The Kingdom of Bhutan, a small landlocked country nestled in the Eastern Himalayas, is one of the least explored and most unique nations in the world. Known for its stunning natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and focus on Gross National Happiness, Bhutan captivates travelers and scholars alike. One aspect that adds to the charm and fascination surrounding Bhutan is its language heritage. The people of Bhutan speak a variety of languages from the Tibeto-Burman family, with Dzongkha being the national and most widely spoken language.
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Dzongkha: The National Language of Bhutan
Dzongkha, which translates to “language of the fort” in Bhutanese, is the national language of Bhutan and is spoken by the majority of the population. It is a Tibeto-Burman language and shares a linguistic history with Tibetan, with the two being lexically similar. The Tibetan script serves as the basis for the Dzongkha written script.
In order to promote a sense of unity and national identity across the culturally diverse country, the Bhutanese government has made Dzongkha the medium of instruction in schools and the primary language used in government offices. This emphasis on the national language provides all Bhutanese a common ground for communication and shared identity, despite the linguistic diversity in the country.
Bhutan’s Linguistic Diversity
The small population of around 800,000 inhabitants boasts a surprisingly rich linguistic diversity, with at least nineteen different languages spoken throughout the country. These languages are from the Tibeto-Burman family and can be classified into three main groups: the Eastern Bodish group, which includes Dzongkha; the Southern Bodish group, which features Tshangla; and the Tibeto-Burman group, comprising several minority languages.
Apart from Dzongkha, some of the most commonly spoken languages in Bhutan are Tshangla, spoken mostly in eastern Bhutan; Lhotshampa, a Nepali-derived language spoken by people of Nepalese origin in southern Bhutan; and Kheng, a language native to Central Bhutan.
The Role of English in Bhutan
The Bhutanese have also embraced English as an essential language for international communication and development. English is a compulsory subject in Bhutanese schools and serves as the medium of instruction for various subjects in secondary and tertiary education. This initiative to educate the population in English has facilitated the nation’s growth by enabling Bhutanese citizens to engage with and learn from the global community.
In conclusion, though Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan, the country embraces a diverse linguistic landscape reflecting its rich cultural heritage. The Bhutanese government’s decision to promote the use of both their native language and to incorporate English into the education of their citizens demonstrates a profound