Nepal | January 21, 2020

Language barriers


Dibesh Khatree

It was report card day at school. I, as the principal, was standing at a corner and observing the interaction between the teachers and guardians. The lady teacher was explaining the results of a child to his parent, mostly in English. The old man kept nodding his head as if he fully understood her.

On seeing me, the man approached me with the grade sheet that was in English and asked me to elaborate. I explained it to him in Nepali. The old man nodded, and his face showed that he understood better than the lady teacher. He said he never had the opportunity to learn English. He told me he could do everything in Nepali, but faced difficulties these days due to the over use of the English language everywhere.

“Thank you for explaining the academic progress of my kid. By the way, would it be possible to publish these grade sheets in Nepali so that I can read and analyse them myself?” he queried.

That day changed my way of thinking. There are countries like Japan, Germany, Korea, Russia, where the national language is used in everyday life. Even without learning the English language, these people have made great progress. But why in Nepal is everybody after the English language?

A language has many characteristics. Some of the real meanings of a language cannot be translated into another language without destroying the original essence. Why are we creating such English language-related ambiguities for the common people?

Most of the signboards are in English in major cities. Why not in Nepali or both the languages? Thousands of people go
to the Arab world to work carrying their passport, but they cannot read it. Why not a passport in both the languages? I have seen foreign passports in both languages.

Do we want to destroy our national language? Even a road’s name is in English only.  Doesn’t a Nepali need a direction in Kathmandu? Even government notices are at times in English only!

It’s too late to start correcting the issue. But then, emphasis should be on both the languages – English and Nepali. Otherwise our children will never learn the special things or meanings of our national language. So, the government needs to take immediate action to make the correction.  Schools should be ready to publish the grade sheets in Nepali. Banks should provide statements in Nepali. Business houses must print their receipts in Nepali.

A version of this article appears in print on November 29, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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