Promoting the Use of Dzongkha in Bhutan

The royal decree stated that the government placed the highest importance to preserve and promote Dzongkha since it is the most important element of Bhutanese identity.

Dzongkha - the national language of Bhutan. (Source:


Survey finds only 10 percent of the 43 government offices use Dzongkha in official correspondence

The government will re-enforce the resolution of the 84th session of the National Assembly 2005, which resolved that all conferences and public meetings must be conducted in the national language, Dzongkha, even if there are non-Bhutanese participants.

Addressing a gathering of more than 60 Dzongkha experts at the inauguration of a three-day symposium on challenges and the way forward in the implementation of the national language, Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay assured that the government will strive to conduct conferences and public meetings in the national language, Dzongkha.

The prime minister also announced that the government would soon recruit interpreters or translators for the benefit of foreign participants while conducting meetings in Dzongkha.

“If possible we will use interpreters from next month for foreign participants,” Lyonchhen, who is also the chairman of the Dzongkha Development Commission (DDC) said.

The DDC secretary Tshewang Norbu reported that the main complaints and feedback received from local government leaders and stakeholders was that senior leaders and government officials conduct conferences and meetings only in English.

Implementing the use of Dzongkha across society

He said that there are clear executive orders and Royal Kashos stating that not only conferences, seminars, workshops and public gatherings must be conducted in the national language but official correspondence, vehicle number plates, household numbers and addresses, and sign boards should be written in Dzongkha.

“However, when it comes to implementing those policies and executive orders, due importance was not given by the relevant authorities.”

He said that this is the main challenge in promoting and strengthening the national language.

Following the National Assembly resolution, the Assembly directed the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs to issue a nationwide notification stating that all conferences and meetings should be conducted only in the national language. However, if the meetings are meant specifically for non-Bhutanese, they could be conducted in English.

Dzongkha is the most important element of Bhutanese identity

The Assembly also resolved that the Royal Kasho of 1993 should be strictly adhered to. The royal decree stated that the government placed the highest importance to preserve and promote Dzongkha since it is the most important element of Bhutanese identity.

A separate policy was also framed. A DDC survey last year showed that of the 43 government offices surveyed, only 10 percent used Dzongkha in official correspondence and orders. The rest were conducted in English.

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay said that to help to promote the usage of Dzongkha, the government would provide free Dzongkha classes to students to enhance their knowledge and help them prepare for examinations.

He said the government prioritises the promotion of the national language since it is one of the most important aspects of Bhutanese culture.

“A small landlocked country with a small population, we run the risk of weakening and diluting our culture and national language by popular foreign languages,” he said.

He urged the experts to come up with good recommendations after the three-day discussion to formulate proper policy and plans in the 12th Plan to strengthen the language.


By Rinzin Wangchuk (This article has been edited for the New Bhutan Times)

This article first appeared in Kuensel.



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