A morning in Doti district during my field research

Why did I learn Nepali?

गोड्ने [godDne] (weeding)
मन [man] (being, mind, heart)
बिस्तारै [bistaarai] (slowly)
किताब [kitaab] (book)
चिया [ciyaa] (tea)
भात [bhaat] (cooked rice)
चामल [caamal] (harvested uncooked rice)
धान [dhaan] (rice on the field, therefore not harvested)

My first trip to Nepal in 2001 (at the age of 19) was cut short because of serious problems I had developed with my back: My left leg had started to go numb, and I had problems to move my left foot properly. Having a mother with a long history of spinal disk problems I knew that this was serious, so I travelled from Chitwan back to Kathmandu and had a consultation with doctor Banskota in the B&B hospital at ring road. He said that I most likely have something like a slipped disk. And since I knew that a certain diagnose would need a MRT treatment, I chose to be a grown up and return to Germany for such.

I had been working as a volunteer in Chitwan district, mainly गोड्ने [godDne] and planting seeds – my back could not handle the constantly crouched position I was in. I left very upset from this country that I had just fallen in love with. The trip with the taxi to the airport is still vivid in my memory: Very painful indeed. When I returned home to Germany I felt heartbroken – I sincerely struggled to cope in the place that I originally belonged since all my मन [man] longed to be back in Nepal.

So maybe 3 or 4 weeks into my heartbreak I eventually realized, that life was not over and yes I could easily travel back to Nepal at a later time. Therefore studying the language seemed like a natural choice. And reading Nepali became my remedy, helped me smile again: I felt lighter in my heart when I would practice the retroflex sounds in front of a mirror or would be learning to write the devanagari script. Studying Nepali gave me hope, gave me a perspective.

Since that first time I have been to Nepal another 5 times and my Nepali बिस्तारै [bistaarai] improved throughout these years. Only in the beginning I really studied in a concise manner fro about 4 months at home (until the next ticket was booked ;)), after that I just sometimes would pick up the Nepali language किताब [kitaab] or simply ask Nepali speakers who I met in Germany, Nepal and one or two times in Dubai to translate words or phrases to me. I highly appreciate the patience many of those have shown in helping me study their language.

I would say my language improved considerably when I did my research in Far-West Nepal since I had to read (and understand!) important papers and statistics in Nepali and even conduct part of my interviews myself. I certainly have come a long way since my first stay when I struggled to understand how to pronounce चिया [ciyaa] and भात [bhaat], and also understand the difference of meaning between भात, चामल [caamal] and धान [dhaan].

My Nepali is still only on an intermediate level – I would say I have reached a certain fluency (and mostly don’t feel shy to talk to anyone about anything), but this fluency is very limited as to what I am able to express with it. Writing this blog and making these videos about Nepali actually also helps me greatly to improve my Nepali while sharing the knowledge that I have so far with others.

In this giddy video from 3 years ago I am talking about the same topic:

So now, please share with me your personal stories of why you started learning Nepali!

2 thoughts on “Why did I learn Nepali?”

  1. Hello ani Namaste Didi,

    Miro nam Liam Campbell ho ra ma Canada bata aunu bhayo. I haven’t lived in Nepal but my interest in it sparks from a volunteer trip to Kalimpong in the Darjeeling District of West Bengal. I was an English teacher in the Gyan Jyoti School for the Himalayan Education Lifeline Programme and lived with the principal & his family. In my time there I learned a rudimentary and communicative version of Nepali and have since really missed expressing myself Nepali ma. I loved it so much that I started a non-profit for the school I was working for

    I live in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada and there are no Nepali people here, but there are many Indians. So I figured if I can’t learn Nepali I can at least learn Hindi. As such I have gotten my Hindi to about where my Nepali was but I can now read and write devanagari.

    I just wanted to say that watching your videos and reading your blog brings back good memories and is a good way to keep those Nepali and Hindi parts of my brain turning. I appreciate the work that you do a lot.

    I’d also like to comment your English is very good too :)

    Cheers,

    Liam

    1. Hello Liam,

      sorry for my late late reply – I have been very busy in other projects.
      It is awesome that my blog has brought back to you some mitho yaadharu 😉

      Keep up the studying! :)

      Hanna

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