Navigating Through the Various Languages of Bhutan
We communicate to express and we communicate because our existence is pointless without it. We may think sometimes that communication is overrated, but we can not deny the fact that no matter how secretive a person is, communication is an integral part of his/her life. And what are the different means to communicate? Speaking, writing, gestures, signals, eye contacts and whatnot. While the non-verbal communication is universal and does not need a language, verbal communication does! So whenever we speak or write, we do so in a particular language. And every city and country has its own different one. Ever wondered what the languages of Bhutan are? Well, let's take a look.
Languages of Bhutan
There are around 19 dialects spoken in this small Himalayan kingdom. Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan, which literally means 'language of the fort'. It is spoken by more than five hundred thousand people in the country. Being the national language, it is majorly used for administrative purposes, in forts and dzongs. It is the predominant language in western Bhutan.
But Dzongkha is not the only language which is spoken and understood here. There are three other major languages of Bhutan including Tshanglakha, Lhotshamkha and Bumthangkha. Tshanglakha, which is also known as Sharchokpa, is widely spoken in Eastern Bhutan. Lhotshamkha, or Nepali (as we know it), is a major language in Southern Bhutan, while the central regions of the country speak Bumthangkha.
In fact, English is also easily understood by Bhutanese. Instructions and lessons in schools are given in English only. All the legal documents and notices are also issued in English and local guides use it for a smooth conversation with tourists. Apart from this, Hindi is also fairly spoken in the country. Hindi newspapers are being read and Bollywood movies are being watched by the citizens. The popularity of the Hindi language in Bhutan is due to its neighbouring country and one of its closest allies, India.
Some other commonly heard dialects are Mangdepkah, Cho Cha Nga Chang Kha and Lepcha. Monkha and Gongduepkha are now hardly spoken by the people and hence are on the verge of extinction.
However, in small towns, natives might not be very fluent in English or a foreign language. So, here are some of the commonly used phrases for you and their translation in Dzongkha, which might come handy for your use.
Commonly Used Phrases in Dzongkha
1. Hello - Kuzuzangpo La
2. Bye - Tashi Deleck
3. Food - Shay Go
4. Thank You - Kadrin Chey La
5. How are you? - Gaday bay Zhui?
6. One: Chig
7. Two: Ngee
8. Where? - Gatey?
9. Yes - Inn
10. No - Men
11. Sorry - Sorry
12. Excuse Me - Atsi zur nang
13. Nice to Meet you - Nga choe da chebay sem ga yi
Well, you do not really need to bother yourself to learn Dzongkha or any other native language of Bhutan before going there. Language is not a great barrier there, especially in the major cities like Paro and Thimphu, where basic English can be used to converse with the natives. With all this in mind, you are all set to go to Bhutan. So pack your bags and book your tickets! And greet Bhutan with 'Kuzuzangpo' (hello).