on 5 January 2011
Goldstein and Gelek Rinpoche's book remains in many respects THE introduction to written Tibetan, particularly if you are trying to learn the language on your own. While his phonetic methodology is cumbersome and has long been surpassed, it only represents a small and dispensible section of the book. In regard to the overwhelming bulk of the work however, it is genuinely excellent and rather uniquely compassionate on the learner. Taking the reader from the absolute basics of reading Tibetan script through to a remarkably high level of reading, it provides a multiplicity of carefully graded (and intrinsically interesting) examples, without bogging the reader down in the fine-tuned complexities of Tibetan grammar that can obscure a practical working knowledge. Many Tibetologists of my acquaintance have cut their linguistic teeth on this book, and as a self-help language book it has yet to be surpassed. If only it were in paperback, or even a tutor's version existed!
on 1 August 2015
I have only recently received this book, and started working through it, but so far I have been most impressed by it. Goldstein explains grammatical points with refreshing clarity; the lessons are well-structured and well-ordered; the texts are interesting and varied. 'Essentials of Modern Literary Tibetan' has, and continues to, exceed my expectations of what could sound a rather dry title. It's a small pity that Goldstein created yet another transcription system for his book, but anyone with a few books on the language will come to expect a new one with every book. At least Goldstein's system consistently marks tone, rather than using tonal spelling, which makes it easier to learn, and which I personally prefer. As another reviewer pointed out, this is not a course on spoken Tibetan, although the existence of accompanying audio material is a welcome bonus (available gratis from Case Western Reserve University website).
My only major gripe is that the 1995 edition of this book published by Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers has very small text; even the English is several points smaller than what is comfortable, and the Tibetan characters, although cleanly printed, are quite frankly tiny. I note that the dimensions of the original 1992 University of California Press edition are considerably bigger than the '95 edition--it seems that the Indian publishers simply shrunk the whole book and all its contents for reasons of economy (the quality of the binding also leaves much to be desired). In the original-sized book, I imagine all the text is a normal size--the layout and formatting is all excellent, it just feels miniaturised to the point of eye-strain.
Unfortunately, I didn't realise this at the time, and bought the shrunken version, but readers with an aversion to tiny print might do well to track down a copy of the 1992 version instead.
For this I feel I must deduct a star, although it is intended as no reflection on Professor Goldstein's excellent writing.