Sunday, January 08, 2012

English Speaking Bhutanese

I went to have a lunch in a restaurant (I will not disclose the name and place of restaurant), I ordered and was waiting while sipping coffee. A middle aged, fair lady accompanied by a kid sat on the table beside mine. Again, after few minutes a well dressed, a stout-looking man joined her. They greeted each other by saying, "Hi" and "Hello". The lady introduced her child to the man. Instantly, the kid said, "HAPPY NEW YEAR." Then they started their conversation (just a normal conversation) in English. The Dzongkha words, like, 'laa', 'apa', etc., have been frequently used throughout their conversation. I just enjoyed listening to them and involuntarily my ears cocked in a comical manner to absorb more from their conversations. To my surprise, I was not happy; bit dejected and felt ill-at-ease.

I rested my chin on my palm and started thinking; why should ordinary Dzongkha speaking Bhutanese use second language? Their fluency was good, but still, it was quite uneasy for me to bear with the situation. I don't mean to undermine the importance of global language, it is even more important than our own language owing to its global acceptance and with our country opening its door to globalization. English is definitely a language of an opportunity and has more influences than our own.

I am not having Anglophobia. But, it is about making our own dialects and languages more popular so that it doesn't disappear for future generations. The kids grown up in urban areas have difficulty in communicating in Dzongkha or they pretend not to know, which they sometimes they feel as a fashionable. As far as modern social norms are concerned, those who can speak better in English are rated bit higher in social status quo. This gives all fellow Bhutanese a special task to ponder; Are we okay with it? For instance, the kid who said, "HAPPY NEW YEAR", must have thought it is trend to say so without any hesitation. After some years every kid might be conditioned to speak so and the situation may be reached when we realise it is too late to teach them Dzongkha. After all, "An old dog cannot learn a new tricks."

We are fully aware of the benefits that the Bhutan has reaped by using English. The international consultations, technical works and studies, etc., in which English finds its place cannot be replaced by our language in one generation or two. Even if we do it, the usage will remain minimal owing to our kingdom’s tininess. That’s the bitter truth. So, still I feel English always remain with us for our own benefit but not at the expense of our native language. I strongly encourage ourselves to be fluent with English in certain areas. It is more appropriate to use English in areas like, while discussing technical issues (where we don’t have technical terms in our own language), or may be acceptable while two people having different mother tongue (Nepali or Sharchop) converse and there may be few other more apposite situations which I am oblivion of. But what sense does it make if I speak in English with my relatives. We are more fluent in our own language than English. I definitely will improve my competency in English but still why I am so much bothered? The impending effect here is, our gullible yet innocent younger brothers and sisters will be easily lured to speak and hence jeopardizing our own language. It may be advisable for us to use it in some situations and also concomitantly let our youngsters learn the language but not the extend where they don’t learn how to even carry out normal conversations like it is happening these days.

Once more, I reiterate here saying that I am not undermining the significance of English in our society as well as for the nation but my only concern is about letting our youngsters to preserve our own language. Because it is the reason why Bhutan has her own standing and it should serve as a tool to distinguish us from others. There can be no funnier situations than to have our native speakers not know how to speak our inherited language.
While writing so, I don't mean to be perfect in language, but, it is just my view.
No offence intended for anyone.


  1. Yes Tshewang, in this 21st-century it has become a kind of fashion for our generation speaking such. And know its our responsibility to correct it. Nice work!!! keep writing. Enjoyed reading it.

  2. Really true Tshewang !!! as a saying it is better to have one good friend than 1000 enemies . it is better to excel in our own language than trying to fashion out other languages....

  3. Well done, Tshewang La. Even though I am a teacher (of English, among other subjects), I recognize both the truth and the poignancy of what you say. You describe an important problem -- and one that is more common than you might expect (although probably particularly severe in the Land of the Druk because of the historical association with English). The problem is also a difficult one.

    I would like to teach in Bhutan. I would also like very much to learn to speak and understand Dzongkha.