Languages In Nepal: A Beautiful Tapestry Of Culture

Nepal, nestled in the heart of the Himalayas, has never seen any invasions and wars throughout its history, but thanks to the amazing geography of Nepal that has caused it to be divided into three different religions-Himalayan, Hilly, and Terai region.

So, based on these three different religions, there are different culture and lifestyle. Therefore, the languages of Nepal have grown out of this cultural tapestry, incorporating various influences from surrounding areas like Tibet and India and becoming an integral part of Nepali identity today.

You might not realize it, but Nepal has one of the most diverse linguistic landscapes in all of Asia, which means there are plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in its language and culture, both of which are still somewhat underappreciated by the rest of the world despite how long they’ve existed.

In Nepal, there are three official languages: Nepali, Maithili, and Bhojpuri. Nepali is the official language of the government and Maithili serves as one of the national languages of Nepal along with other regional languages. While these three languages are the most prominent in Nepal, over 100 other languages are spoken here as well!

So what do you need to know about the languages spoken in Nepal? Here’s a quick rundown to get you started.

National Languages

Nepal, one of the oldest countries in the world and also one of the most diverse many national and religional languages. Most of you may think, Nepali is the only national language of Nepal. But the fact is the constitution of Nepal has declared that all the languages spoken as the mother tongues in Nepal are the national languages.

Many of the languages also have various dialects. Each of these groups speaks its own language and can be further split into subgroups with their own dialects. In total, there are 123 different languages in Nepal, which allows each group to maintain its unique culture without the fear of being swamped by the surrounding groups and losing its culture through assimilation.

In this guide on languages in Nepal, you’ll learn about each language and why it’s so important to keep them alive!

Official Language

The official working language of Nepal is Nepali, which is also the most widely spoken language in the country. Nepali, is spoken by over 50% of the population, but over 120 different languages are native to the country, including English and Hindi.

Thanks to Nepal’s location right between India and China, many of these languages are part of the Indo-Aryan or Sino-Tibetan language families. However, there are over 120 different languages spoken in Nepal! Nepali is spoken by the majority of the population of Nepal.

But Nepal has been heavily influenced by its neighbors, so there are even speakers of other languages in Nepal today! The diversity of languages is reflective of the cultural richness of the country.

Read About Origin & History Of Nepali Language

Nepal is now divided into 7 provinces. So, the constitution of Nepal has provisioned every province to choose one or more than one official languages along with Nepali. Here are the list of official languages of different provinces of Nepal:

ProvincesOfficial Languages
Province No. 1Maithali & Limbu
Province No. 2Maithali, Bhojpuri & Bajjika
Bagmati ProvinceTamang & Nepal Bhasa(Newari)
Gandaki ProvinceMagar & Gurung
Lumbini ProvinceTharu & Awadhi
Sudurpashchim ProvinceTharu & Dotyali
Karnali ProvinceKhas Language & Magar
Official languages of different provinces of Nepal

Major Languages In Nepal

Nepal is a country rich in linguistic diversity, with over 120 different languages spoken within its borders, and with Nepali being the most common. Other major languages include Maithali, Bhojpuri, Tharu, and Newari. The language spoken in Nepal mostly depends on the region people live in, as well as their ethnic group. Here is a list of the some major languages spoken in Nepal except Nepali:

1. Maithali

Maithali is the second most spoken langauge in Nepal after Nepali. It is mostly spoken by the majority of the population living in the terai region of Nepal. Maithali is a part of Indo-Aryan language which is predominantly written in Devanagari script. Nearly 12% of the total population of Nepal speaks Maithali language. Some of the districts that have the majority population speaking Maithali are Morang, Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusha, etc.

2. Bhojpuri:

After Nepali and Maithali, Bhojpuri is the most spoken language in Nepal. It is spoken by almost 6% of the population of Nepal. It is mostly spoken in the southern part of Nepal. Some of the districts that have the majority of people speaking Bhojpuri are Chitwan, Rupandehi, Nawalparasi, Bara, Parsa and Rautahat.

