Bhutan Language

There are two main languages in Bhutan. Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan spoken in most parts of Bhutan and Nepali is spoken by the people of southern Bhutan who are of Nepalese origin.

Dzongkha, the official language of Bhutan, has been derived from the Tibetan language. It has some similarity to Tibetan in speaking, while the alphabets are exactly same as Tibetan (but uses different style of scripts). In Bhutan, English is the the medium of instruction in schools and is therefore spoken widely in the country. Both Dzongkha and English are taught in schools and all students can speak these languages. Although Dzongkha is a major subject in schools, English has taken precedence over Dzongkha in terms of students’ interest and their literacy, because most of the subjects like mathematics, science and geography are taught in English.

All the government documents and the road signs are displayed in two languages namely English and Dzongkha. Likewise, Kuensel, which is the national newspaper of the country, is published in three different languages namely Dzongkha, English and Nepali. Since various villages are isolated many dialects are spoken in the country.

In the central and eastern Bhutan, people speak their own dialects. English is commonly spoken in all towns. If you can speak English, you should not have much problem communicating in Bhutan. If you are in a town, you will find that almost all can speak English. However, if you go to remote villages, it will be helpful if you can speak little bit of Bhutanese.

Since Dzongkha is not written using Roman characters and many sounds in the language do not have a match in the English language, it becomes tedious to write the exact pronunciation translation in English. But, most of the consonants in Dzongkha language are pronounced in the same manner as in English. It must be noticed that the letter “h” after some of the consonants isn’t actually pronounced. For example – “th” is pronounced “ta” as in “take” not “th” as in “thank,” and “ph” is pronounced “pa” as in “pasta” not “ph” as in “phone.” If this is confusing to you, just ignore the “h,” and you will probably still be understood. Anyway there are exception to the rule where “ch,” which is pronounced as “ch” in “much,” and “sh,” which is pronounced as “sh” in “shoe.

“In the language, Dzongkha, vowels are pronounced as follows : “a” as in “mama,” “e” as the “ey” in “they,” “i” as in “bit,” “o” as in “go,” and “u” as the “oo” in “look.”

Few important sentences given below in Dzongkha may be helpful:

Hello kuzo zangpo la
Good-bye legshembe joen (if you’re the person staying)
  legshembe shug (if you’re the person leaving)
Yes ing
No me
No thank you miju
Good luck tashi delek
OK toup
rice chum
chili ema
potato kewa
butter tea suja
How are you? Ga de bay ye?
What is your name? Chhoe gi ming ga chi mo?
My name is Peter. Nge gi ming Peter in.
I am from India. Nga India lay in.
Where is the toilet? Chhabsang ga ti mo?
How much is the cost of this item? Di gi gong ga dem chi mo?
Please reduce the cost a bit. Gong Aa tsi phab nang.
OK I will buy it. Toob, Nga gi nyo ge.
Thank you Kadrin chhe
See ya later. Shoo lay log jay ge.
1 chi
2 ni
3 sum
4 shi
5 nga
6 du
7 din
8 gey
9 gu
10 chutham