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LANGUAGE

Language
Its quite easy to get by with English in
Nepal; most of the people the average visitor
will have to deal with in the Kathmandu
Valley and in Pokhara will speak some
English. Along the main trekking trails, particularly the Annapurna Circuit, English is
widely understood.
However, its interesting to learn at least
a little Nepali and its quite an easy language
to pick up. Nepali is closely related to Hindi
and, like Hindi, is a member of the IndoEuropean group of languages. For a more
in-depth guide to the language, get a copy of
Lonely Planets Nepali phrasebook.
Although Nepali is the national language
and is used as a lingua franca (linking language) between all the countrys ethnic
groups, there are many other languages spoken. The Newars of the Kathmandu Valley,
for example, speak Newari; other languages
are spoken by the Tamangs, Sherpas, Rais,
Limbus, Magars, Gurungs and other
groups. In the Terai, bordering India, Hindi
and Maithili, another Indian language of
this region, are often spoken (see the table
on this page for a breakdown of first language spoken in Nepal).
Even if you learn no other Nepali, there
is one word every visitor soon picks up
namaste (pronounced na-ma-stay). Strictly
translated it means I salute the god in you,
but its used as an everyday greeting encompassing everything from Hello to
How are you? and even See you again
soon. It should be accompanied with the
hands held in a prayer-like position, the
Nepali gesture equivalent to Westerners
shaking hands.

Languages of Nepal
Language

% of Total Population

Nepali
Maithili
Bhojpuri
Tharu
Tamang
Newari
Rai
Magar
Abadhi
Limbu
Gurung
Sherpa
Other

50.3
11.9
7.5
5.4
4.9
3.4
2.4
2.3
2.0
1.4
1.2
0.7
8.6

Pronunciation

Vowels
a
as the u in hut

as the ar in garden (no r sound)


e
as the e in best but longer
i
as the i in sister but longer
o
as the o in sold
u
as the u in put
ai
as the i in mine
au
as the ow in cow
Consonants

Most Nepali consonants are quite similar to


their English counterparts. The exceptions
are the so-called retroflex consonants and
the aspirated consonants. Retroflex sounds
are made by curling the tongue tip back to
touch the roof of the mouth as you make the
sound; they are indicated in this guide by an
underdot, eg, , Kahmanu.
Aspirated consonants are sounded more
forcefully than they would be in English
and are made with a short puff of air; they
are indicated in this guide by h after the
consonant, eg, kh, khnuhos (please). You
should ensure that you dont confuse the
Nepali aspirated combinations ph and th
with their English counterparts in words
such as phone, this and thin. In Nepali,
ph is pronounced as the p in pit, and th
is pronounced as the t in time.
Both retroflex and aspirated consonants
are best learned by having a native speaker

Studying Nepali

Peace Corps and other aid workers pick up


a working knowledge of the language very
quickly and there are language courses
available that will enable you to get by with
just four to eight weeks of intensive study.
See the Courses section in the Facts for the
Visitor chapter for details. The best sourcebook for the serious language student is
Teach Yourself Nepali by Michael Hutt and
Abhi Sabedi, which concentrates on both
written and spoken Nepali.
359

LANGUAGE

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360 Language

demonstrate them for you. You could start


with Kahmanu, which contains both
retroflex and aspirated consonants.

Greetings & Civilities


Hello/Goodbye.
How are you?
Excuse me.
Please (give me).
Please (you have).
Thank you.

namaste
tapilai kasto chha?
hajur
dinuhos
khnuhos
dhanyabad

Unlike in the West, verbal expressions of


thanks are not the cultural norm in Nepal.
Although neglecting to say Thank you
may make you feel a little uncomfortable, it
is rarely necessary in a simple commercial
transaction; foreigners going round saying
dhanyabad all the time sounds distinctly
odd to Nepalis.

Basics

I
Yes. (I have)
No. (I dont have)
OK.
Where?
here
there
good/pretty

ma
ch
chhaina
theekcha
kah?
yah
tyah
ramro

Do you speak
English?
I only speak a
little Nepali.
I understand.
I dont understand.
Please say it again.
Please speak more
slowly.
I dont need it.
I dont have it.
Wait a minute.

tapi angreji bolna


saknu hunchha?
ma ali nepli bolchhu

Getting Around
bus
taxi
boat
ticket

ma bujhchu
maile bujhina
pheri bhauhos
tapi bistrai
bolnuhos
malai chahia
ma sanga chhaina
ek chhin parkhanos
bus
taxi
nu
tika

How can I get to ...?


... kolgi kati pais lgchha?
Is it far from here?
yahbata ke tdh chha?
Can I walk there?
hiera jna sakinchhu?

Signs

vn
' f
aGb
ka| z
]
lgsf;
ka| z
] lgifw]
wd" k| fg dgfxL 5
dgfxL, lgifw]
zfr
} fno
tftf]
lr;f]
vt/f
/fS] gx' f;
]
af6f] aGb

Open
Closed
Entrance
Exit
No Entry
No Smoking
Prohibited
Toilets
Hot
Cold
Danger
Stop
Road Closed

I want to go to ...
ma ... jnchhu
Where does this bus go?
yo bus kah jnchha?
How much is it to go to ...?
... jna kati parchha?
I want a one-way/return ticket.
jne/jne-une tika dinuhos.
Does your taxi have a meter?
tapi ko taxi m meter chha?

