“As a primary repository for the Buddhist teachings, the development of professional-level Tibetan language resources is imperative for scholars, translators, and Buddhists from East & West alike; our mission is bridging these communities, and our projects are developed in concert with their needs & aspirations.”—Our Mission Statement
A Look Back…
Esukhia began with a lone staff member in September 2011; in just under 4 years, we’ve grown to employ 90 Tibetan-language teachers, researchers, and specialists. We are now proud to be the largest employer specializing in Tibetan language work in India.
Our goal since the organization’s inception has been to promote collaboration in service of translation. In Buddhist terms, our vision of translation is modeled on the Lotsawa-Pandita pair-work that accomplished one of the greatest feats of Tibet’s history: the translation of the canon from Sanskrit to Tibetan.
If we describe this work from a modern perspective, we’d say that Esukhia believes that translating from source language to target language requires a collaborative effort: native readers of the source language to understand source texts and native writers of the target language to render target content.
This view of translation has led us to the projects that occupy us today: research & development for Tibetan language education and the creation of digital resources for primary texts.
What We’re Doing Now
Esukhia is working to develop educational resources for Tibetan based on a modern understanding of what language is and how we learn it. We believe that modern Tibetan translators (like the Lotsawas of old) ought to have one thing: language expertise.
To this end, Esukhia is pioneering the development of materials and pedagogy for Tibetan as a Second Language (TSL). Our goal is having Tibetan language resources that rival those generally seen in international languages.
This ensures that students get two things that are key to language acquisition: 1) exposure to comprehensible, native speech input and 2) ample opportunities for language production.
In total, more than 1,000 students have studied Tibetan language at Esukhia to date!
TSL Teachers & Textbooks
Our philosophy of providing a comprehensive Tibetan language education in a Tibetan-only context means focusing on two components: teachers and textbooks.
We have spent the last years working to adapt second language pedagogy for Tibetan teacher training by collaborating with experts in ESL (English as a Second Language) to create a teacher training program, and we’ve worked to extend this training to other language schools in our community.
Meanwhile, our textbooks are the first in the field that give students the opportunity to build a native-like understanding of the language by learning to listen, speak, read, and write in Tibetan only.
This year marks the completion of our Alphabet Book and Intro-Week Lessons; the full curriculum, supporting beginners to advanced-level students, will follow (though draft versions are available now).
Research & Development
While designing all of our educational programs and resources, we look to the secondary research of experts in multidisciplinary fields (like linguistics, second language learning, translation studies, and more). For example, to measure language proficiency, structure textbook lessons, and create a basis for standardized testing, we’ve adopted the CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference).
Meanwhile, we also perform our own primary research: we’re working on a Spoken Corpus in order to better understand how native speakers use the Tibetan language. Research and multidisciplinary resources like these directly inform our educational development projects. For instance, by referencing a spoken corpus, we’ll have a better understanding of natural language use; this will help us develop graded reading material.
Esukhia is also involved in digital text projects like creating a critical edition of the Tibetan Buddhist canon and archiving the entirety of Tibetan literature within a universal library catalog.
The idea is not only to have primary texts that have been properly digitized, proofread, and organized, but to add further resources and software tools that will be useful to translators, readers, authors, and educationalists alike. This includes things that we take for granted in other languages, like grade-level analysis and spellchecking.
But it also includes innovative resources like creating a collaborative translation platform; linking multilingual translations to their source texts; and commentaries, be they textual or audio/visual, to their root texts (on a verse-by-verse basis); and tying definitions to their terminology. Above all, this information needs to be accessible and searchable by any user.
These are the sorts of specialist tools that exist for translators in the field at large, and we strive to make them available for the Tibetan language, too.
Looking to the Future
By developing these language resources now, we are laying the groundwork for extensive collaboration between Tibetan language experts from East & West in service of accurate translation. Our long-term vision is nurturing Tibetan language expertise as the foundation for professional-level translator training…