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Joy in speaking my mother tongue

When away from Bhutan, I think of my 65-year old mother. Holding her frail hands and talking to her in Chocha Ngacha gives me more joy than writing about GNH. 

But I don’t know when my brothers and I stopped talking to each other in our mother tongue. I speak Tshangla with the three brothers who are educated and live in Thimphu. I always had an uneasy feeling of not knowing whether to speak Tsangla or Chocha Ngacha with them. But with my brother and two sisters in the village, there is no such confusion. The moment we are saying a word, it is that beautiful language I grew up hearing in the sweet, cozy home of my parents. 

The second I hear someone speak this language, I find myself all attentive: I get a kind of a feeling that says, ‘here is a person I know.’ Some kind of a natural attachment and closeness draws me to that person and thus a wall between us breaks before we even introduce. I was at the Changzamtok School on their storytelling programme one day: There was a lady teacher, who asked, “You are from Bartsham, right? I was in Ramjar last year.” (Bartsham and Ramjar are adjacent villages.) Then when she knew I was from the part of Bartsham that speaks Chocha-Ngacha, she beamed in big smile and said she was from Tomiyangsa a village that speaks the same language. And the next second we knew, we were sharing endless chatter of close conversation. I think it is same with everyone, even to those who have come to think that their mother tongue isn’t the best language to express themselves. 

When I was in class ten, I was walking up with my eldest brother from our parents’ house to his, in the middle of chirpine trees. I still remember him telling me how we must take pride and joy in our own language. Ever since then, I have been having a guilty feeling every time I speak to my other siblings in Tshangla. 

 “I’ve seen students who think it is stylish to say that they don’t know Dzongkha,” said a foreigner friend of mine recently. I was kind of taken aback by this statement. 

 Do they? I wouldn’t really know but we see that educated parents want their children to speak English and not their own language as they grow up. I personally think there is always an inexpressible joy associated with speaking your first language and I think we must embrace that joy rather than trying to buy happiness from an external language that we cannot embed in our heart artificially.

(Speaking your first language is an indicator under Culture domain)


Sogyel Tobgyel said…
i am a khengpa...never stayed there more than a year and that too when i was a kid,,,now parents have shifted to wangdue and my younger brothers know more of ngalop than khengkha. though i speak khengkha, i get stuck in search of correct words whenever i converse with my cousins from the i feel quite guilty to have lost my own language....
nice article....
Kuenza said…
Hello Sogyel,

Thank you for going through my articles. I'm glad you put in your time to go through them and that you could relate yourself to my experiences.

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