Despite its small geographical size and small population of less than a million Bhutanese; Bhutan is a linguistically rich country with over nineteen different languages. Western travellers are often worried about being able to communicate with their guides well, during their once in a lifetime trip to this little kingdom of happiness. Here are the 9 important things that you need to know as far as language is concerned; before travelling to Bhutan.
1. The official language of Bhutan is Dzongkha. The language is native to the Kingdom of Bhutan and is spoken in no other country of the world.
2. Dzongkha uses the same writing script as the Tibetan language; this makes the two languages closely related! However, when it comes to the composition and pronunciation of words, Dzongkha is sufficiently different that Tibetans cannot understand it.
3. English language is one of the medium of instruction in schools, so most educated people in Bhutan can understand English & speak it fluently.
4. In fact, signboards, restaurant menu cards, books & newspapers throughout the country are found mostly in English language. Also, road signs, informative documents and official documents are all written in both English and Dzongkha.
5. Kuensel is the national newspaper of Bhutan and it is published in both English & Dzongkha languages. Kuensel, in English means Clarity! The government of Bhutan owns 51% of Kuensel while 49% is held by the public.
6. Many remote regions within Bhutan, with sparse population, are isolated from the rest of the country; this is mainly due to lack of transport infrastructure. As such, it is common for regional population to have their own language. Despite its small geographical size, Bhutan is a linguistically rich country with over nineteen different languages.
7. Some regional languages are so different that people from other parts within Bhutan can’t understand each other.
8. Apart from Dzongkha and English, other widely spoken & well-understood languages in Bhutan are Nepali & Hindi.
9. The Dzongkha Development Commission (DDC) carries out planning for promotion of Dzongkha through the education system and public service in the country. It has also established a system for transliterating Dzongkha into Roman script. The D.D.C works with a vision to make Dzongkha the main medium of communication for every Bhutanese while preserving other languages of Bhutan.
Despite the small number of speakers, the Dzongkha Development Commission has managed to provide Dzongkha language support for Windows, Apple Macintosh & Linux computers. Popular web browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox & Microsoft’s Internet Explorer also provide support for Dzongkha speakers. In addition, the GoldenDict application with DDC Dzongkha Dictionaries can be downloaded from the official website of Dzongkha Development Commisison.
As a tourist, you will find that most of your information needs are met by your Bhutanese tour operator and guide. Plus, you can always reach out to the Tourism Council of Bhutan, in case of uncertainty.
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