How to Learn Tibetan

 

Let’s work through an example to understand Socrates’ scathing dismissal of the various proposed definitions for ‘Knowledge’. 

We understand [and create] the new only in reference to the old, only in counterpoint to that which is not-new. Your most imaginative construction of distant galaxy and strange alien is little more than a rearrangement of decidedly familiar idea and image. [‘R2-D2’ not withstanding, a true alien must remain alien to your known world.]

New learning begins in an extension of what is already learnt. The unfamiliar originates in the conversant and the familiar. The Unknown begins in the Known.

I speak American-English and I wish to learn Tibetan. I go to a teacher who speaks Tibetan and American-English. I don’t go to a teacher who speaks Tibetan and German, nor to a teacher who speaks American-English and Japanese.

I teach a child the meaning of the word ‘Cat’ by pointing to a picture of a cat. I do not read her the dictionary definition of Cat: ‘A species of carnivorous quadrupeds, of genus Felis.’

I start with what I know in order to know something new.