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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Dzongkha: How well are you?

October 23, 2008

By I. P. Adhikari
NewsBlaze - Folsom,CA, USA
October 21, 2008

In 1969 a new lingua franca was founded in the eastern Himalayas.
Instantly, it was recognized as the national language. Some 40 years
later, the lingua franca is yet to emerge as full fledged language
through which you can express everything seen or felt.

When the constitution was drafted, Dzongkha came short of fundamental
words especially those describing political and judicial matters. The
Dzongkha Development Commission and its few experts had to coin new
words to match the changing circumstances. The subordinate to Tibetan
language, Dzongkha still deserves to be a dialect than a complete language.

Dzongkha has been burden for many within the community it is spoken.
For the last few years, government faced tough time finding Dzongkha
teachers. Until later 1980s, just literate Dzongkha speakers or the
Buddhist gelongs were sent to schools to teach this language. I
recall interesting days while writing Dzongkha examination in those
years. Most of us who speak Nepali were not fine in getting used to
with it and it was harder for us to get good marks. Solution to this
frustration: we found one trick and it came handy for us in such a
way that we were well off than Dzongkha speakers in securing marks in
that subject. The simple trick was: for all questions our answers
used to be the national anthem and for the Dzongkha teachers denying
marks to the national anthem was disrespecting it.

Under such tunnel, Dzongkha continues its race for a complete
language. Yet, the recent indications have shown, the race would not
go well. Several reports by education ministry and Dzongkha
development commission have shown the youngsters are not fond of
learning Dzongkha. The government itself has admitted, students
secure good marks in English but not only lack knowledge of Dzongkha
rather ignores it. In that sense, English is overtaking the seat of
Dzongkha in Bhutanese society.

The expertise of Dzongkha scholars at the commission was vividly
reflected in the recently published textbooks for school children.
Teachers and parents have cited arrays of mistakes on the books for
grade V and VI, subsequently compelling the authorities to make
urgent reviews. The DDC had said the textbooks went thorough massive
review and scrutiny before sending to press. Over 19 books are in
line, and it won't be surprising to expect errors in upcoming
publications as well.

Over the years, the number of students preferring Dzongkha language
studies has substantially decreased while this has been reversed case
in English.

The Citizenship Act of 1985 makes is compulsory that anyone willing
to obtain Bhutanese citizenship must have sound knowledge of Dzongkha
and history of the country. However, it was exclusively implemented
in southern districts only.

Medium of instruction in Bhutanese schools is English, except
Dzongkha as language study. Nepali, taught in southern districts was
banned since 1990 whereas Tshagla has not been accepted as language
of the country.

Dzongkha and history has enmity relations. For years history in
schools and colleges were taught in English and now the
fundamentalists have pressed the government to strictly implement the
earlier decisions that history must be taught in Dzongkha.
Interestingly, those who teach Dzongkha lack knowledge of history and
those who teach history are completely out of touch from Dzongkha.
Bhutan, that hardly has its own history, has nothing to teach in
Dzongkha other than the stories of lamas and Tibetan travelers who
came down to spread Buddhism.

Literature of Dzongkha is rather non existence. Most Dzongkha
speakers choose English to write any stories, even not having
Dzongkha version of their write-up. You quest for Dzongkha poets,
story writers or book writes will result into nothingness. Criticism,
commentary and analysis are beyond expectation. It is most
frustrating that a 'national language' has no literature to read. All
we get is the volumes of Buddhist sculpture, which in fact are
written in Tibetan language.

The newspapers that came into market have bitter experiences on
Dzongkha. For instance, Bhutan Observer nearly closed its Dzongkha
edition early this year, citing lack of readership and advertisers
interests to place ads only in English tabloids. For years,
government made tireless efforts to popularize Dzongkha and claimed
most Bhutanese have instinct to learn it. However, when the market
opened up, facts came transparent what number of populace embrace the language.

The fact that makes Dzongkha so complex and incomplete is the
differences in tone and tongs that changes with valleys. Dzongkha in
Bumthang, Haa and Wanngue have big differences. Every river you
cross, every mountain you pass, you will find a different language
and culture. The 'Dzongkha experts' have rarely given attention to
this problem and taken initiatives to harmonize the dialect. Many
experts who 'standardize' the dialect from headquarters in Thimphu
assume what they know and finalize is the correct form of Dzongkha.
There are no reports DDC sending its expert teams to districts to
linguistic studies.

Bhutan is yet to run a long distant before developing Dzongkha as a
language and increasing ignorance towards it in favor of English,
might become greatest barrier for the 'Dzongkha experts' to achieve
what they aim. Hedge your bets.
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