Evolution of Languages in Bhutan


Small country like Bhutan has more than twenty different languages. Most children in Bhutan grown up speaking multiple language.

 The linguistics landscape of Bhutan is changing very fast and dramatically. It is very likely that in few decades most dialects and many minor languages will be dead.

Some of the languages that are prevalent in Bhutan are;

Dzongkha- Dzongkha is a modern name for the language spoken in the western valleys. It is known as Ngalongkha or the language of the Ngalong region. Ngalongkha became the dominant medium for official transactions as the political offices were mainly based in area where it was spoken. Ngalongkha became official language in the administrative offices and momastic institutions based in large døng. Ngalongkha slowly came to be known as Dzongkha, the languguage of the Dzong. Bhutan adopted Ngalongkha as the national language in the 1960s.

Dzongkha is the only written local language so far and it is written using Tibetan alphabets. Dzongkha is spoken as the native tongue by people of the Haa, Paro, Chukkha, Thimphu, Punkaha, Gasa, Wangdiphodrang and Dagana districts.


Bumthangkha  is mainly spoken in the four valleys of Bhumthang and split into numerous dialects. Bumthangkha is spoken as far as Kurtoes, the upper course of Mangduechu river to the east and as far as Nubchutoe, the upper course of Mangechu river to the west.


Khengkha is spoken south of Bumthang and as far as the Panbang area in lower Zhemgang. Due to the vast area the language covers the rough terrains, the difference in the various dialect is intense. The language is closely linked to Bumthangkha and it is plausible that it orginated from older version of Bumthangkha.


 The Kurtop language is spoken in the northwestern part of kortoe district around the Lhuntse area. The area is geographically connected to Bumthang with which it had strong historical relations.


Tsangla is spoken by a large percentage of people in Bhutan as the eastern districts are more densely populated than other parts of Bhutan. Tsangla is known as sharshopikha, the language of the easterners. The language is also spoken in small pockets of Arunachal Pradesh in india and in southern Tibet, where the language spread with groups which emigrated from Bhutan.


The Olekha is spoken by the people living near black mountain range un central Bhutan. The people are called Monpa by other Bhutanese and some researchers have speculated that they are remnants of the earliest inhabitants of the country. the language spoken by few hundred people and only fluently by a handful of elderly people.


The Lhop language us spoken by the indigenous communities of the lhop and Taba Dramtep in the south western districts of Samtse and north of Phuntsoling. Lhopus were probably the first aboriginal groups encountered by the early Ngalongs during southward expansion in ancient time.


The language of Gongduk is spoken in an isolated area south of Mongar in the Kurichu Valley. Now spoken barely by just over a thousand people. Gongduk langugauge is one of the two languages in Bhutan which has retained complex conjugations which appear to reflect the ancient Tibeto-Burma Verbal agreement system.


In Bhutan , Nepali is spoken by the people of Nepali oergin who have settled in the southern districts of Samtse, Chukha, Sarphang, Tsirang, Dagana and Samdrup Jongkhar in the twentieth century. However , the Bhutanese people of Nepali ancestry are reffered to by the polictically correct term Lhotsampa and their language Lhotsampikha. Many Bhutanese in the midlcand also speak basic Nepali.


Among the langugues commonly spoken in Bhutan, English is certainly the most recent but it is also definitely the fastest-growing language in the country today. The first speakers of English to visit Bhutan were the British envoys in 1770s.

English is the only foreign language taught in Bhutanese Schools. It is now also the dominant medium of official corresponces and written communication with most educated people still incapable of reading and writing in Dzongkha with proficiency. Only those who attend monastic colleges or the only regular college for Bhutans Langugage and culture are able to speak , read and write dzongkha with good command. English is rapidly  gaining ground in Bhutan. Embarrassing and iconic it may sound!


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