7 reasons to learn Nepali and one bonus reason

अंग्रेजी [a~grejii] (English)
तिन [tin] (three)
भाषा [bhaasha] (language)
नदी [nadii] (river) There are different reasons to study Nepali and different desired levels of proficiency in relation to that. I have wrecked my brain a little and came up with the following list.

  1. Wanting to communicate with the locals during your vacation in Nepal
  2. Wanting to communicate with your Nepali partner or friend in their own language
  3. Wanting to communicate with the people you work and interact with during your shortterm work stay (Volunteer, internship)
  4. Just being in love with the country and wanting to be closer to Nepal while not staying in Nepal
  5. Wanting to resdiscover your own parent’s language after growing up abroad and never getting around to speak proper Nepali
  6. Wanting to understand Nepali news, movies and literature
  7. Working and living in Nepal longterm
  8. …and one more

Wanting to communicate with the locals during your vacation in Nepal

Are you one of those travellers who feels uncomfortable when you can only communicate in अंग्रेजी [a~grejii] ? I am like that. Wherever I go I need to get a hold on a dictionary within the first week of my stay otherwise I become too frustrated and restless. I am really bothered if I can only rely on English to communicate. So I start learning at least the little that I can while I am there – at some point it can seem that my whole stay only really revolves around learning the local language. Not knowing the language limits me in how and with whom I can communicate. I am always very interested in people and the best way to get to know them is talking to them. Furthermore asking someone for help with the language is a very easy way to meet new people and have lengthy, and almost always friendly encounters.

lumbini_foreign_girl_babyOf course the level of proficiency you are able to aquire for a single stay of a few weeks, will usually only remain on the beginners level. Therefore it is important to imagine what kind of question or other sentences you will be most likely to say repeatedly. Also be ready to speak in a very basic, rudimentary way. So instead of saying: „Excuse me, I am curious, this building over there, what is it used for?“ you most likely end up saying something like: „This house, what?“ (“tyo ghar, ke?”) And then be prepared for an answer that you most likely wont understand 😉 It still is fun though. Also be sure to use any other means of communication that will make your meaning more understandable:

  • Smile —> Show that you are coming in peace
  • Use your hands to point and show shapes (not for hitting and/or obscene gestures though!)
  • Draw if you can (expect someone to grab your pen and have them start drawing themselves, but don’t expect others to be better artists than you!)
  • Use your feet to run away, when you are just simply too frustrated and/or embarassed

Wanting to communicate with your Nepali partner, friend or coworker in their own language

That is a dear reason I feel. This is about showing respect and creating a deeper level of intimacy with a person that is close to you. Being able to communicate with someone who is close to you in their mother-tongue is often the reason that people want to learn Nepali. It is very difficult though to achieve that, because usually your Nepali partner/friend is more proficient in English and/or your own mother-tongue than you are in Nepali. Therefore – since communication is also a lot about ease – you rather chose to speak in English or your mother-tongue, just because you want to be sure that things are really understood and that you do not spend hours just discussing the weather. Most likely your partner, friend or coworker is not the best teacher for you, just because in the end the desire for efficient communication wins over the desire to teach you. Learning a language takes time and true motivation. That is probably also why you end up on a website like this one. But fear not my friend, you will make it. With persistence and determination you will be able to actually communicate with your dear one in his or her own language.

Wanting to communicate with the locals during your shortterm stay

Here learning the language actually starts becoming a necessity. Imagine you want to work for तिन [tin] months in an orphanage, but cannot communicate with the kids at all. For you, I especially recommend, studying the grammar in advance, because the vocabulary will be picked up quite easily on the go. But don’t expect your host mother to be able to explain to you in broken English how the simple past tense of a verb is constructed, and so on. I think, if you do this little ground work before hand (I would not bother with the script at that point), you will improve your Nepali drastically during your stay, especially if you are exposed a lot to native speakers who speak none or almost no English.

Just being in love with the country and wanting to be closer to Nepal while not staying in Nepal

Well, that is the biggest reason for myself. And if you find yourself in the same position, I highly recommend to read about my own story. And I will be especially glad to hear about yours in the comments below.

Wanting to resdiscover your own parent’s भाषा [bhaasha] after growing up abroad and never getting around to speak Nepali

This is probably pretty rare still, since there aren’t that many second generation NRN(non-residential Nepalis) yet. But I have encountered some of them. And it is usually during early adulthood, that you might feel that desire to reconnect with your own roots and understand better where your parents came from.

Wanting to understand Nepali news, movies and literature

I dont know how rare of a reason this is to learn Nepali, but it certainly is one of the reasons for me. But in order to understand the news, it is almost like learning the vocabulary all over again, since it seems that for almost every word that is commonly used in spoken language, there exists another more sophisticated word that is used in the media.

Working and living in Nepal longterm

Well these are the people who truly achieve a fluency in Nepali and who can communicate on all topics with anyone they encounter. I remember this German Lady who had been living in Nepal for 20 years: She so much impressed me with her fluency when talking to Nepalis. And I envied her for how much the Nepali seemed to accept her as one of them more or less. There was none of this praising happening anymore, that I encounter so often („Oh you speak such great Nepali“), but the fact that she spoke Nepali seemed to be as normal as the fact that any Nepali citizen speaks the language.

Last but not least: The bonus reason 😉

Wanting to shock Nepali people who assume you dont speak their language and therefore gossip about you in your presence.

Maybe that is the true reason of my desire to speak Nepali. 😉 I had a few „perfect“ encounters that I still love to remember and share. So let me share one with you:

The Marshyandi river in the first part of the Annapurna Trek
The Marshyandi river in the first part of the Annapurna Trek

I am doing the Annapurna Trek by myself just at the end of the season. So there are much less trekkers than during high season. And in the beginning of the trek you have to cross the Marsyangdi नदी [nadii] a few times on rope bridges. So I am walking and come upon a bridge and I can see that on the other end of the bridge there are about 8 laborers doing some construction work. I am the only person far and wide at this moment. So of course I do attract their attention. I see them already staring at me and talking still from across the bridge. So I cross the bridge with a steady pace (and delightful anticipation in my heart) and in passing them I say to the guy who seems to be on the forefront of their mischief: „तपाइहरू लाइ यो विदेशी केटी लाइ जिस्काउने मा लाज लागदैन ?“ [tapaaiharu laai yo wideshii keTii laai jiskaaune maa laaj laagdaina?] (you don’t feel ashamed to tease this foreign girl?“). This already earns me a quite terrified look from the adressees face, but he is able to safe face at first: „होइन दिदी, रम्री हो भनेको मत्र मैले !“ [hoina didii, ramrii ho bhaneko matra maile!] (No sister, I only said that you are beautiful!) And without even stopping I retort back: „होइन ! तपाइको नजारले तपाइको मतलब पनि बुझिन्छ। ” [ hoina ! Tapaaiko najaarle tapaaiko matlab pani bujhincha.] (No! From your glance your meaning is already understood.) To which he is speechless and all his friends just burst out laughing. And I – without ever stopping – pass simply by. And for the next ten minutes – surrounded by the majestic hills and accompanied by the firm thunder of the river – I cannot not contain my over-joyed grin over having given some strange Nepali guy his shock of the day.

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