Most of the sounds used in Tibetan language are similar to those of other languages. Yet, a number of factors that distinguish syllables one from another, such as tone, aspiration, voice and pre-nasalisation, are absent in, or different to, European languages and are often very subtle and difficult to notice for the untrained ear.
The Drájyór (སྒྲ་སྦྱོར་ sgra sbyor = སྒྲ་ sound སྦྱོར་ adjust) phonetic transcription system is designed to allow students and practitioners alike to identify and correctly reproduce these subtle sound differences enabling a correct pronunciation of the language without knowing it in depth.
As inevitable for a language such as Tibetan, Drájyór is a highly technical system and therefore needs to be studied in careful detail in order to be mastered. Consequently it enables its students to a remarkable precision in pronunciation and transmits an accurate knowledge of Tibetan phonology, regardless of the mother tongue of its students. It is also very useful to be studied alongside the Tibetan script as a support for correct pronunciation.
The Drájyór system has been devised by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu on the base of previous work done by Chinese linguists, who started from the hanyu pinyin 汉语拼音 system. Despite its many qualities, it has not been adopted as a standard and it has been in use only during the years in which Chögyal Namkhai Norbu taught in the university of Naples, and is still in use within the Dzogchen Community.
The basic unit of Tibetan language is the syllable. It is generally composed of an initial consonant, in Drájyór mostly a single roman letter, with a few sounds represented by two letters (GY- and DR-) one vowel and, in most cases, a final consonant.