Pāli Level 1

Pāli Level 1

(11 customer reviews)


Start to learn Pāli with this Beginner course that covers all the basics!



Would you like to read and understand the Pāli canon for yourself? Do you want to be able to check translations instead of blindly relying on them? Did you ever ask yourself: “Is that really what the Buddha and his disciples teach in the Pāli canon?”

This course is the first step to your mastery of Pāli! It contains 24 lessons, each with one lecture, several exercises and further materials such as factsheets and vocabulary lists. All this enables you to learn whenever and wherever you want, fitting the learning into your individual schedule.

The course is cumulative, meaning that the lessons build upon each other but you are free to navigate through the course as you like. You can skip all exercises and just do the lessons if you want. You can view Lecture 1, then jump to Lesson 17, then do the exercise of Lesson 3 – whichever way you want to do it. However, a completion rate of 80% for all exercises of the entire course is necessary if you want to receive a certificate. Don’t worry: you have an unlimited number of attempts for all the exercises.

Access to a Pāli dictionary is helpful throughout the course – luckily, one of the best complete dictionaries is available for free online, as a searchable database: The Pāli Text Society’s Pāli English Dictionary


A few facts about the course:

Content: 24 Lectures, amounting to 3.5 hours + 24 Factsheets + 13 Vocabulary Lists + many Exercises
Duration: 4-5 weeks based on 3-4 hours of self-study per week
Difficulty: Absolute Beginner (no previous knowledge required)

Note that once bought, your access to the course does not expire. When we update the course – for example by adding material or exercises – you will automatically have access to the new version.

This course is the first Level of our 3-Level Pāli instruction. Level 2 and Level 3 are already available.


Learning Objectives for Pāli Level 1:

  • Understand the early history of Pāli, including the reasons why Pāli can be considered to be the language of the Buddha
  • Develop proficiency in the Pāli alphabet and sound system: you will learn how to read and pronounce Pāli correctly
  • Build up a foundational level of Pāli vocabulary
  • Nouns: Become adept in the system of nominal inflection
  • Verbs: Receive a comprehensive overview of the Pāli verbal system, and gain an advanced knowledge of present tense conjugations
  • Pronouns: Learn how to use the 1st, 2nd and 3rd person pronouns
  • Learn how the principle of concord works: how nouns/pronouns, adjectives and verbs connect to create meaning
  • Get introduced to difficult aspects of Pāli syntax, including various uses of the verb to be: the copula, its omission, apposition, statements of possession etc.
  • Be able to form and translate complex Pāli sentences
  • Understand the grammar of two important Pāli chants: homage to the Buddha, and going for refuge

11 reviews for Pāli Level 1

  1. ken

    The course does a great job of breaking things down into bite size chunks. Progressing through the lessons, one is struck by how compact each one is, but at the same time they’re presented in a way that one will naturally come to understand more than just the sum of the lessons. It makes the underlying web visible so that one sees both the content and how each section ties together. My only complaint, if it can be called such, is that occasionally I run across a certain concept and the lesson doesn’t give it quite enough attention so that I’m left not quite understanding the how or the why. This is undoubtedly more an issue with the difference between how I learn and how the course is taught.

  2. gregoryhschmidt

    I’m halfway through the course material and am already convinced I’ll be signing up for Level 2. It may seem to get started slowly, but the introductory lessons provide good context as well as a foundation for translating Pali. If you already speak/read an inflected language, this portion will be relatively easy.
    The fact that printed resources are included is a big plus. I like being able to refer to a piece of paper with my charts on it as I’m going through the exercises online.
    I know the course will continue to get more challenging, but the material seems to be presented in a fashion that is manageable.
    I’m glad that this is work at your own pace, so I can work on it as my schedule allows (morning, noon, or night).

  3. pljones01

    I’ve tried to learn Pāli on my own several times, but have always found the memorization of declensions and conjugations and my lack of knowledge of the grammar overcame my enthusiasm for learning the language. I’m about halfway through level 1 of the course and am feeling that OCBS has done a very good job of breaking things down into manageable components and explaining the details of how the language functions quite clearly. Perhaps best of all, the focus of the course is teaching us to read the language without first memorizing all of the grammar tables! Doing the modules has felt fun to me.

  4. Carlos / bibliothecabuddhica

    I have just completed Pāli Level 1 and I cannot but recommend it to all those interested in Pāli and in Buddhism in general.
    It is ideal for those who are new to the language as no previous knowledge of it is required, but also for those who have been exposed to it at any level and would like to revise it systematically.
    Despite some minor technical and editorial issues which are being quickly addressed and corrected, its format is both concise and flexible, which allows learners to come back to the material provided and to the instructional videos for clearly delivered explanations. I find the advice provided on how to study the language totally spot on and the pace of the lesson both achievable and motivating.
    I encourage all to take this course and hopefully enjoy it as much as I have. I look forward to doing Level 2 and Level 3.

  5. chenguoming1

    Previously i was studying myself by reading some of the Primer books, but didn’t have much progress since it was too boring for me to do the exercises after each chapter.
    The scheme this course provided is very suitable for an adult to progress in learning the Pali, especially it encourages reading by looking up the grammar tables and vocabulary indexes.

  6. mplant

    This is an excellent, no nonsense, Pali course. The video explanations are clear, while fact sheets for each lesson are available for review. I find learning Pali a bit of a struggle since I’m not naturally inclined to learning languages much as I enjoy it. This course makes learning Pali a pleasure. I am especially grateful for the comments sections of each lesson. All my questions have been answered by the Pali team at Oxford in the most helpful way. All required resources are provided: grammar tables, vocabulary lists and indexes. Further, this course bounces us right into the Pali canon. This is wonderful since the Pali Canon is the point. I’m in the middle of the course and already feel more confident in my reading of the tipitika even read in English. Great work. Looking forward to moving through all three levels, the long haul.

  7. Megha Tayade

    Thank you Prof. Alex for this wonderful Pali course. Got exposure to so many minute details required for correct Pali translation. This course is really a treasure for all those who are learning and who want to learn Pali language. The lectures along with the factsheets are very helpful. Thankyou for this excellent course.

  8. Marjan Ossebaard

    This course is absolutely wonderful. I very much enjoyed it (level 1). Didactically it is excellent. Whenever it got difficult, my questions have been answered by the team in a very helpful way (always quick responses!). What I really like is that you can go at your own pace, and repeat lessons as often as you like. But most important: I never thought learning Pali would be so much fun!

  9. Jeffrey Loree

    Excellent introductory course. The design, content, and delivery of the course was top notch!!!!

  10. Rahul Ravi Rao

    I am thankful to the entire core team of OCBS for designing such a valuable online Pali course, so that we can learn all the minute details, with the help of questions and answers. Content taken for level 1 is incredibly educative for learning Pali language. Certainly helped me in understanding and applying the grammar appropriately.

  11. Steven Schoonover

    Just completed the Pali level 1 course. I am extremely grateful for the clear and concise teaching content. Pali grammar was elucidated for me and presented in very digestible lessons. This is a Great course and I will certainly be taking more. Thank You!

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