Bhutan has a diverse linguistic landscape. The Dzongkha language is the country’s national language. Most languages spoken in the country belong to the Tibeto-Burman language family. Here is a list of languages that are spoken in Bhutan.
Tibetan Languages Spoken in Bhutan
Dzongkha: The Official and National Language of Bhutan
The Sino-Tibetan language of Dzongkha serves as the mother tongue of the Bhutanese people residing in eight western districts of the country. The language is used in government administration and as the medium of instruction in Bhutan’s schools. The language uses the Tibetan alphabet for writing. As of 2013, there are about 171,080 native speakers of Dzongkha. Studying Dzongkha is compulsory in schools across the country. In the southern and eastern districts of Bhutan, the language serves as a lingua franca.
Closely related to Dzongkha, the Chocangaca language is spoken in eastern Bhutan’s Mongar and Lhuntse Districts. The Southern Tibetic language is spoken by about 20,000 people.
The Southern Tibetic language of Lakha is spoken in central Bhutan’s Trongsa and Wangdue Phodrang Districts. There are about 8,000 Lakha speakers in the country, who are mostly descendants of the yakherd pastoral communities.
An endangered Southern Tibetic language, the Brokkat language is spoken by only about 300 residents in the Dhur village located in central Bhutan’s Bumthang District.
The Southern Tibetic language of Brokpa is spoken in parts of eastern Bhutan’s Trashigang District. Speakers of this language trace their origins to the pastoral yakherd groups of Bhutan.
The indigenous Layaps who are descendants of nomadic or semi-nomadic cattle herders, living in northwest Bhutan’s high mountains, speak the Laya language. Most speakers of this language live at altitudes above 3,850 meters.
The language is spoken in Eastern Bhutan by about 1,000 people.
East Bodish Languages Of Bhutan
The language is spoken in the Bumthang and neighboring districts of Bhutan by about 20,000 speakers. It is the main language of Central Bhutan.
The language is spoken in south-central Bhutan’s Mongar, Zhemgang, and Trongsa Districts by about 40,000 speakers.
The East Bodish language of Kurtöp is spoken in Bhutan’s Lhuntse District. As of 1993, there were 10,000 Kurtöp speakers who mainly resided in Kurtoe Gewog.
The Dzala language is spoken in the Trashiyangtse and Lhuntse Districts of eastern Bhutan by about 15,000 speakers.
The language is spoken in the Black Mountain region of Bhutan by about 10,000 people.
The language is spoken in western Bhutan’s Black Mountains region. There are about 1,000 speakers of Ole, mainly concentrated in the Trongsa and Wangdue Phodrang Districts of the country.
The language is spoken in eastern Bhutan’s Trashigang District.
The Chali language is spoken in eastern Bhutan’s Mongar District by about 8,200 speakers. The language is primarily spoken along the Kuri Chu river’s east bank in Chhali Gewog.
Other Tibeto-Burman Languages Of Bhutan
The language is the mother tongue of the Sharchops and is spoken in eastern Bhutan, where it is a dominant language. There are about 138,000 speakers of the language.
An endangered language, the Gongduk is spoken by about 1,000 people living in remote villages along the banks of eastern Bhutan’s Kuri Chhu river.
About 2,000 Lepcha people living in Bhutan speak the Lepcha language that is written using the Lepcha script.
The Lhokpu language is spoken by about 2,500 people in Bhutan.
Indo-Aryan Languages Spoken In Bhutan
The Nepali language is spoken mainly in southern Bhutan by about 265,000 Lhotshampa people living in the country. The Lhotshampa are Bhutanese residents of Nepalese descent, commonly referred to as southerners in the country. The Nepali language is the only Indo-Aryan language spoken by a significant majority in Bhutan.
Border Languages Spoken In Bhutan
The Sikkimese is a Tibetan language that is spoken by the Bhutia people in the Sikkim-Bhutan border in Western Bhutan, and also in Nepal and the Sikkim state of India.
The Tibetan language of Groma is spoken by the Tibetans living along the Tibet-Bhutan border.
A language of the Tibeto-Burman family, the Toto language is spoken by the people of the Toto tribe along Bhutan’s border with the Indian state of West Bengal.
What Languages are Spoken in Bhutan?
The Sino-Tibetan language of Dzongkha serves as the mother tongue of the Bhutanese people residing in eight western districts of the country. The language is used in government administration and as the medium of instruction in Bhutan’s schools. The language uses the Tibetan alphabet for writing.
About the Author
Oishimaya is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. She has earned her Ph.D. degree and is presently engaged in full-time freelance writing and editing. She is an avid reader and travel enthusiast and is sensitively aware of her surroundings, both locally and globally. She loves mingling with people of eclectic cultures and also participates in activities concerning wildlife conservation.
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