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.

Writing Ladakhi on a Computer

One of the easier ways to learn to read the Ladakhi alphabet is to practice typing it while pronouncing each letter as you type it. We recommend the Dzongkha Keyboard Layout which has been developed by the government of Bhutan. Dzongkha, the official language of Bhutan, uses the same script as Ladakhi and Tibetan -- it is called the Tibetan script and has been developed by Tibetan scholars as early as the 7th century CE. There are several other keyboard layouts available for inputing the Tibetan script on computers. We like the Dzongkha layout because the letters are ordered alphabetically on the keyboard, so by learning the layout, you also learn the order of the letters in the alphabet (which comes in handy if you ever need to look up a word in a printed dictonary). However, helping you choose a keyboard layout is beyond the scope of this website -- if in doubt, try to find a local computer guru. Below we have included a depiction of the Dzonga Keyboard Layout (if you click on it, you can download a printable pdf cheatsheet). To start learning, you can also play a simple game (it doesn't need the Dzongkha layout), or use the official Dzongkha Typing Tutor (you will need to switch to the Dzongkha layout before running the app).

Dzonga Keyboard Layout