Transcibe, Transliterate, and Translate
We must translate between languages, but if a language uses a different script than our own script, we must also consider transliteration and transcription. Thus, when writing about a Tibetan word, the writer has three choices:
- Translation: Faithful to the meaning: come up with some English word/phrase whose meaning or use best matches the use of the Tibetan word. But anyone who speaks more than one language knows, this is not as easy as it seems — especially when the word comes from a very different language family.
- Transliteration: Faithful to the script: take each symbol in the Tibetan word and give a Roman alphabet equivalent. There are many different systems for this. Wylie is the most common.
- Transcribe: Faithful to the pronunciation: Come up with Roman letters that represents the way the Tibetan word actually sounds, not how it is written. There are different systems for this too. For like English, many letters in Tibetan are silent or change the sounds of other letters.
Given these three major problems, we can see why the same Tibetan word can be written many different ways between all the various books on Tibetan Buddhism. Hopefully this diagram helps illustrate the challenge and show the use of these three words.
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