Tuesday Aug 9, 2022
Tuesday Aug 9, 2022

Is the Nepali language dying out?

Adults are worried that the youth of Nepal may have a hard time as their understanding of the Nepali language is depleting.

2022 Mar 11, 7:23,
High school students in an English class.

One would think, growing up in Nepal, speaking Nepali should not be a problem. After all, that is the medium through which virtually everyone communicates. From parents talking to their newborn babies to the framing of the constitution, Nepali is the language used everywhere. All these reasons would make one think that any ordinary Nepalese citizen can speak the official lingua franca of the nation. While that has been a simple fact for many decades, the case may be changing among the Nepalese youth, especially in more developed parts of the nation.

This undated image shows students in Nepal. Photo courtesy: World Bank Nepal/Twitter
This undated image shows students in Nepal. Photo courtesy: World Bank Nepal/Twitter

“From what I’ve seen, with each passing year, students are finding the Nepali language harder,” says Sadhana Choudhary, a Nepali teacher from Bharatpur. “That isn’t to say that they cannot speak at all, they obviously can. But you will rarely find them speaking in pure and fluent Nepali. They seem to have many more problems with the language than previously seen.”

Choudhary’s comments do hold true. At present, the fluency in the national language has decreased among the children and it impacts all parts of their communication. From not being able to count properly to requiring direct translations for more technical and complex terms, the older members of society almost certainly see this as a problem for the future.

“It’s anyone’s guess as to how they will lead their lives in the future,” Choudhary continues. “Governmental notices, business contracts, and almost everything is released in Nepali. If they can’t even read the language of the nation, what will they even do?”

Kailash Bhattarai, also a Nepali teacher, did not hold back when talking about the problem, “It’s insulting, embarrassing, shameful if you are a Nepalese and can’t speak Nepali! When you talk about your national identity, that includes the language. So, not knowing the language means you are losing part of your identity.”

A Nepali teacher in primary school.
A Nepali teacher in primary school.

However, the youth themselves do not feel like this is as big a problem as their elders perceive it to be. The situation is not so dire, they feel, and there are bigger problems that they have to focus on.

“This is basically a mound made into a mountain,” says Anubhav Khadka, a 22-year-old. “We may not be fluent in Nepali, so what? It’s not like we cannot speak in it at all. And even if it did, would that mean that we aren’t Nepalese? By that definition, a Newar who can only speak Newari is also not a Nepalese. That is a blasphemous claim!”

However, the youth do recognise that their level of speaking, writing and understanding the Nepali language overall is lower than past generations. When asked why this may be the case, Khadka replied, “I’d say the biggest reason is schools being English-medium rather than Nepali-medium. I’m not trying to say the English-medium schools are bad. But is it right for our parents and other family members to think that we would be stronger in Nepali instead of English when we speak and learn the majority of our courses in the latter?”


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