The students in the Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö Institute English classes are coming to the end of their second year in the program. Ninety students are enrolled in four different classes, ranging from Beginner to Intermediate levels.
While the Class 1 Beginners progressed from the alphabet to simple conversational English, Class 2 are learning the fundamentals of grammar. Class 3 is a Pre-Intermediate skills-based course. Up-to-date learning materials and styles are used to extend listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills. In addition, students are issued graded readers with CDs for self-study reading and listening practice. Topics based on the readers are discussed in class–one covered this year was the “conflict diamond” trade, and the reading and discussion were followed by activities connected with the film Blood Diamonds (the monks are still imitating Solomon and Danny Archer). The students from Class 4 have had a demanding year working through an Intermediate-level grammar text. Most of them also attend the optional Saturday “Dharma English” classes, and were encouraged to come along to Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s teachings on “Wisdom and Method” at Deer Park in November. The students were reportedly amazed by Rinpoche’s teaching style in the English medium setting. They understood enough to get the gist of the topic and enjoy some of the jokes. It was a very special and inspiring experience for the monks. Next up is a class talk by Sudhammacara Bhikkhu, Ven. Ryodo Yamashita on his twenty years as a monk and teacher in the Soto Zen and Burmese forest traditions. Concerning program structure: with the support of the monastery’s khenpos we are bringing our assessment processes into line with the philosophy exams, and in 2008 we will be running all the classes in our five year curriculum plan. It will be possible for capable students to complete the curriculum over four years, as those who have completed their philosophy studies can choose to focus solely on English to complete two classes (Levels 4 & 5) in their final year. Our three goals–to produce philosophy graduates and khenpos capable of teaching dharma in English, of translating dharma texts from Tibetan into English, and with the skills to manage monastery business–are beginning to become tangible. The graduates of the Institute carry a wealth of dharma knowledge, and could be of benefit to many beings in future.