for Japanese (ga, wa, o, no etc.).
The work is clearly aimed at beginners. I would guess that a motivated student could work through the whole book at a chapter at a sitting and be done with it in a couple weeks. I can see it being useful for someone in the early stages of studying Tibetan on their own who wants to read some real Classical Tibetan with a good amount of hand-holding. The only prerequisite I can see, apart from the ability to read the Tibetan alphabet, is a level of comfort with basic grammatical concepts and the activity of detailed word-by-word phrase-by-phrase grammatical analysis.
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This book has been sent to a friend as a gift, so i cannot review it myself,
I particularly appreciate that he used Dzong-ka-pa's page and half Summary of the General Path as the basis of his...Read more