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Mixing Languages - What's your kha?
Party mijo ga, gari chu ye ga and taxi thob chi ga, are common expressions used by the Bhutanese people in everyday conversations.

Such a mixture of languages, technically known as pidgin language, is a result of borrowing foreign culture and practices says linguist and English language lecturer, Kinley Dorjee, at the National Institute of Education, Paro.

"Be it with school students, youth and adults we all tend to have a soft corner for these foreign cultures because we find them exotic," said Kinley Dorjee. "And to go with the borrowed culture we have to borrow the language as well."

Dzongkha borrowing words from Hindi and lhotsamkha, according to Kinley Dorjee were on a 'need-filling' basis driven by modern education, technological development, and international relations.

"We share borders with India and have a lhotsampa community in our country and we need to communicate with them," Kinley Dorjee siad. "For these purposes we borrowed languages from them."

According to the lecturer there are three types of language borrowing; 'loan words', 'loan blend' and 'loan translation'.

Foreign words borrowed into Dzongkha with slight changes only in pronunciation like gari for vehicles, taem for time and are 'loan words'.

The second type is 'loan blend' in which the meaning of words are borrowed from English but the forms are adapted to the native tongue such as atali for an orderly.

The third type, which takes a lot of time, is 'loan translation', where the meaning of a word is taken from the source language but is translated into a native form, like jangthong for television and juthrin for telephone.

Kinley Dorjee said that if loan translation was not done on time it would not survive because by then loan words would have already taken its roots in the language. Words like jangthong, juthrin and taxi were some of the examples of delayed loan translation, according to Kinley Dorjee. "We cannot do away with these words now," Kinley Dorjee said.

All these factors, according to him made Dzongkha as a national language susceptible to change.

However, researchers and educationists across the country had different views.

According to a lecturer in Sherubtse College, Mr. N Balasabraniam, translating words into native language, when other countries had already coined them, was a waste of time and resources. It only made the local language more complex and incoherent.

Others like Dr. Francoise Pommerat remarked that she received loads of e-mails from her friends in France often asking her to rewrite paragraphs and words of religious stories in the English edition of Kuensel, which extensively used Bhutanese words.

A Dzongkha expert committee member from the Dzongkha Development Authority said that although Dzongkha as a spoken language existed centuries ago, the written language was relatively new as it developed only in the early 60s with the beginning of country development process, under the command of the late King, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.

"No matter how simple the words we coin are it is difficult to spread its use among the people," said the DDA expert committee member. "People still prefer using sabji baza for vegetable market, instead of tsoe sae throm."

But he stressed that coining new words in Dzongkha was important to preserve the national language.

With the phenomenon of borrowing among languages being inevitable, Kinley Dorjee said that Dzongkha in the future could exist as a pidgin language.

If borrowing went to the extreme, after a point of time Dzongkha could disappear, he said.

"I personally take it as a positive change because if we want to stop borrowing we have to stop borrowing practices and way of life and this means total stoppage in the development process of the country," he said.

English language, he said, itself was a collection of borrowed languages from French, Latin, German and Hindi.

"Unlike many countries and communities, English has been very positive about borrowing languages and change," Kinley Dorjee said. "Which is why it is easy to learn and can be used to express better."

Contributed by Samten Wangchuk, KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper, 2006

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