Accommodation
Where is a ...?
guesthouse
hotel
camp site
lodge

... kah chha?


phuna ghar
hoel
shivir
laj

What is the address?


thegn ke ho?
Please write down the address.
thegn lekhunuhos
Can I get a place to stay here?
yah bs paunchha?
May I look at the room?
koth herna sakchhu?
How much is it per night?
ek rtko, kati pais ho?
Does it include breakfast?
bihnako khna samet ho?
room
clean
dirty
fan
hot water

koth
saf
mailo
pankh
tto pni

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Around Town
bank
... embassy
museum
police
post office
stamp
envelope
tourist office

baink
... rjdutvas
samgrhlaya
prahari
post afis
tika
kham
turist afis

What time does it open/close?


kati baje kholchha/banda garchha?
I want to change some money.
pais stnu manlgchha

Internet

Is there a local Internet cafe?


yah inarne kyahphe chha?
Id like to get Internet access.
malai inarne chahiyo
Id like to check my email.
imel chek garnuparyo
Id like to send an email.
imel pahaunuparyo

Shopping

Where is the
market?
What is it made of?
How much?
Thats enough.
I like this.
I dont like this.

bazr kata parchha?

money
cheap
expensive
less
more
little bit

paisa
sasto
mahango
kam
badhi
alikati

Trekking

kele baneko?
kati?
pugyo
malai yo ramro lagyo
malai yo ramro lagena

Which way is ...?


... jne bato kata parchha?
Is there a village nearby?
najikai gaun parchha?
How many hours/days to ...?
... kati ghan/din?
Where is the porter?
bhariya kata gayo?
I want to sleep.
malai sutna man lagyo
Im cold.
malai jado lagyo
Please give me (water).
malai (pani) dinuhos

way/trail
bridge
downhill
uphill
left
right
cold
teahouse

Food & Drink

sno bo
pul
orlo
uklo
by
dy
jo
bhatti

Im a vegetarian.
What is this/that?

ma skhari hun
yo/tyo ke ho?

food/meal
bread (loaf)
rice/cooked rice
meat
green, leafy
vegetable
vegetable
(cooked)
lentils
egg
fruit
sugar
salt
pepper
curd
milk
tea
drinking water

khna
(pau) roi
chmal/bht
msu
sg

Health

tarakri
dl
phul/an
phala
chini
nun
marich
dhai
dudh
chia
khna pni

Where can I find


a good doctor?
Where is the
nearest hospital?
I dont feel well.
I have diarrhoea.
I have altitude
sickness.
I have a fever.
Im having trouble
breathing.

rmro dkar kaha


pincha?
yah aspatl kah
chha?
mali sancho chhaina
dish lgyo
lekh lgyo

medicine
pharmacy

ausadhi
ausadhi pasal

I have ...
asthma
diabetes
epilepsy

mali ... lgyo


damko byath
madhu meha
chre rog

Times & Dates


What time is it?
Its one oclock.

joro yo
ss pherna sakdina

kati bajyo?
ek bajyo

LANGUAGE

Language 361

LANGUAGE

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362 Language

minute
hour
day
today
yesterday
tomorrow
now
week
month

minet
ghant
din
ja
hijo
bholi
ahile
hapt
mahin

What day is it
today?
Today is ...

ja ke br?
ja ... ho

Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday

som br
mangal br
budh br
bihi br
sukra br
sani br
ita br

Emergencies
Help!
Its an emergency!
Theres been an
accident!
Please call a
doctor.
Where is the
(public) toilet?
Im lost.

Numbers
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

sunya
ek
dui
tin
chr
panch
chha
st
h
nau
das
eghra
b-hra
te-hra
chau-dha
pan-dhra
so-hra
satra

z"Go
Ps
b'O
tLg
rf/
kfr
5
;ft
cf7
gf}
b;
P3f/
afX
t]X
rf}w
kGw|
;f]X
;q

18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
1,000
10,000
100,000
200,000
1,000,000

guhr!
pa paryo!
durghaan bhayo!
dkarlai bolunuhos
shauchlaya kah
chha?
ma harye

a-hra
un-nais
bis
ek kais
bais
teis
chau bis
pachchis
chhabbis
sattais
ahais
unantis
tis
chlis
pachs
s-hi
sat-tari
a-si
nab-be
ek say
ek hajr
das hajr
ek lkh
dui lkh
das lkh

c7f/
pGgfO{;
aL;
PssfO{;
afO{;
t]O{;
rf}aL;
kRrL;
5AaL;
;QfO{;
c6\7fO{;
pgGtL;
tL;
rfnL;
krf;
;f7L
;Q/L
c;L
gAa]
Ps ;o
Ps xhf/
b; xhf/
Ps nfv
b'O nfv
b; nfv

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