Language – Multiple Tongues

Linguistically, Bhutan intrigues monolingual people from larger countries when they come to know that a tiny country like Bhutan has more than twenty different languages. This is due largely to the topography of the nation where people have lived in isolation for centuries. Although, some would argue that these are dialects and not languages because they share a lot of vocabulary, they are not mere dialects but different languages for each one of them have their own linguistic variations.

Dzongkha is the national language. It is known as Ngalongkha or the language of the Ngalong region because it is widely spoken in the western region. As all government offices and monastic institutions were housed in Dzongs, Ngalongkha slowly came to be known as Dzongkha, literally meaning the language of the Dzong. Dzongkha is the only written language so far and it is written using Tibetan alphabets.

Two other major languages are Tsanglakha or Sharchopikha ‘ the language of the easterners; and Lhotsamkha ‘ the language of the southerners.

Other languages meriting mention are Khengkha – spoken in the south-central region and Bumthangkha spoken in the four valleys of Bumthang. Mangdepkha is another language spoken in Trongsa. Chocha Ngacha/Tsamangpikha is another language which is spoken in some parts of Kurtoe, Mongar and Trashi Yangtse.