DISCLAIMER

This course has been prepared by two foreigners and students of grades 4-9 of the Spring Dales Public School in Mulbekh in the Kargil area of Ladakh. You can learn more about us here. As such, it is likely to contain errors of all kinds, especially in spelling and grammar. If you find any errors, please do not hesitate and contact us!

Spelling

We tried to maintain consistency of spelling with Abdul Hamid's Ladakhi-English-Urdu dictionary and with Rebecca Norman's phrasebook; thus, the spelling that we provide in the Tibetan script does not always correspond to the pronunciation used in Mulbekh. On the other hand, the transcription corresponds to what we heard in Mulbekh, even if the pronunciation is different from the pronunciation indicated in the dictionary or in the phrasebook. When we were not able to find a word in these resources, we had to rely on the spelling provided by the students. We even might have introduced some errors when we erroneously thought that we have found a word in the dictionary when in fact the students used a different word.

Dialect used in the course

We call this course "Learn Ladakhi" because foreigners usually do not know of the fine distinctions between the languages and dialects spoken in Ladakh. However, the area around Kargil (including Mulbekh) is linguistically distinct from the area around Leh: the dialect spoken in Kargil, called Purik, is sometimes considered to be a completely separate language rather than just a dialect of Ladakhi -- despite all that the two languages have in common, the differences in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary are quite substantial. The Kargil area is predominantly Muslim and as a consequence, Urdu has had a major impact on Purik over the centuries, to the extent that, in contrast to Ladakhi, Purik is written in the Urdu script. Many Urdu words are used in Purik that have an equivalent of Tibetan origin in Ladakhi -- when we were preparing this course, the students sometimes corrected each other saying "But that is not a Ladakhi word, it is a Muslim word". When this happened, we usually tried to incorporate both variants into the course. There are many books available for learning Ladakhi as it is spoken in Leh (see the Books section for more details), but none of them comes with audio/video materials. We hope that our course will help you get started and also introduce you to the language spoken in western Ladakh at the same time.

Most important words

We have asked the students to write down a list of the 20 words they consider the most important. In the first part of this lesson's video, students perform short silent sketches and it is your task to guess which useful phrase or word they are portraying. In the second part of the video, students take turns writing down and pronouncing some useful words and phrases and explaining their meaning. Although we have not yet introduced the Ladakhi alphabet, the video and the students also show the spelling of each word.

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The Ladakhi Alphabet

The Ladakhi alphabet contains 30 letters and four vowel signs. Most of the sounds are also present in western alphabets so it should not be too hard to learn. Just beware of the difference between the unaspirated sounds such as "ཀ་ ka" and their aspirated counterparts such as "ཁ་ k'a". Pronounce the aspirated letters "ཁ་ k'a, ཆ་ ch'a, ཐ་ t'a, ཚ་ ts'a" and "ཕ་ p'a" with a strong puff of air but try to hold your breath when pronouncing their unaspirated counterparts "ཀ་ ka, ཅ་ cha, ཏ་ ta, པ་ pa" and "ཙ་ tsa". Also do not forget to pronounce the letters with a subscribed "ར་ ra" with your tongue curled back to the top of your mouth: these are called "retroflex" sounds and in the transcription, they are marked by a dot under the letter, e.g. "ཀྲ་ ṭa, ཁྲ་ ṭ'a, གྲ་ ḍa/ṭa".

Writing Ladakhi words is, however, a bit more complicated—the letters can be stacked on top of each other and some vowels are not written at all.

The video in this lesson will teach you how to pronounce (and write) the different letters and the accompanying text will teach you more about writing Ladakhi words.

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Everyday Objects

In this lesson's video, the students became the teachers while we became the students -- and we invite you to imagine yourself sitting next to us and to practice answering the teacher's questions with us. The aim of this lesson is to learn the names of some objects commonly found in a Ladakhi classroom, while practicing the basic sentence structure "Is this a ...? Yes, it is a ... No, it isn't a ..., it is a ..."

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Verbs

If you have mastered the lesson on everyday objects, it is high time for learning some verbs.While the video will help you learn some new vocabulary, the text below will explain a little bit about the grammar of Ladakhi verbs. If you would like to learn more, look into the "Books" section to see which books we recommend to continue learning.

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Numbers

In Ladakh, people regularly use numbers coming from three different languages: Hindi, Urdu and Ladakhi. The video in this lesson will teach you how to pronounce the different numbers and with the video comes an accompanying downloadable reference sheet.

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Colors

This lesson's video and accompanying textbook section help you learn Ladakhi words for some colours.Besides the basic colour terms (white, black, red, yellow, green, blue), we have also included some colours that do not have a proper Ladakhi equivalent.

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Talking about the weather

As a tourist, you will probably be rather interested in the weather forecast. The video in this lesson should help you learn some most common weather-related expressions.

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Emotions

In the following video the students will show you some words Ladakhis use todescribe how they feel.

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Ladakhi Songs

Ladakhi kids show great enthusiasm for music: they love singing, and if they ever see you with a guitar, they will nag you to teach them at least a few chords. In this lesson's video, you can hear examples of several simple Ladakhi songs. In the accompanying textbook section, we have written down the text and the translation of the song ཨ་མ་ལེ་ འཇུ་ལེ་ Amale jule! `Hello mother' for you. The `Juley song' can be found in Rebecca Norman's phrasebook (see the Books section for more details).

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Stories

In this lesson, you can read two short stories written by students in grade 7. As you will notice, the students were rather short of inspiration and chose to retell fables from their textbook rather than local tales that we have been hoping for. This may be partly due to the fact that, as we have heard, stories are usually only told in Ladakh in winter, when there is little else to do for many months. The idea of telling stories in September may seem to be as foreign to the locals as the suggestion to sing a few Christmas carols would sound to us in June. For Czech speakers: if you would like to read some stories from Ladakh, get the book Příběhy z Malého Tibetu.

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