Monday, April 5, 2010

A day of translator training at Rangjung Yeshe Institute

Since a long time, or perhaps only recently, several Rigpa students have held the wish to learn Tibetan, or even become translators. Therefore, eyes and ears were held wide open when we heard about Rangjung Yeshe’s intensive translator training, which would make translators out of complete newbie’s within one year. I felt it was time to check it out myself.

The expedition started on Sunday evening, with a nice dinner in a Tibetan restaurant. One of the program’s students, who also attended the Rigpa Shedra last year, was tested on his Tibetan skills. Random quotes from Gampopa’s Jewel Ornament of Liberation had to be translated on the spot. Although we were impressed with his skills, it seemed that translating a thousand year old text without any oral explanations isn’t easy…

The next day we started at eight, or rather a few minutes later for some, with perhaps their most innovative class. There’s one Lopön (someone who usually completed most of his training but is not yet a Khenpo), four students, and a senior student. And today, it also included me. The Lopön then taught in Tibetan, without relying on a text, and the students each take a fifteen minute turn in translating. If they make mistakes or leave something out, the senior student or their fellow students help out and correct them. What I found inspiring is that the Lopön keeps it all very simple, with short sentences and not to much out of the ordinary vocabulary. That is a completely different story then the usual Tibetan Dharma teachings, which are more like trying to follow a lecture on Heidegger in German when you barely know how order a tea. That can be quite demoralizing if you try to learn Tibetan. After only ten months, the students where able to translate most of what the Lopön was saying.

The day continued with classical Tibetan, which differed not so much from the Tibetan classes Rigpa Shedra students are familiar with. We read a part of ‘The Final Words of Tele Natsok Rangdrol’. Then, just before the most important events of the day –lunch-, we moved outside to the terrace for a Colloquial lesson. The students where led by a Tibetan in reading the autobiography of ‘Gyalwa Rinpoche’, better known in the West as the Dalai Lama. For me the day ended after lunch, since there where library’s, bookstores and others things waiting. But for the students the day was far from finished. After lunch the day continued with another translator class. This time the Lopön was teaching on the thirty seven practices of a Bodhisattva, of which it is perhaps interesting to notice that the text had to be memorized, in Tibetan of course. Then followed another Tibetan class, and the day ended with private tutoring with a Tibetan. Life of a translator isn’t easy…

You can read more here about the Translator program. The students of the institute also have a blog which can be read here . Fortunately for Rigpa students, Rangjung Yeshe is not the only player in town: Rigpa’s own translator training is starting this year at Namdroling Monastery in Southern India.



  1. thanks so much for sharing. This sounds really exciting!

  2. Nice blog, dude! Exciting, i'm happy for you!

    I'm already imagining that in a few years, i can request some translations from you!

    "Hey Han, could you please translate this sadhana by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo? End of the week would be fine.." ;-)