Dzongkha’s losing battle

If things went by the book, Dzongkha – the national language, would scale a whole new level of ‘weird’ with the average Bhutanese who is clueless about most words in the Dzongkha Dictionary.

Ten in Ten Bhutanese don’t play ‘Gongdo Tetha’, they play Snooker and, people hit the discotheques on weekends not ‘Zir Zir Tro khang’.

Likewise, Bhutanese are familiar with the game of badminton not ‘Shogdro-pharful tshurful’, as is called in the dictionary.

Ever since its advent into the country and its school curricula, English has hugely picked-up in terms of popularity and usage. Contrarily, Dzongkha appears to have remained static in its progress to become a dynamic and nationally used language.

It’s usage for the youth is confined within the school walls.

The general opinion is, with the complexity of the grammar and spellings and the strange concoctions that its translation generates from English words, nobody dares to speak the dictionary-directed Dzongkha.

Dzongkha specialist from Dzongkha Development Commission (DDC), Dasho Sangay Dorji said people misunderstand the translation of the words, because people hardly use the translated words and that’s the reason why it is strange to hear.

“It is people’s responsibility to learn how to use the translated words than to ask us to make it user friendly and to simplify the translation,” said Dasho Sangay Dorji.

He said Dzongkha has very less scope which is why Bhutanese don’t give importance to it. There should be more jobs for those proficient in Dzongkha and government should work toward it.

An administrative assistant, Pema, said “I always scored above 80 in Dzongkha while in school but I prefer English at  workplace because it is simple and easy compared to Dzongkha”.

Those in-tune with the idiosyncrasy said it only needs a little effort and one should get the hang of it.

A BBS Reporter , Karma Wangmo said, “I don’t have a problem with Dzongkha and I enjoy reading, speaking and writing it. The youth should keep up with Dzongkha. It is very important.”

An RICBL employee Tenzin said Dzongkha is the national language and everyone should make an effort to uphold it. “Instead, the youth make fun of it picking on words which sound typical,” he said.

Dzongkha Development Training Institute’s proprietor, Tolly said, “To safeguard the sovereignty of the nation, we must preserve Dzongkha. The youth including graduates struggle with it, their grammar and silly spelling mistakes show how bad they are in-it. I fear no one will speak and learn Dzongkha in near future”.

He said Dzongkha could be simplified to make it more user-friendly, instead of introdcing exotic words, makingng it more complex.

Tashi Wangchuk owner of the Dzongkha language Institute said, Government and the Education system have picked up English as a medium of communication in schools rather than giving priority to Dzongkha”.

He said, the government does not use Dzongkha as a medium of communication in meetings and other important gatherings. He said even if it is a meeting with foreign delegates, there should be an interpreter in-between.

Currently Dzongkha is barely the medium of communication in meetings, offices,  sports field, restaurants or bars.

Ugyen Yangtshok, a graduate from Royal Thimphu College said, “I think it is Government’s responsibility to promote Dzongkha otherwise  it will go extinct”.

A Sherubtse College graduate said, “I think my parents and the government should be responsible for it. Firstly parents because I was taught to speak in English since my childhood days and now I am facing difficulties. Secondly the government as in schools and colleges less importance is stretched for Dzongkha.”

A widely expressed view among the youth is that students learn Dzongkha just to get-by exams. There is also the peer-pressure to look at Dzongkha as a language spoken by those with a low ‘cool-quotient’, as a language employed solely by conservative people.

These are some expressed factors that deter the young and impressionable from freely wielding the language. Students also say that, Dzongkha is not as important and applicable as English which is an international language.

Even in parliament except for a few well-versed MPs, most of them struggle to lay-down their arguments.

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  1. Dzongkha Expert

    Yes it sounds so weird.Just see the word you mentioned “Gongdo Tetha”.If a normal people hears it then he/she will be made to believe that someone is talking about “:Egg Stick” haha.O is there someone in DDC who can do better translation and esthetic to hear too?Do you expect our young generation to say “Gongdo Tetha” instead of Snooker?I don’t think so.
    Unless DDC comes with some meaning full and esthetic words to pronounce we don’t have much hope promoting the national language, it will remain as “ZIR ZIR..whether it makes any sense or not 

  2. DDC has people who are good neither in english nor in dzongkha. Thats the root problem

  3. I think certain things are best left untouched. Therefore, certain words like snooker, badminton, discotheques (and many more) should be used as they are in english. Calling snooker as snooker in dzongkha only makes people understand it properly instead of someone looking for an “egg stick”. There is no shame in not having a word in dzongkha for snooker because there was no snooker in Bhutan before and similarly for other words. So, I think we should be more logical and practical instead of making ourselves jackasses and in the process demoting dzongkha instead of promoting it.

  4. While I agree that we need to preserve our national language, the way DDC is going about it is really a cause for concern. Why do they insist on wasting so much money by coining new words which at the end of the day, no one is going to use, not because we don’t want to use them, but because it sounds ridiculous.

    Take for example, Zir Zir Trokhang, now who in his/her right mind is going to use such a term when wanting to go to a discotheque, unless, of course they wanted to lose their girl/boy friends.

  5. well the national language is mportant for the nation. When it comes to indvidual need we are all craving to get  job. Will the experts of dzongkha give us a job? The 2 sitting secretaries of ddc got their red scarf y bluffing to others and even the future ones will continue to get honored. If lyonpo sangay ngodup could chair the WHO it ws not because of his eloquence n dzongkha but his communicating sklls in english. why do you want to kill the talents of young bhutanese by making dzongkha as the medium of instruction in schools. Only those scoundrels craving for power and the honour will spoil others chldren aand send their own children to St Pauls as they wll have influence and money to do such crooked. Pha yul pongwa gyaltse lag len yin 

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