What language do they speak in Nepal?

  • Mon-Jul-2019

What language do they speak in Nepal?

Nepal is a diverse land in terms of literally everything; from geography to the cultural aspects, the array for exploration never ends here. Nepal is a multi-religion, multi-cultural and multi-lingual country, with over 100 ethnic groups practicing and following their own custom and culture.

Although small is this country, the range of diversification might be a matter of surprise for its visitors. And of many things, the languages spoken in Nepal can intrigue tourists, as they hear multiple languages in their visit. Well, to know better about languages; offical, indigenous, regional and all, let just dive for more. 

Languages in Nepal

After Nepal was declared as the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, the new constitution has listed 121 languages; 120 languages are still spoken, and one has already become extinct.

Among 120 languages, 110 of them are indigenous, and 10 of them are non-indigenous. And to classify them, even more, eight languages are institutional, 18 of them are developing, 30 are vigorous, 55 are in trouble, and 9 of them are dying.

What is the official language of Nepal?

Nepali is the official language of Nepal spoken throughout the country. Formerly the language was called Khas-Kura, then Gorkhali, before bringing it down to Nepali.

However, what is the most shocking part is, despite being the offical language, the percentage of Nepali speaking people are only 44.64% as per the 2011 national census. 

Nepali language is derived from Sanskrit, and it is considered the closest language to Sanskrit and is written in Devanagari script. Nepal is the official and national language of Nepal that serves as lingua franca among Nepalis of different ethnolinguistic groups.

As per the constitution of Nepal, irrespective of what the official language is, all the languages spoken in Nepal can be used for official purpose and documentation.

What are the regional languages spoken in Nepal?

Geographically, Nepal is divided into three regions; Himalayan, Hilly, and Terai. Terai is the most populated region, while Himalayan is the least, and Hilly is moderately populated. Although there is no official language for these three regions, there are some of the languages mainly spoken here because of the indigenous people residing here for generations.

Let us look into languages that are mainly spoken in a different region of Nepal.

Terai Region

From that 44.64%, Terai region constitutes 13.19% of Nepali speaking people.

The main language of the Terai region is Maithili, which is spoken by 11.7% of the population and ranks first in most spoken language in Terai and second in a national context. It is mainly spoken in the six districts of eastern and central Terai; Sunsari, Saptari, Siraha, Sarlahi, Dhanusha, and Mahottari.

Another popularly spoken language is Bhojpuri by 5.98% of the population and is the third largest language at the national level, but second in Terai. Bhojpuri is mostly spoken in four central Terai district; Rautahat, Bara, Parsa, and Rupandehi.

Tharu language is spoken by 5.77% of the population across the Terai, primarily in two districts of Bardiya and Kanchanpur. It is the fourth largest language at the national level and fourth in Terai.

Other languages spoken in Terai are Bajjika, Urdu, Avadhi, and Rajbansi.

Hilly Region

Of all the three regions, the Hilly region has the highest Nepali speakers with a share of 27.29%.

Tamang is a major language largely spoken in the Hilly region. 

Newari is another main language of Hilly region, but mainly exists in three districts of Kathmandu Valley; Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Lalitpur. 

Another important language of Hilly region is Magar and spoken in many districts including Tanahu, Syangja, Rolpa, Salyan, Surkhet, and Gulmi.

Rai-Kiranti language, including Bantawa, is primarily spread across the eastern Hilly district mainly in Khotang, Udaypur, Bhojpur, Dhankuta, Illam, and Okhaldhunga.

Limbu language is spoken in Panchthar and Tehrathum district and is also largely spoken in Illam and Dhankuta.

Himalayan Region

Only 4.16% population of the Himalayan region speaks the Nepali language.

Sherpa language mainly prevails in the Himalayan region. Rai and Limbu are some other languages spoken in this region.

What have the foreign languages spoken in Nepal?

According to the Census 2011, few languages were listed “foreign,” like Chinese, English, Spanish, French, Arabic, and Russian. Although they are foreign and international languages, in the context of Nepal, they are minority ones.

These international languages are therefore not threatened, and the same argument goes for migrant languages like Santhali, Uranw, and Lapcha.

Also, few languages have migrated from the neighboring country India; Punjabi, Rajasthani, Haryanvi, Sindhi, Assamese, Oriya, and Nagamese amongst others. 

What is the second language spoken in Nepal?

As Nepal is a multiethnic country, it interacts a threefold ethnic-linguistic structure. 

First is one (ethnic group)-to-one (language), e.g., Rai speaking a single language, mainly Rai. 

Second is one (caste/ethnic group)-to-many (languages), e.g., Rai speaking Rai, Limbu, Tamang, and Magar languages. 

Third one is many (castes/ethnic groups)-to-one (language),e.g., Bahun, Kshetri, Sarki, Damai, Thakuri, and Kami speaking a single language Nepali.

And the majority of Nepal’s population are monolinguals, meaning they speak only one language, while the remaining population speaks at least a language other than their mother tongues, called ‘second language.’

For the population speaking at least a second language, the largest number speaks Nepali, and the Hindi language is the second one. In the context of Nepal, there has been a drastic increase in population speaking Hindi as a second language.

And the next largest second-language speaking groups are Maithili, followed by Bhojpuri, Tharu, English, Bajjika, Urdu, Avadhi, Magar, Tamang, Newar and Bantawa.

Is English spoken in Nepal?

Looking at the history, Nepal was never colonized by English, nor has it recognized English as an official language in its constitutions and yet, English has already become a very prevalent language in Nepal.

Globalization and Neoliberalism are the two key forces that have constituted on this rage. When Nepal opened its door to foreigners in 1950, the flow of foreigners or tourism, business, research, development, religion, and education increased briskly in Nepal.

With the arrival of foreigners, their language (mainly English) and culture started to make an impact, especially in big cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara. And now, even the illiterates are speaking English because of tourism development.

Now, English has become the primary language in business and education. So, yes, English is spoken in Nepal by a considerable population, mainly in urban areas.

Leave a Message
Leave a Message