I'm currently in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia after having travelled through Inner Mongolia, China - which I'll return to when my current visa expires.

I bought an English-Mongolian dictionary before I left Inner Mongolia because there they still use the traditional Mongolian script and I have a deep interest in languages and writing systems. (Here in (Outer) Mongolia they use the (Russian) Cyrillic script.

Mongolian calligraphy from WikiMedia Commons
(Mongolian calligraphy from WikiMedia Commons)

Today in a non-tourist cafe in town I happened to meet the former Mongolian Minister of Culture, who had just returned from a trip to Azerbaijan where UNESCO added the Mongolian ger and traditional Mongolian calligraphy to the world heritage list of intangible cultural assets.

All this increases my interest and I'm wondering if there's somewhere I can learn a bit about Mongolian calligraphy either here in UB, or when I get back to Hohhot, Inner Mongolia after Christmas.

I'm most interested in something free or cheap or donation-based that's mainly there to promote Mongolian culture rather than profit from tourists. I don't have much money so I don't mind if it's not too in-depth or too serious. Perhaps something similar to a community college, cultural centre, or language interchange.

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    Get to know a Mongolian girl, there will be a lot of interchanging including language! Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 0:13
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    Actually the Mongolian girl in my guesthouse in Hohhot wrote down a bunch of things for me in Mongolian script with a gel pen. I'll definitely ask her to teach me the alphabet when I go back but she was more interested in her smartphone than the lesson. (Anyway the Chinese girl I met there was cuter and more interested in hairy Australian men but didn't know Mongolian!) Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 1:36
  • ...the long haired dictionary...
    – Will
    Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 7:08
  • That image there reminds me of Hiragana. In fact, a few of the symbols are written basically identically, although the usage would probably be pretty different. Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 18:32

3 Answers 3


Not physically in Mongolia, but since you have internet access: http://www.memrise.com/course/135213/classical-mongolian-script/

Tourists (or anybody) can lightly (or heavily) study Mongolian script in Inner or Outer Mongolia (or Outer, outer Mongolia).

On a serious note, I think the best way to study a language is self-study (at your own pace) combined with trying out what you've studied with natives.

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    Memrise is pretty good but it's not interactive in the sense of being able to ask your teacher or helpful native speaker for clarification of something you can't quite get when something is missing or unclear in your materials. And for traditional Mongolian script there are few materials for an English speaker. It's mostly in Chinese or Cyrillic Mongolian. Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 7:53
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    I've started the Memrise course. It's OK for getting familiar with the shapes of the letters and syllables. But that's not calligraphy or even handwriting. It doesn't teach you the technique and style, which is what I think I might only be able to get a taste of here. Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 2:14
  • Ah, like learning latin letters as Times New Roman font as opposed to learning how to write latin letters.
    – Will
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 4:15
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    Calligraphy is actually an art. Mongolian seems to be a bit like Chinese/Japanese in that the way to write it tends to be related to calligraphy moreso than in languages like English, and that a brush is the usual writing implement. But when I say "lightly" study I'm open to learning to write with a pen since really learning the calligraphy would require more time and money than I have. Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 4:32

There are calligraphers who sell their calligraphy in UB. For instance, outside the bookstore on 6 Floor of State Department Store there are often stands selling calligraphy. I can't say for sure, but I think they might be delighted if they found a foreigner who was interested in their work. And of course, it will also help them eke out an income if you pay them.

I have a page up on understanding the script -- which is calligraphically beautiful but not easy to grasp.

Good luck!

  • Yes I think I may have found these calligraphers not long before I left Mongolia. I know your page by the way and found it to be perhaps the best resource but the dissonance between the handwritten style, the print style, Unicode mapping, keyboard input, and possibly broken fonts meat that I left Mongolia still unable to read the script. Does your site have a forum? Commented Feb 9, 2014 at 5:15

The first steps in learning to write calligraphy is understanding the basic writing system. For that @Bathrobe's site is great. Also check out StudyMongolian.net. This is more intended for teaching spoken Mongolian, but all of the lessons include the traditional written script. You could use it to learn to read and write.

When you want to get more artistic, check out the book below. It has all kinds of samples and styles of traditional Mongolian calligraphy. I used it when I was working on a calligraphy project and it was really helpful. If you are in Hohhot you can find a copy at one of the Mongolian book shops at the culture market (文化商城) near Inner Mongolia University.

Mongolian Calligraphy

Then if you are looking for a tutor, trading English for Mongolian is a good cheap way to do it. I've used this method quite a bit. Try ConversationExchange.com if you are not in the area, but if you are in the area ask a Mongolian if they know anyone who would want to do a language exchange. It should only take a few calls and you will have a new language partner. There are lots of Mongolians who would love to have the change to do a language exchange.

  • I could be back there in a few months after I finish travelling around Cambodia and Vietnam, but this time waiting for the weather to warm up a bit. (-: Commented Feb 21, 2015 at 13:50

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