3. Tharu

Tharu language holds great importance among the Nepalese languages. It is spoken by almost 5.8% of the population of Nepal. People living in districts like Kailali, Surkhet, Saptari, Bara, Parsa, Rautahat, Dang and many more have a majority of people speaking this language. Moreover, different variants of this language are also spoken in different parts.

4. Tamang

With about 5.1 per cent of people in Nepal speaking this language, the Tamang language has different variants which hold an essential place in the list of Nepalese Languages. Five different dialects, eastern Tamang, Eastern Gorkha Tamang, western Tamang, northwestern Tamang, and southwestern Tamang are the major variants of this language. The language is spoken in places like the districts of Sindhupalchowk, Rasuwa, Makwanpur, Lalitpur, Dhading, Chitwan, Nuwakot, Dolakha and, Kavreplanchowk.

5. Newar

Popular as the language of the native Newari people of Kathmandu, the Nepal Bhasa is spoken by 3.2 per cent of the population of Nepal where the majority is the indigenous Newari people of the Kathmandu Valley. This is among one of the important languages in Nepal as it is widely recognized in the capital city.

6. Magar

According to the 2011 census, 2.97 per cent of people living in Nepal speaks the Magar language. This language is the mother tongue of the Magar ethnic group living in Nepal. The dominant language spoken by the Magar people is Magar Kura. This is mainly spoken in the mid-western, western and eastern hills. The far-west districts Kham Magars use the Kham Magar dialect while the Dolpa District Magars talk the Tarali or Kaike dialects.

7. Awadhi

Awadhi is one of the ancient languages spoken in Indian subcontinents. The language is connected to the ancient city Ayodhya which is regarded as the homeland of Lord Rama. In Nepal, this language is mostly used by the people of Awadhis ethinicity. Spoken by almost 1.9% of the total population of Nepal, it is mostly used in Lumbini and Sudurpashchim provinces of Nepal.

8. Bantawa

Bantawa is one of the Kirati languages mostly spoken in the eastern Himalayan hills of eastern Nepal by the ethinical group of Kirati Bantawa people. This is the most spoken language among the Khambu and Rai group of people of Eastern Nepal. Though Bantawa is spoken by rarely by 0.5% of the total population of Nepal. It is one of the endangered languages in Nepal.

9. Gurung

Gurung language is one of the major languages of Nepal that is spoken by Gurung people. The language has different dialects and differs from place to place. It is a Sino-Tibetean language. It is spoken by 1.2% of the total population of Nepal. It is mostly spoken in the Gandaki province and Dhawalagiri zone of Nepal.

10. Limbu

It is a Sino-Tibetean language spoken by the Limbu people of Nepal. The Limbu refer to themselves as Yakthung and their language as Yakthungpan. Yakthungpan has four main dialects: Phedape, Chhathare, Tambarkhole and Panthare dialects. It is one of the major spoken and written languages in Nepal. The language is spoken by 1.3% population of Nepal.

11. Bajjika

With a population of about 3% of Nepal speaking this language, it has become quite recognized among the languages of Nepal. This language is mostly spoken in different districts of Terai like Sarlahi, Rautahat and Mahottari. Bajjika is a Bihari language that serves as a swift transition between the Bhojpuri and Maithili languages.

12. Urdu

Urdu is also one of the major spoken languages in Nepal. With total of 2.6% population of Nepal speaking Urdu, this is one of the most important languages of Nepal. Urdu is mostly used by the muslims living in the Terai region of Nepal, and other parts of the country.

These are the some major languages that are significantly spoken in Nepal. Beside these languages, there are several other religional langauges and their dialects that are spoken in Nepal.

