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Bhutanese Language

The official language of Bhutan is Dzongkha, which is derived from Tibetan. Many people in Bhutan speak English, however, since it's the medium of instruction in the schools. All government documents and road signs are written in both English and Dzongkha, and the national newspaper, Kuensel, is published in three languages: Dzongkha, English, and Nepali. In southern Bhutan most people speak Nepali, in eastern Bhutan most people speak Sharchop, and there are many dialects spoken throughout the country due to the isolation of the villages.

Because Dzongkha is not written with Roman characters, and because there are many sounds in Dzongkha that do not have an English equivalent, it is difficult to write the exact pronunciation translations in English. Most of the consonants in Dzongkha are pronounced the same way they are in English. You will notice the letter "h" after some of the consonants. It indicates that the preceding letter is aspirated, but the "h" isn't actually pronounced. For example, "th" is pronounced "ta" as in "take" not "th" as in "thank," and "ph" is pronounced "pa" as in "pasta" not "ph" as in "phone." If this is confusing to you, just ignore the "h," and you will probably still be understood. Exceptions to this rule are "ch," which is pronounced like the "ch" in "much," and "sh," which is pronounced like the "sh" in "shoe."

The vowels in Dzongkha are pronounced as follows: "a" as in "mama," "e" as the "ey" in "they," "i" as in "bit," "o" as in "go," and "u" as the "oo" in "look."

Here are some key words and phrases:

Hello                     kuzo zangpo la
Good-bye              legshembe joen   (if you're the person staying)
                             legshembe shug   (if you're the person leaving)
Yes                       ing
No                         me
Thank you             kadinchey
No thank you         miju
Good luck              tashi delek
OK                        toup
Dzongkha Script rice                       chum
chili                       ema
potato                    kewa
butter tea              suja
1                            chi
2                           ni
3                           sum
4                           shi
5                           nga
6                           du
7                           din
8                           gey
9                           gu
10                         chutham

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