The language spoken in Nepal is known as Nepali or Nepalese (नेपाली). It's roots lie in Indo/ Aryan history. It's written in Devanagari script, such as Hindi and Sanskrit are.
There are over 120 languages spoken in Nepal! However over two thirds of Nepal speak Nepali (Gorkhali) with the rest being made up variations such as Nepalese Bahasa (Newari).
What's the difference between Nepalese, Nepali and Newari? Nepali and Nepalese are the same lanugage. In 2016 Nepal sought to make the word Nepali and Nepalese the same. Neware is a seperate language spoken by the Newar people in the Kathmandu Valley.
Did you know?
Over 35% of the people in Bhutan speak Nepali. They are mainly located in the south. Due to an ethnic cleansing campaign in Bhutan in the 1980's over 100,000 were forced to leave. Many ended up in refugee camps in Eastern Nepal.
There are over 1, 400,000 Nepali speakers in North East India.
|What is your name?||Tapaiko naam ke ho?|
|My name is .....||Mero naam___ ho|
|How are you?||Timlai sanchai cha?|
|No||Chaina or Haina|
|Do you speak English?||Tapaai Angreji bolnuhunchha?|
|I don't understand.||Maile buhjina|
|Where is the toilet?||Toilet kata cha?|
|How do I get to ___||___ kasari jhaane?|
|I'm lost||Ma haraye|
|Get lost! / Go away!||Yaha bata haat!|
|How much is this?||Yes ko kati parchha?|
|Do you have rooms available?||K tapai sanga kunau kotha upalabda cha?|
|I'm a vegetarian.||Ma masu kandina|
|I don't eat pork||Ma bangoor khaadina|
There are a few basic free Nepalese language courses/phrases to download that are quite good.
Finally for those looking for something more intensive, expats or volunteers wanting to learn Nepali here's a 300+ page Nepalese language course.
There is also an extensive Nepalese online language resource located here.
How much Nepalese do you need to know to visit Nepal? The most basic and important phrases are:
Hello - Namaste
Thank you - Dhanyabaad
How much is this? Yes ko kati parchha?
This is too expensive Yo ati mahanco cha
Newari (Nepal Bahasa) is the traditional language of the Newar people who are accreddited at being the first to establish the Kathmandu Valley. There are several Newari dialects though three main dialects are confirmed to former royal cities of Kathmandu city, Bhaktapur and Patan.
You'll mainly find local Newars referring to their own dialect as Newar and moreover the only version of Newar. This is said more of pride than anything else. It is however very important to note this as some words are completely different yet set in stone in their respective townships.
Newar is no longer taught as compulsory in schools. There are several groups within the Kathmandu Valley who believe the language will become extinct unless action is taken.
For travellers there's no need to speak Newari per se, however if you are in a Newar community speaking a few words will herald you a lot of respect and admiration - far more than Namaste.
The following Newar words will get you started:
|What is your name?||Chhangu naa chhu?|
|My name is .....||Jeegu naa ____ kha|
|Are you fine?||Mha fu lha?|
Other sources to learn Newari include:
- Newari Kathmandu (audio.youtube)
- Newari (Bhaktapur)
- For more basic Newari words specific for travelers do see my book Kathmandu Valley Heritage Walks
If you are harassed by street kids simply put a hand up, keep walking and say Chaina or Haina (no). Making a fuss or saying some rude will only aggravate them.
Learning the basic numbers if you want to bargain in markets is important.
Downloading the MP3 Nepali phrases above and listening to them on your flight to Nepal or on a bus is a great way to get started.
If you are on a short stay holiday or vacation the chances are you'll be surrounded by Nepalese people who speak good English. Learning please and thank you in Nepali will work wonders on many an occasion!
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