Learning Pali online

For those of us with a secular approach to the dharma, the study of the early writings, the suttas, is growing in importance as an aspect of our practice. But haven’t you wished you could access these early texts in plain English, without having been filtered through the eyes and minds of 19th and 20th century translators who clearly have a metaphysical approach to the teachings?

You may have tried to study Pali on your own at home, using one of the grammars available on the internet. It’s not easy, right? Well, here’s an online course that will give you a better shot at it: the University of South Wales is about to offer a module in Pali language as part of their MA in Buddhist Studies, but open to all.

This 15 week course:

  • is completely online
  • will enable you to read early Buddhist texts in an original language, appreciating and understanding the dharma at a new level
  • enables you to progress from beginner level to independent translation of Pali texts
  • offers flexible sessions in a supportive online learning environment
  • is longer than Richard Gombrich’s intensive course
  • is reasonably affordable, and
  • offers you the opportunity to join a lively, interactive, online student community.

With just a basic grasp of the Pali language, you will be able to refer to the original texts whenever you have difficulties with something you’re reading, or your group is studying.

The estimated fee for the course is GBP £550. For more information write to Dr Nick Swann nick.swann@southwales.ac.uk or go to:


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  1. Frances Le Vaillant
    Posted October 14, 2015 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Thanks heaps for this information, Ramsey. The whole MA looks interesting, and the idea that the Pali course will be available to all is pretty cool. It’s not a possibility for me this year, but perhaps Dr. Swann might repeat the experience in the future.

    This post made me think of the Introductory Sanskrit I and II papers offered as distance courses by the Religion Programme at Otago University. Otago offers a Certificate of Proficiency (COP) at both Undergraduate and Postgraduate levels (as do other NZ universities — I have one from VUW), so presumably interested people could enrol for the papers that way.

    I’ve had the Otago courses “bookmarked” for a while; just thought I’d mention them in case others were interested. It feels great to be a part of this community.

    • Posted October 15, 2015 at 3:38 am | Permalink

      Hi Frances!

      I am currently doing the MA and it is indeed very interesting!! The Pali course did not happen this autumn due to not enough people having showed commitment, though we came very close to the amount of students necessary for the course to run.

      It will be offered next autumn again and, hopefully, it will come true. There is more time to market it now and any help you might offer will be very much appreciated!

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