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Borrowed words/language

30 Dec 2007 Author dumbo

Let me narrate an incident whereby I had to use borrowed words and language. I made a field visit to Pema Gatshel. My vocabulary in Tsanglakha was very poor and some locals there did not know Dzongkha well. We communicated using borrowed language and words as there was no choice but to get the message through. How sad I felt to converse with our own citizen in our own country in a foreign language. Now do you want to loose what we have? What we call Bhutanese?

Whereas these days, it is not that situation but lot of Bhutanese are using borrowed words without giving a second thought.  Words frequently borrowed into bhutanese conversation are " Nga bank na goni", nga Shabji bazar joni, nga taxi na joni, nga bus na joni, tika tokchiga? chhoegi seat number gaachi mo? time tsangsonu, nga exercise tsi go bay, me di tshu jimili bay du, Me pura dom goen dey mey, nga che nang pa picnic jogey, nang paa kho gey alo gi birthday eng lo, etc. etc.

If everybody talks like that in this generation, I am afraid, in the next generation; the young kids would never know the equivalent word in Dzongkha. Sorry to mention it but even there are people in this generation who do not know the equivalent common dzongkha words. I am not talking about the newly invented words by DDC. They get surprised to hear some Dzongkha words. We can learn these newly invented words if we take interest and if we are worried about our identity.

On the other hand, we talk so much about preserving culture and spend so much money and time to preserve them not taking care of these simple but yet very important thing. 

I am very saddened to write this article for Bhutanese people are becoming very careless and using borrowed words like anything. I have been noticing group of educated bhutanese converse. They would either talk in English or if they are speaking Dzongkha then you will surely hear some foreign words mixed. It has become like a fashion and status symbol also. If talk in English, you consider yourself elite which I feel very funny.

Therefore, I would request nopkin members and the guest readers to kindly be ambassadors to keep our language intact. Please remind others when they do use foreing language or word. Please request them and you too should take causion not to mix words. If you do not know the equivalent word in Dzongkha, ask the other person or someone who knows. There is definitely the DDC to back you up.

There may be another group of citizen who feel that it is OK to use a foreign language or borrow words. Let us know how you feel about it.  

2 responses to “Borrowed words/language”

  1. sangay tenzin says:

    Dzongkha is a hard language, meaning that there are not enough vocabularies to express what we intend to say. For example, what is the Dzongkha equivalent word for one of the most common words used “Love”? I know you would say “gha”, but it would also mean happy, excited, joyous, etc. And ya, we falter over Dzongkha whenever we speak. And in fact I would also say “Bus tika toba jogobay” and I am sure even the lamest person who doesn’t know a head and tail of English wouldn’t either say “Druel-kel Zuen-shog toba jogobay”.


    Its more to do with the comfort in being able to drive home the message than in losing what we have, as you say. If there are equivalent words in Dzongkha which are comfortable and understandable to use, everyone would be happy to use them. And if it is DDC’s mandate to make it possible, it is a mountain of a task! “Ambassador bewa di lakha wong hoi hoi”. Now what is the Dzongkha word for ambassador?… hehe


    But what we can do at best is, try to avoid the foreign words as best as we can and do away with the notion that being able to speak English is something some kind of “great” thing.

  2. Phintsho says:

    nopkin, thank you for expressing your concerns. I do acknowledge the difficulty. It can only be avoided if we live within our means. Use only words we have in Dzongkha, why do you have to look for word equivalent to love. Other thing is that, if we keep on using "Kal dren gi shog zin togba jojobay" it becomes easy. It does not sound wierd. It becomes common.