The language of our time is taking another turn when UNESCO stated some of our local languages are at the verge of extinction. Language extinction! The paper ‘Journalist’ reported this year sometime in January that Olepkha, Chalikha, Gongdupkha and Doyapkha are among the most endangered languages of Bhutan.
While some of the languages are vulnerable to extinction, one typical language is taking its shape and getting assimilated into our linguistic culture. That is the typical ‘Dzong-lish’, assimilation of part English and part Dzongkha. Consider this, “Zai dhari nga bazaar na parking mo thob sa” or that “Choe gaira naba text book da note books bag wong go mey”. And as a ‘Bona fide’ Bhutanese I too fall into this category of Dzong-lish speakers.
We are allowing this to happen in our culture. Why culture? Some of us may proudly opine! Language is the medium through which we pass other components of culture to the next generation and if it’s not preserved now, it will be gone from the face of the earth. After all, preserving and promotion of culture is one of the pillars of our lofty vision of Gross National Happiness.
How to preserve culture is not my expertise and it’s not my field of study either. I can only claim that we must make a coordinated effort as teachers, parents, guardians, civil servants, corporate employees, entrepreneurs, officers (you name it) to preserve it. Here’s what my children at school tell their friends, “wai choe pack lunch bag woong yi ga” and teachers too are no exception, “alu dhi tsu, choe gaira paper-pick bay wa soong”, or in a typical morning assembly, “alu ditsu, line straight zo”. Here’s another one, “choe sick in pa chin, BHU soong mey”.
Moreover, as a teacher myself, our children would be excited if Dzongkha is removed from our national curriculum, and I can claim that I have read more books than my colleagues but in English. I didn’t get hold of a Dzongkha book for pleasure reading until now.
It takes so much time to learn Dzongkha and Bhutan is yet to create a group of field-linguists who can actually study and preserve the national language. Youth today consider it ‘hip’ and ‘cool’ to speak in English than in Dzongkha. Why not, except for Dzongkha, all other subjects are taught in English.
Apart from Dzongkha, all other languages do not even have written scripts and is not documented. Today we use text messages written in English to mean something in Dzongkha through our cell phones. If this is not linguistic-cultural dilution then what is it? I am not against the English language as it constitutes the universal language. How many of our office- goers like to officially correspond and write in Dzongkha? Perhaps only a negligible lot I guess.
Dear readers, my suggestion is, learn to speak as many languages as possible for it might come in handy in future. I am writing this to bring this to the notice of our authorities, particularly the MoHCA, Department of culture to do something about it before the vulnerable languages become ‘extinct’ and Dzongkha becomes ‘archaic’.
Thought for the day: There are three sides to any argument; the right side, the wrong side and my side. I can only claim to be on my side.
Happy reading folks!