Contrasts of Tibetan & Japanese Language Standards
Here, we take Japanese as an example, for comparison’s sake (not saké), of standards across the Asian languages. Even a cursory glance demonstrates with certainty that Tibetan language studies lag far behind their Asian language counterparts in expectations and linguistic standards. Below, we have created a snapshot of what we think are the important contrasts one sees between Tibetan (in red) and Japanese (in blue) programs at universities which offer both.
|2 years basic language + 3 years worth of advanced language + 1 year literature + semester classical + semester capstone (“an emphasis is placed on language acquisition”)
As an “East Asian Studies” major, only 1 year of language is required for Tibetan. *
|n/aAs a “History of Religions” degree: M.A. 1 year optional; PhD 4 years classical only|
|4 years full-on language study (10 hrs. per week): Though the Classical Language is “introduced” in first year, it isn’t studied in depth until years 3 & 4 (after a compulsory year of immersion in Japan). **
B.A. program not available, though Tibetan as an elective exists for Chinese, Japanese, & Sanskrit students.
|Classical Lit. is available as an M.St. in Japanese StudiesLanguage studies BEGIN at the MPhil level w/ Tournadre’s MST, lesson one.|
|4 years required language coursework; Classical Lit. n/a
As an “East Asian Studies” major, only 1 year of language is required for Tibetan.
|4 years spoken language required; 1 year modern lit.; Classical Lit. n/aCertificate of South Asian Studies, language only 1 year (optional) classes.||“Readings in Modern Japanese Literature, is required of those students who, in the opinion of the staff, have not yet reached the appropriate level of proficiency in the colloquial language.”
Only at this level does the study of Classical Lit. begin for Japanese.
*At UVA, Tibetan falls under the umbrella of “East Asian Studies” for an undergrad and “Religious Studies” for a grad student; as with all universities, there is no “language and literature” degree available for Tibetan. The language requirement of the undergrad program includes only 6 credits.
** Only Oxford introduces the classical Japanese language in the first years of study (B.A. level), but the program is heavily weighted to the modern language (there is a single question on classical Japanese on the first year’s final exam worth only 7% of the grade). In contrast, it seems one can enter the MPhil in Tibetan studies with no prior language experience.
*** At Emory, the lecturer in Japanese, Yumiko Nishi, “holds an M.A. in teaching Japanese as a foreign language,” and “her research involves second language acquisition and Japanese linguistics with emphasis on cross-linguistic analysis;” so far as we’re aware, no such experts yet exist for the Tibetan language. This is the import of Esukhia’s TSL (Tibetan as a Second Language) research and development.
The common standards, across all degree programs, show that Tibetan language requirements are four to seven times lower than their peer Asian language programs. Non-Tibetan language programs have teachers who specialize in teaching language as a second language, while Tibetan programs do not. Thus, the resources needed for the intensity of Tibetan language study to reach the level of its peers is the development of Tibetan as a second language educational materials and teaching experts; as is the expectation and standard of other Asian language programs, a strong foundation of spoken Tibetan should be a prerequisite to begin classes on the classical language.