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Languages of Nepal – A Cultural Bonanza

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Nepal is a fascinating country with 126 ethnic groups speaking 123 regional languages. Languages in Nepal are as unique as their varied linguistic influences.

Nepal is a land of multiple languages, and most of the people here can understand and speak English. It is this factor that makes communication easy for tourists from across the globe.  The Tibeto-Burmese language is the largest in terms of the number of languages. The Indo-Aryan language family is the largest in terms of the number of speakers. Nepali is the official language of Nepal.

Historical Significance of Languages in Nepal

Maithili is the second most spoken language in Nepal. This language is spoken extensively in the districts which are in Himalayan foothills. It dated back to the 16th and 17th centuries and was used in the Malla kings’ era. Maithili was one of the languages used in ancient music pieces in South Asia.  The origins of this language can be traced back to Nepal.

Uniquely placed, the Newari community to date has a distinct mark on the cultural canvas of Nepal. Newari is a Sino-Tibetan language. It was the official language of this kingdom in the 14th and 18th centuries.  It is the language of this ethnic tribe of Kathmandu Valley.  Despite the advent of English, this ancient language has still retained its original flavor even though fewer speakers are present.

Languages that unite Nepal and its neighbors

As Nepal is landlocked, the languages of Nepal form a unifying factor with its neighboring countries.  As a result, languages bind China, India, Tibet with Nepal.  A language that blends Nepal with its neighbor India happens to be Bhojpuri.  It is spoken extensively in the southern part of the country in areas adjacent to the Bhojpuri-speaking Indian states. Quite similar to Maithili, it is also recognized as one of the national languages of the country.

Yet another example is Tamang, a Sino-Tibetan Nepali language, which is an official language, is widely spoken.  It is spoken in many of Nepal’s key tourist circuits and oft-visited districts in Nepal. Scattered along Nepal’s trekking routes, the Tamang villages dot Nepal’s trekking routes. Therefore, as you trek along some of the famous trekking routes, you will encounter this beautiful language.

Sherpa is another Sino-Tibetan language and is spoken exclusively by the Sherpas in Nepal. The Sherpas are said to be the ethnic group of people who migrated from Tibet, and therefore their culture and language are similar to the Tibetans. On the other hand, Tharu, the language of an Indo-Iranian influence, also showcases Nepal’s cultural diversity.

English In Nepal

Nepal adopted English as a foreign language. As tourism flourished, English became a bridge for Nepalese to communicate with people visiting this beautiful country.  With the government giving a boost to tourism, English flourished, and now it is a language known to most Nepalese people. Therefore, the English spoken here has a distinctive form and variation, and it is best to refer it to as Nepalese English.

Spoken clearly with an accent, this has its own unique features and is spoken extensively by Nepal’s people. Consequently, as you travel through the country, you will hear Nepalese English is spoken extensively. As good as being termed as their second language. So stay assured, the language will not be a barrier to transacting business while touring this beautiful Nepal country.

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