Bhutan resists English invasion

Bhutan, where schools have taught English for decades to ease the tiny kingdom's isolation, is searching for its own words to stop its national language being polluted by foreign bodies.

    Lost for words? Bhutan beseiged by foreign hi-tech terms

    The state-run and sole newspaper Kuensel's website reported on Thursday that experts on Dzongkha, the national tongue which is close to Tibetan, were studying suitable replacements for encroaching English words, many of them in the hi-tech sphere.

    "If we take every new idea and term in its original English form, Dzongkha in a decade will be overloaded with foreign words.

    "And one day Dzongkha may fail to qualify and justify itself to be Bhutanese," the expert committee's chairman Lungtaen Gyatso told Kuensel - which is published in English.

    The linguists, for example, have decided to do away with the English "computer" and instead introduce "logrig," which combines Dzongkha words to translate literally as "an intelligent machine run by electricity."

    Modernisers keep their kilos

    Not everyone is convinced the exercise is necessary.

    "Every Bhutanese understands computer better than logrig," translator R Wangchuk told the newspaper. "There is no need for the experts to coin a word for computer or football or television."

    The experts said they will not try to find Dzongkha terms for commonly accepted units such as kilometre, kilogram or Celsius.

    While the Himalayan kingdom allows few tourists in a bid to preserve its Buddhist-based culture, most educated people speak English fluently.

    But Gyatso is optimistic that new indigenous terms can move seamlessly into written and spoken Dzongkha within 10 to 15 years, particularly if more emphasis is given to the national language in schools.

    While the Himalayan kingdom allows few tourists in a bid to preserve its Buddhist-based culture, most educated people speak English fluently.

    Late King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the 1960s introduced English in the schools to bring the tiny kingdom closer to the world. Until then, the chief foreign language of instruction was Hindi, from Bhutan's neighbour and main political backer India.

    Traditionalists switch off

    For years, the tiny mountain nation, locally called "Druk

    Yul" or the Land of the Thunder Dragon, was considered the last

    Shangri-La, untouched by the winds of modernisation sweeping

    the rest of the world.

    But four years after the country of 700,000 people

    opened its doors to satellite

    television and the Internet, Bhutan is at a cultural crossroads

    between tradition and modernity.

    "It's an aerial invasion," said Kinley Dorji, the editor of


    "Bhutan is a small country which may not have military

    might and economic strength. But its strength is its unique

    identity, its religion, clothes. Television exposure is seen as

    a dilution of this culture."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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