Lohorung language on verge of extinction

Itahari, February 22

Indigenous Lohorung language, spoken by the Lohorung community in Province 1, is on the verge of extinction.

The Nepal Language Commission has listed Lohorung as ‘endangered’ language.

There are very few people who can fluently speak the language. Family of Balkrishna Lohorung Rai, 62, is an example. Balkrishna, originally from Pangwa village in Sankhuwasabha district, which is densely populated by the people of Lohorung community, can fluently speak his mother tongue. He is an ardent activist, who has been working to promote and preserve Lohorung language.

However, he can only speak his mother tongue with his wife Urmila. ‘’I have two sons. But, they can’t speak the language as we do. They can just understand few words and sentences,’’ he said.

Mohan Kumari Rai, 55, is another fluent Lohorung speaker. Professionally a primary school teacher at Kaseni Secondary School of Belbari, Morang, Mohan Kumari can talk in her mother tongue only with her nonagenarian fatherin-law, Amar Bahadur Rai.

‘’I also talk in my mother language with my husband Chakra Bahadur Rai occasionally.

But, he is not a fluent speaker,’’ she said. Mohan Kumari was born and raised in a Lohorung-majority village, Diding Danda in Sankhuwasabha. She has five siblings, two brothers and three sisters, none of whom are fluent speakers of the language.

Based on Nepal’s census-2011, there are only 3,633 Lohorung speakers in the province. This number has not increased due to social and economic factors, said Bigyan Rai, a fluent Lohorung speaker from Itahari, Sunsari. “Lohorung people are getting married with people from other communities.

This has adverse impact on their mother tongue,” he said.

Besides, marriage, migration is another reason for declining population of Lohorung speakers, said Balkrishna, who teaches his mother tongue to younger people of the community.

‘’These days people from our community migrate to urban areas of Nepal and abroad for job and permanent settlement. This has decreased the number of people speaking the indigenous language spoken for centuries,” he said.

Dictionary, digital content and school textbooks in Lohorung could save the language from going extinct, according to Mohan Kumari. She added Lohorung language needs strong support from the local government and early education in mother tongue would help to preserve the language.

Balkrishna said bringing out a well-researched dictionary and sufficient digital content could help preserve minority indigenous languages like Lohorung.