More than two dozen languages are spoken in Bhutan, but the national language is Dzongkha. All of the languages are members of the Tibeto-Burman language family except for Nepali, which is an Indo-Aryan language, and Bhutanese Sign language. Dzongkha is the only language with a native literary tradition in Bhutan, although several other languages, such as Nepali, have literary traditions in other countries.
Dzongkha has approximately 160,000 speakers as of 2006. It is the dominant language of Western Bhutan and has been the language of government and education since 1971.
I don’t speak any Dzongkha yet, but I know that I”ll learn some during the upcoming semester. I have heard that some Bhutanese people, mainly in the southern part of the country, speak Hindi. I speak very basic conversational Hindi and I’m hoping that it may come in handy! I’ll write a different post about my experience with Hindi.
Just for fun, the following are some useful phrases in Dzongkha.
- Hello (formal): Kuzu zangpo la
- Hello (informal): Kuzu zangpo
- How are you?: Gaday bay Zhui?
- Thank you: Kadrin chhe la
- I love you: Nga gi che lu ga
Check out the WikiTravel phrase book if you’d like to learn some more Dzongkha phrases! (Haha, why would you? I’m not sure… just for kicks I guess.)