What’s Your Current Proficiency Level in Tibetan?

The Trikāya Tibetan Language Academy instructs students at all levels of Tibetan language proficiency, from absolute beginners to long-time students who have been studying Tibetan for up to 15 years.

Broadly speaking, all Tibetan language students fall into 5 categories — Beginner Level, Intermediate Level, Advanced Level, Mastery Level and Expertise Level.

Beginner Level (0-100 hours of total study time)

This refers to students who are new or relatively new to the language, or who are still learning the basics of reading, writing and speaking. This includes most students who have taken only one short course in Tibetan, or who have been studying Tibetan for 6 months or less. This initial level is usually finished after around 100 hours of study, and completion of the Beginner Level generally takes 6 months to 1 years of study in total.

After reaching the end of the Beginner Level (100 hours of total study time), one should have a Tibetan vocabulary of over 1000 words and terms.

Intermediate Level (100-1000 hours of total study time)

This refers to students who have taken some Tibetan classes before, have attempted a serious study on their own (with textbooks), and are able to read and understand Tibetan to some degree of comprehension. This is a rather broad category covering a fairly wide range of abilities — there is a stark contrast between someone who has put in 100 hours of study and someone who has done 1000. It includes most students who have taken only two short courses or one long course in Tibetan.

This could be further divided into Lower Intermediate Level (100-500 hours of total study time) and Upper Intermediate Level (500-1000 hours of total study time). Completion of the Intermediate Level generally takes 1 to 2 years of study in total.

After reaching the end of the Intermediate Level (1000 hours of total study time), one should have a Tibetan vocabulary of over 5,000 words and terms.

Advanced Level (1000-5000 hours of total study time) 

This refers to students who have the ability to read, write and speak Tibetan to a functional degree of literacy and fluency, but are still working on building vocabulary and mastering some parts of grammar. At this stage, students are ready to enter into a more detailed and in-depth study of Tibetan language and literature; especially in the context of private classes with scholars and translators.

This could be further divided into Lower Advanced Level (1000-2500 hours of total study time) and Upper Advanced Level (2500-5000 hours of total study time). This level generally takes 5 to 8 years of study for most people to complete.

After reaching the end of the Advanced Level (5000 hours of total study time), one should have a Tibetan vocabulary of over 25,000 words and terms.

Mastery Level (5000-10,000 hours of total study time) 

This refers to students who have a keen understanding of Tibetan, possess a high degree of proficiency in reading, speaking and writing.

This could be further divided into Lower Mastery Level (5000-7500 hours of total study time) and Upper Mastery Level (7500-10,000 hours of total study time). This level generally takes 9 to 12 years of study for most people to complete.

After reaching the end of the Mastery Level (10,000 hours of total study), one should have a Tibetan vocabulary of over 50,000 words and terms.

Expertise Level is reached after 10,000 hours of total study time. 

This level essentially amounts to the crowning achievement of Tibetan study — the golden goose that all aspiring students of Tibetan hope for. At this point the student, though still a student and still continuously learning, has not only internalized the vast majority of linguistic aspects in Tibetan, but has also become an expert on the subject of Tibetan language, generally speaking.

At this level one should be able to confidently teach others Tibetan language as a language instructor (if required or desired), and should also probably have the ability to produce high quality and accurate translations from Tibetan in the highest professional capacity.

As one progresses further on the Expertise Level, eventually one should have a Tibetan vocabulary of over 50,000 words and terms. The core Tibetan vocabulary is around 40,000 words, with an additional 200,000-300,000 more specialized terms. There are around an estimated 400,000 Tibetan words and terms in total, including most everything found in classical, colloquial and modern literary Tibetan.

A true translator or scholar of Tibetan should thus ideally have memorized and accumulated a vocabulary of 50,000 to 100,000 Tibetan words and terms.


If you have any questions about our Tibetan language courses, feel free to shoot us a message on WhatsAppSignal, Telegram or Discord at +40 769 824 828, or send an email to send us an email at TibetanTeaching@gmail.com.

Study Tibetan with a Translator: Online Courses in Colloquial, Classical & Modern Literary Tibetan with Erick Tsiknopoulos

Study Tibetan with Erick Tsiknopoulos, a translator, interpreter, author and scholar-practitioner of Buddhism.

Our online Tibetan language courses are the highest quality available for modern students seeking qualified instruction in all aspects of Tibetan language.

The Trikāya Tibetan Language Academy
སྐུ་གསུམ་བོད་ཡིག་སློབ་གཉེར་ཁང་
Online Tibetan Language Courses

WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Discord:
+40 769 824 828

Email: tibetanteaching@gmail.com

For online Tibetan language courses, send us a message on WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram or Discord, or shoot us an email at tibetanteaching@gmail.com.

རིག་པ་ནངས་པར་འཆི་ཡང་བསླབ། །
ཚེ་འདིར་མཁས་པར་མ་གྱུར་ཀྱང༌། །
སྐྱེ་བ་ཕྱི་མར་བཅོལ་བ་ཡི། །
ནོར་ལ་རང་ཉིད་ལེན་པ་འདྲ། །

Even if you must die tomorrow, train in your studies today!
Though you may not become an expert in this life,
Your knowledge will be preserved for future lives;
Like wealth deposited and then oneself reclaimed.

– Sakya Paṇḍita (1182-1251), The Precious Treasury of Elegant Sayings (sa skya legs bshad)