Wed, 23 Jan, 2019

Separated by Languages, United By Nationality

By Nisha Dhungana

Nepal is certainly a place of astonishment and amusement. It comprises of a lot of amazing places like the highest peak in the world, the birth place of Lord Buddha, the home of brave Gorkhas and the list goes on and on. One of the amazing facts, however, is how much diversity it accommodates in just 147, 181 square kilometers. About 28.8 million people reside in and around the territory of Nepal and they speak over 123 different languages as their mother tongue. We can see as a fact how much people living in the same society differ from one another but still are united by patriotism.

Well, another fact, however, is quite striking. Although many people speak Nepali as their mother tongue, we still find a huge difference in accent and pronunciation of the Nepali language itself. Sometimes, it even feels like a whole different language. People living in eastern side of the country have a completely different tone than that of people living on the western side.

Nepali language was extracted from Sanskrit and was developed to make it easier to be understood by the common people. There is a standardized Nepali language to be used for official purposes. However, spoken language tends to differ. By observation, I can say the people living on the eastern side speak slowly and hence elaborate each word. But people in the western side speak too fast and hence fail to complete the word. Certain words also tend to differ in different places. This reminds me of a story my sister once told me.

One day, my sister needed something from the suitcase that was on the top of a huge closet. So, she asked for help from her roommate who happened to be from Butwal. The roommate stood up on a chair to reach the top of the closet and pulled out the heavy suitcase and asked my sister to hold it by saying “chopa”. My sister got confused as “chopa” in east means to cover it and she was not sure what to cover. The roommate managed to take out the suitcase but was very angry as if nearly tripped her off balance. My sister, later on, figured out that in west, “chopa” means to catch and not to cover and had tears falling down her face as she laughed.

This is not the only case. I too have experienced this type of confusion many times. I am from Biratnagar, the eastern part of Nepal and sometimes, even though I am speaking Nepali, I find it hard to make people understand what I am trying to say. It is not because of language, but because of difference in accents and names for certain things and situations in a different part of Nepal. When I say “ari” to a bowl like utensil, they understand saw. Similarly, “amba” for guava becomes “belauti”, “ladeko” for falling down becomes “loteko” and much more. The western accent was too funny for me when I heard it for the first time. However, I became used to it and I too find myself using western words and accent in some cases without even noticing it.

The purpose of why I chose or decided to write about these differences is not to highlight a particular group of people. I am simply amazed how Nepal, being one of the smallest countries in the world can carry so many differences and yet live in peace and harmony. People here widely differ from each other but still manage to maintain the integrity of the nation. It is so satisfying to see Nepal, poor economically being rich in harmony and brotherhood. I feel proud to call myself a citizen of the nation which has unity in diversity.