Learning Tibetan with Nettle

Anyone can use Nettle Tibetan as a learner—all courses are freely available for public use. To use Nettle in this way, simply click through to a course and begin studying. All unit activities—including instructional videos, vocabulary units, and exercise sets—are available without restriction.

Nevertheless, each Nettle Tibetan course was designed for a specific audience—for example, students enrolled in a particular class at the University of Toronto—and course lectures may refer to the course in this way. You may sign up for an account on Nettle and join a course by clicking the link at the top of the course page; you will then join the course as a student. If you are logged in, you will be able to track your progress through the course materials, and the instructor will also be able to see your work. (Whether or not the instructor sends you feedback depends on whether you are actually enrolled in a course formally through an educational institution.)

Becoming a Nettle Instructor

If you find the Nettle Tibetan course materials helpful and you wish to use them in your own teaching, then you have two options. The first is to use the materials exactly as they are, without altering or customizing them in any way. In this case, you can tell your students to study specific course units, and have them let you know how they get on. In Classical Tibetan language courses at the University of Toronto, Nettle is used in conjunction with a series of assignments, quizzes, and tests that are made available to enrolled students on the University's local course management system, which is where student grades are delivered as well. The assignments, quizzes, and tests associated with the Nettle Tibetan courses are themselves therefore not available here on Nettle. You may contact Frances Garrett,, if you would like copies of these additional materials, or you may create your own assessment materials to go along with your use of these Nettle courses.

The second way to use Nettle in your teaching is to clone and customize an existing course, adapting it to meet your needs. This has the advantage of allowing you take on your own students, and to monitor their progress. In addition, you may alter course and unit descriptions, use your own instructional videos and vocabulary sets, and add or edit exercises. You may wish to use only some of the task types in a given unit - for example, you might provide only audio-enhanced Tibetan reading samples, or only a series of video lectures.

To help you with setting up your own course, based on cloning one of ours, we've made a few short videos about various parts of the process. (For videos relating to specific task types, see below.)

To become a Nettle instructor, you'll need to contact the Nettle administator, Frances Garrett,, with a request to configure your account with instructor privileges.

An Inventory of Nettle Tasks

Nettle units are made up of tasks; the following task types are available:

  • Captivate: A lecture video made as an Adobe Captivate presentation. To use a Captivate presentation in Nettle, you must first package it as HTML and zip it up into a single file. Then, upload the file using the File browser tab on your user page—once uploaded, unzip the file to extract its contents so that the presentation's index.html file can be located. Finally, when adding a Captivate task to a unit, link to the index.html file of your presentation. We've made the following videos to explain this process in greater detail:
  • Identifying: An identifying word categories exercise, in which students are asked to identify verbs, nouns, pronouns, and other parts of speech by clicking on the words in a phrase. The key data fields in an identifying categories exercise are:
    • Pass percentage—the target percentage that students should be aiming for. If a student doesn't reach this target, then they will be asked to repeat the exercise set.
    • Identifying data—this field holds the exercises themselves, which must be structured to follow the data format described below.
  • Quizlet: A vocabulary set and associated exercises hosted by Quizlet. If you have account with Quizlet and you own the vocabulary set that you are linking to, then you can track student progress within Quizlet. In order for this to work, students must ensure that they are logged into both Quizlet and Nettle in the browser that they are using. We've made the following video to help you to set up your own Quizlet study sets:
  • Reading: A passage of Tibetan text displayed within a resizable pecha frame, along with an optional translation and audio recording. Note that a Reading task can actually contain multiple passages, each with its own translation and audio recording. The key data fields for a Reading are shown below. For further details, see the video Creating a Reading Sample.
    • Header—text to appear above the passages.
    • Text data—a passage of Tibetan text.
    • Translation—an optional translation of the passage.
    • Audio file—an optional audio recording of the passage.
  • Sequencing: A word sequencing exercise, in which students must rearrange randomly scrambled Tibetan phrases until their word order matches the target meaning. The key data fields in a sequencing exercise are:
    • Pass percentage—the target percentage that students should be aiming for. If a student doesn't reach this target, then they will be asked to repeat the exercise set.
    • Number of do-overs—the number of times that a student can immediately re-do an exercise after getting it wrong. If this is set to 2, that means a student will have 3 chances to get an exercise right before the system moves on to the next exercise.
    • Exercise cycle—what happens when a student needs to do an exercise set again: should they be asked to re-attempt only those exercises which they got wrong, or should they go through all the exercises again. For large exercise sets, the "Repeat errors" setting is advisable.
    • Sequencing data—this field holds the exercises themselves, which must be structured to follow the data format described below.
  • Translation: A parallel version of a text in both Tibetan and English, with gaps on the English side correponding to segments that need to be translated. Students fill in the gaps, and send their work to the instructor. This task type is more complex than the others and at this time we are not providing instructions on how to clone it. Please contact the Nettle Administrator, Frances Garrett,, if you are eager to do this.
  • Video: An externally hosted video embedded into Nettle. Currently only videos hosted by YouTube or Vimeo are supported. Its key data fields are:
    • Video URL—the URL of a video on YouTube or Vimeo.
    • Description—an optional description of the video.

Grammar Exercises and Word Categories

For its word sequencing and identifying category exercises, Nettle Tibetan uses the following word categories:

  • adj = adjective
  • adv = adverb
  • n = noun
  • pro = pronoun
  • post = postposition
  • v = verb

Data for these exercises consists of any number of exercise lines. Each exercise line should have two columns separated from each other by a single TAB character. The first column has a series of Tibetan words with a single space between them. Each word has three parts, with the vertical bar or pipe character delimiting the parts. The first part is the Tibetan word form, the second part is word's part of speech, using the abbreviations above, and the third part is the word's translation. Note that any spaces in the translation must be replaced by dashes (for example, sentient beings becomes sentient-beings). If a word occurs without a part-of-speech tag or without a gloss, as with the genitive case markers and shad punctuation marks in the examples below, then it is ignored for the purposes of the exercise. The second column of the data format translates the entire phrase.

སེམས་ཅན་|n|sentient-beings ཀུན་|adj|all all sentient beings
རྗེ་བཙུན་|n|Jetsun སངས་རྒྱས་|n|Buddha ཡིན་|v|is ། The Jetsun is a Buddha.
གསེར་སྲང་|n|gold-coins བདུན་|adj|seven seven gold coins
བླ་མ|n|guru འི་ ཞལ་|n|face the face of the guru
ཡིག་ཆ་|n|text རྙིང་པ་|adj|old old text
སངས་རྒྱས་|n|Buddha ཀྱིས་ ཆོས་|n|Dharma བསྟན་|v|taught ། The Buddha taught the Dharma.
རྟ་|n|horse དཀར་པོ་|adj|white white horse