Other Regional Languages In Nepal

Nepal is home to many different religions, and as a result, there are several different religious languages spoken throughout the country. As of now, you know the most common religious language is Nepali, Maithali, and Bhojpuri. However, there are also sizable populations of Buddhists and Muslims in Nepal, each with their own language. So there are many such regional languages and dialects in Nepal. Here is the complete list of all the 123 languages in Nepal according to their rank:

  • Nepali
  • Maithali
  • Bhojpuri
  • Tharu
  • Tamang
  • Newari(Nepal Bhasa)
  • Bajjika
  • Magar
  • Dotyali/Doteli
  • Urdu
  • Awadhi
  • Limbu
  • Gurung
  • Baitadeli
  • Rai
  • Aachami
  • Bantawa
  • Rajbanshi
  • Sherpa
  • Hindi
  • Chamling
  • Bajhangi
  • Santhali
  • Chepang
  • Danuwar
  • Sunuwar
  • Magahi
  • Uranw/Kurux
  • Kulung
  • Kham
  • Rajasthani
  • Majhi
  • Thami
  • Bhujel
  • Bengali
  • Thulung
  • Yakkha
  • Dhimal
  • Tajpuriya
  • Angika
  • Sampang
  • Khaling
  • Wambule
  • Kumal
  • Darai
  • Bahing
  • Bajureli
  • Hyolmo
  • Nachiring
  • Yamphu
  • Bote
  • Ghale
  • Dumi
  • Lepcha
  • Puma
  • Dungmali
  • Darchuleli
  • Aathpariya
  • Thakali
  • Jirel
  • Mewahang
  • Sign Language
  • Tibetan
  • Meche
  • Chhantyal
  • Raji
  • Lohorung
  • Chhintang
  • Gangai
  • Pahari
  • Dailekhi
  • Lhopa
  • Dura
  • Koch
  • Chiling
  • English
  • Jerung
  • Khas
  • Sanskrit
  • Dolpali
  • Hayu
  • Tilung
  • Koi
  • Kisan
  • Waling
  • Musalban
  • Haryanvi
  • Jumli
  • Lhomi
  • Punjabi
  • Belhare
  • Odia
  • Sonaha
  • Sindhi
  • Dadeldhuri
  • Byangshi
  • Assamese
  • Raute
  • Saam
  • Manange
  • Dhuleli
  • Phangduali
  • Surel
  • Malphande
  • Chinese
  • Khariya
  • Kurmali
  • Baram
  • Lingkhim
  • Sadhani
  • Kagate
  • Dzongkha
  • Bankariya
  • Kaike
  • Gadhawali
  • French
  • Mizo
  • Kuki
  • Kusunda
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Nagamese
  • Arabic

Endangered Languages In Nepal

An endangered language is a language that is at a risk of falling out of use mainly because of the less number of speakers. If a language loses all of its native speakers, it becomes extinct. Although, Nepal is a home to both ancient and modern languages. Out of 123 languages spoken in Nepal, there are also many languages that are losing their identity, and are on the way of extinction mainly due to the language shifting. According to UNESCO, there are four levels of language endangerment between “safe” and “extinct”.

Here is the list of some endangered languages in Nepal with their number of speakers:

  • Athpare
  • Bahing
  • Bantawa
  • Baram
  • Chamling
  • Chepang
  • Chhintang
  • Danuwar
  • Dhimal
  • Dungmali
  • Ghale
  • Gurung
  • Gyasumdo
  • Ha-lung Tibetan
  • Vayu
  • Jerung
  • Jirel
  • Kagate
  • Kaike
  • Khaccad Bhote
  • Khaling
  • Kham
  • Kohi
  • Kulung
  • Kumhali
  • Kurux
  • Kusunda
  • Magar
  • Maijhi
  • Mewahang
  • Nachhiring
  • Nar Phu
  • Newar
  • Nubri
  • Nyishangba
  • Puma
  • Raji
  • Raute
  • Sam
  • Sampang
  • Sanskrit
  • Surel
  • Thakali
  • Thangmi
  • Thulung
  • Tilung
  • Tsum
  • Wambule
  • Yakkha
  • Yamphu

Conclusion

Nepal is home to many different languages, each with its own unique history and culture. The Nepali language is the most commonly spoken, but there are also Tibetan, Hindi, Newari, and Gurung dialects. While some may see the multiple language barrier as a challenge, it actually enriches the country’s diversity. Language learning can be a great way to connect with new people and understand different cultures. If you like reading this blog post, please do share it with others!

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