The somewhat small, landlocked country between India and China, Nepal is a land of vast cultural diversity. According to the 2011 census, over 123 languages are spoken in Nepal, most of these belonging to the Indo-Aryan and Sino-Tibetan language families. Mixing up with the locals is a tried and tested way to experience that culture in a better way and feel more like a part of the country than an outsider. So, here's your guide to the popular Nepali languages that will help you go local, and feel welcomed!
Popular Languages Spoken in Nepal
A member of the Pahari subgroup of the Indo-Aryan family, Nepali is the official language of Nepal. It is the mother tongue of almost half of the population of Nepal and understood by a significant chunk of the people who have had education in school. Historically, this language was known as Khaskura (the language of the Khas - rice farmers of Nepal), and Gorkhali (the language of Gorkhas) before the term 'Nepali' was adopted. This language is quite similar to Hindi and is written in Devanagari script. Basic Nepali is relatively easy to learn and will be quite helpful since a large part of the population understands it.
Maithili is the second most prevalent language of Nepal and is widely spoken as a mother tongue in the Eastern Tarai. It spread wide in Nepal in the 16th and 17th centuries, during the rule of Malla dynasty. Today, around 11.57% of the population speak Maithili. In the past, it was written in its own script called Mithilakshar, but today it is written in the Devanagari script. Also, Maithili music is one of the oldest types of music in South Asia which originated here.
A major language of India, Bhojpuri is another regional language spoken in Nepal. Quite similar to Maithili, it is a recognised national language in Nepal. You will find Bhojpuri speaking people mostly in the Southern part of the country which is adjacent to the Indian states - Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
Tamang is an official and also the most widely spoken Sino-Tibetan Nepali language. According to 2011 census, there are 1.35 million Tamang native speakers in Nepal. It will be interesting to get to know Tamang people and experience their culture as it is one of the largest native communities of Nepal and certainly the least affected by the process popularly known as 'Nepalization'. Tamang villages are often visited on Nepal's trekking routes, and one such trek route is called Tamang Heritage Trail.
5. Nepalese English
English in Nepal was adopted as a 'foreign language' in the past, but over the years, it has grown in status and has become an indispensable part of this small country. Nepalese English is a distinctive Nepalese variety of English - a form and accent of the English language with its own unique features, spoken by the people of Nepal. It is most prevalent among the city folk of Kathmandu, who speak English as their second language. This language is widely spoken in the tourism business. Thus, language won't be a major problem here.
Common Nepali Phrases & Translation
Here is a guide to the basic phrases and the most common words that will help you during your stay in Nepal:
Hello - Namaste Yes - Hajur No - Chaina Food - Kanna Water - Paani Tea - Chiya Coffee - Coffee What is your name? - Tapaiko naam ke ho? My name is ____ - Mero naam ____ ho How are you? - Timlai sanchai cha? Thank you. - Dhanyabaad How much is this? - Yes ko kati parchha? Do you have rooms available? - K tapai sanga kunau kotha upalabda cha? I'm a vegetarian. - Ma masu kandina Do you speak English? - Tapaai Angreji bolnuhunchha? I don't understand. - Maile buhjina
Hello. ? Pranaam Please. ? kripa Help! - Kani madaid kôrait jau Thank you. - bahut bahut dhanyabad Yes. - hô No. - naih How are you? - Kushal kine? ''wa'' Saab kushal Mangal? Thank you. - dhanyawaad What is your name? - apne ker shubh naam? My name is ____ - Hammar naam aichh ____ Nice to meet you. - Apne bhetal, badd prasannta bhel How much is this? - I kate ke aichh? Do you speak English? - Apne angreji bhaka baachb janait thikau? Is there someone here who speaks English? - Atay keyo chhathi je angreji bhakha bajbak gyan rôkhait chhaith? I don't understand. - Nai bujhi sakal
Hello ? pranam Yes - haan No - naa Maybe ? shaayad Sorry - maaf karin Please - meharbani karke Thank you - dhanvaad I am fine - sab badhiya ba My name is _____ - hamaar naav _____ ha I'm from ____ - hum ____ e haiin Pleased to meet you - tose mil kar achchha lagal I don't know - humke naikhe maaloom I don't understand - naikhe samajh mein aavat Please speak more slowly - tani aahista aahista bola How much is this? - eeh ketna ha?
Hello - Lasso How are you? - Eda Karangba moula? Fine, thank you. - Jaban moula. What is your name? - Ela min te La? My name is ____. - Ngla min ____. Thank you. - Tujeje Moula. Where is the toilet? - Souchalaire kanang moula? How do I get to _____? - _____ kanangri moula? I want to sleep - huu tojhi I am thirsty. - Kui fuijhi
Keep this translation guide handy and you will be able to start small conversations with the locals and get to know them better. Apart from that, you won't need a local guide to translate every little thing for you. Makes things a bit easier, right? If you wish to learn more, there are other plenty of handbooks, mobile applications and online guides available to help you transcend the language barriers and make the most of your Nepal trip!