The Language of Nepal (Assessment)

Indeed, language is the key to opening all other barriers in one’s trip.

“He who knows no foreign languages knows nothing of his own.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I am Indonesian by birth and spent half my life in the Arab World. I know English, Indonesian, Arabic, and I studied French. Arabic, for example, has its words loaned in the other languages I speak, and through learning one’s languages, you are able to peer into their habits, culture, history, way of thinking and expressing, manners, etc. Unfortunately for Nepal, however, I know almost nothing of its national language.

Street sign in Nepal using the Nepali language. Photo credits: Hey Brian.

The official language of Nepal is Nepali, and it is considered an Indo-Aryan language. Indonesian on the other hand is an Austronesian language. Due to the Indian influence of the past, both languages share Sanskrit loan words and influences. For example, the word for ‘language’ in Indonesian is bahasa and in Nepali is bhāṣā. This of course does not make it mutually intelligible.

Indonesian street signs written in the modern Latin alphabet and the traditional Arab Melayu script. Photo Credits: Piccour

My past experiences would definitely not help me in preventing the worst of ‘culture shock’ as Nepal’s culture and history is different from Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. As a result, I know for a fact I would feel anxious, scared, lost, in fear, isolated, and panicking because I would not be able to communicate a simple “where is the bathroom?” I am away from anything and anyone I know which would be extremely terrifying for me. I feel it would be inevitable for me to me cheated on and ripped off by scammers easily as I know nothing.

Since I could not possible learn an entire language in the span of a few weeks, my only option to reduce culture shock is to familiarise myself with places I am going to. Memorise street names, outlets, common phrases, and the etiquette and manner on how to deal with people. Most importantly is knowing the prices of how much I should not pay beyond for an item or service.

Cafes and Handicrafts shops in Bhaktapur. Language would certainly be important for someone like me here! Photo Credits: Kaspersky Content Hub

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