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What Language Do They Speak in Bhutan?

What Language Do They Speak in Bhutan

Key Takeaways:

Official LanguageDzongkha
Number of Languages Spoken24 recognized languages
ScriptTibetan Script
Region-specific LanguagesSharchop, Nepali
InfluenceTibetan and Indian linguistic roots


Bhutan, a small, mystic nation nestled in the eastern Himalayas, is a melting pot of cultures and languages. While Dzongkha is the official language, the linguistic tapestry of Bhutan is diverse and multi-faceted.

The Origin and Significance of Dzongkha

Dzongkha, which means “the language of the fort”, originates from the district of Paro. Its prevalence as the official language is a testament to Bhutan’s cultural preservation efforts. It’s a member of the Sino-Tibetan language family, bearing close resemblance to the Tibetan language.

Key Features of Dzongkha

  • Script: Written in the Tibetan script.
  • Phonetics: Rich in tones, making pronunciation crucial.
  • Vocabulary: Shares a lot of its lexicon with Tibetan.

The Rich Linguistic Tapestry of Bhutan

While Dzongkha stands out as the official language, it’s just the tip of the linguistic iceberg. Bhutan houses a plethora of regional languages that reflect its varied ethnic groups and historical interactions.

Diverse Languages Across Regions

To comprehend the linguistic diversity of Bhutan, let’s delve into some of the predominant regional languages:

  1. Sharchop: Widely spoken in eastern Bhutan.
  2. Nepali: Found in southern areas, representing the Nepali-speaking Lhotshampa community.
  3. Bumthang: Predominant in the central Bumthang district.
  4. Kheng: Popular in the central region of Zhemgang.

Language Distribution in Bhutan

LanguageRegionPercentage of Speakers
SharchopEastern Bhutan28%
NepaliSouthern Bhutan18%
OthersScattered regions4%

Influence of Neighbors

Bhutan’s linguistic landscape has been shaped considerably by its neighbors. Tibetan Buddhism’s influence is evident in the shared script and vocabulary with Dzongkha. The southern languages, especially Nepali, resonate with the linguistic traits of northern India and Nepal.

Why Bhutan’s Linguistic Diversity Matters

Bhutan’s language dynamics go beyond mere communication. It’s a celebration of the nation’s rich cultural tapestry. Each language and dialect tells a unique story, connecting its speakers to a particular region, culture, and tradition.

  • Cultural Preservation: Bhutan’s commitment to cultural preservation is reflected in its language promotion efforts.
  • Tourism: For tourists, understanding the linguistic nuances can elevate the Bhutanese experience.
  • National Identity: Language acts as a cohesive force, uniting diverse groups under the Bhutanese identity umbrella.

Challenges and the Way Forward

The vast linguistic diversity, while being Bhutan’s strength, also poses challenges. Some regional languages are at risk of becoming extinct due to diminishing numbers of native speakers.

Measures to Preserve Bhutan’s Linguistic Heritage

  1. Education System: Incorporating regional languages into the curriculum can ensure younger generations stay connected to their linguistic roots.
  2. Media and Entertainment: Producing content in regional languages can help in their promotion.
  3. Government Policies: Official recognition and support can provide a much-needed boost to declining languages.


Bhutan’s linguistic diversity is a testament to its rich cultural and historical tapestry. While Dzongkha serves as a bridge connecting various communities, regional languages lend a unique flavor to the Bhutanese identity. Recognizing and celebrating this diversity is not just an homage to Bhutan’s past, but also a beacon guiding its future.