Language in Bhutan

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For centuries, the different valleys of Bhutan were isolated from each other by torrential rivers and deep gorges. As a result, most of these valleys developed their own dialects. At present, there are about 13 different dialects spoken in Bhutan.

However, there are three major languages: Dzongkha, Sharchopkha and Nepali. Dzongkha is mainly spoken in the west, Sharchopkha in the east and Nepali in the south. News are broadcast in these three languages from the Bhutan Broadcasting Service in Thimphu on short wave and FM.

Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan. It has some similarity to Tibetan in speaking, while the alphabets are exactly same as Tibetan (but uses different style of scripts). It is also taught in schools and all students can speak Dzongkha and English. Although Dzongkha is a major subject in schools, English has taken precedence over Dzongkha in terms of students' interest and their literacy, because most of the subjects like mathematics, science and geography are taught in English.

If you can speak English, you should not have much problem communicating in Bhutan. If you are in a town, you will see that almost everybody can speak English. However, if you go to remote villages, it will be helpful if you can speak little bit of Bhutanese.

Here are a few important sentences in Dzongkha that may be helpful:

Hello (or greetings). Kuzu Zangpo.

How are you? Ga de bay ye?

What is your name? Chhoe gi ming ga chi mo?

My name is Peter. Nge gi ming Peter in.

I am from Australia. Nga Australia lay in.

Where is the toilet? Chhabsang ga ti mo?

How much is the cost of this item? Di gi gong ga dem chi mo?

Please reduce the cost a bit. Gong Aa tsi phab nang.

OK I will buy it. Toob, Nga gi nyo ge.

Thank you. Kadrin chhe.

See ya later. Shoo lay log jay ge.


sit sit: Zhu Zhu

stand up: Yar long

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