The other day I was watching the popular TV series “Mind Your Language” ,a Stuart Allen production, in which different nationalities around the globe have enrolled themselves to learn how to speak in English; the misuse of English phrases (for instance; OVER HANG for HANG OVER..hehehe), their sincere attempt to explain things in English flavored with their peculiar ethnic accent provided me with endless laughter…
Thimphu, my city, does have a piece of it to thrill me every day. Though English is not the only medium of communication here and it is also not a classroom oriented event like the TV series mentioned above but the following anecdotes are about different languages we as Bhutanese use as per our profession and the hierarchy of social status.
As Per Profession:
A lot of Directors, technicians and artists working under the Bhutanese Film fraternity whom I met during my brief attachment were fond of speaking Hindi language to discourse during their MAKINGs. I believe speaking Hindi infuses that creativity in them while making a movie (Truth: All Bhutanese grew up watching Bollyhood movies).
The meat dealers, pan (betel nut) dealers, drivers, guards, linemen and other blue colored job holders often lavishly use few English words like ‘Lovely’, ‘OK’, ‘Beauty’ to express their appreciations. ‘Lovely’, ‘OK’, ‘Beauty’ are key words used to applaud their colleagues A+ job done, used flirtingly while teasing girls along Norzin Lam(Main street in Thimphu) and on appreciating each small happy moment in their difficult lives.
As Per Social Hierarchy:
The upper class families snobbishly speak in English and play golf. It is a self imposed prerogative to go well with the goods they consume every day. From the rice they eat to the cars they drive are all FOREIGN (South Asian Countries excluded) MADE! Interestingly, apart speaking English the upper class southern Bhutanese love to speak in Dzongkha to uphold their high status.
And the middle class families are usually found merging three languages- Nepali, sharchokpa kha (eastern dialect) and Dzongkha together to communicate with each other. Surprisingly, a lot of native Bhutanese love to speak in Nepali.
The candidates in Mr. Brown’s English class had a common goal to learn English despite their ethnicity. We Bhutanese do mind our language not necessarily to learn it but to portray where we are, where we wish to belong and where we want to…….. Funny, right?