Gongdue Kha, a local dialect of a remote gewog in Mongar is one of the indigenous languages that could soon become extinct.
The natives of Gongdue are expected to learn other dialects easily as their dialect is intertwined with the several other languages of Tshangla, Bumtap Kha, Kheng Kha, and Dzongkha, among others.
The language, which was spoken across all villages of Gongdue are today spoken only in two villages of Daksa and Bakla. Locals here are today fluent in Tshangla, Khengkha, and Dzongkha.
According to the gewog administration, of the 335 households in the gewog today, only about 60 households speak Gongdue Kha.
A 2004 Research by Himalayan Language Project reported that Gongdue Kha was among the 15 dialects in Bhutan that were on the verge of extinction due to rapid socioeconomic change and demographic pressure.
Rigzang from Daksa said that the dialect was seldom spoken in the community and that Tshangla, in particular, was gaining popularity among the people.
“Only the elderly can and prefer to speak Gongdue Kha,” said Rigzang. Bakla and Daksa are the last locales where Gongdue Kha can be heard spoken today.
Gup Dorji Tshering said the trend is worrying. “We encourage people and have organised awareness programme focusing on the need to preserve our language, traditions, and identity.”
Leki Drakpa, 21, from Bakla, said the number of Gongduep Kha speakers could be decreasing due to increasing immigration. Extinction of native people and resettlement are attributed to the extinction of the language.
However, those like Yeshi Zangmo, 60, remain positive that the dialect would live on.
Documentation, research and data collection project on Gongdue dialect is underway as a part of Bhutan oral literature project (BOLP) that aims to document and record indigenous language and cultures.
Field researcher with BOLP, Norbu Wangdi said that the number of locals speaking Gongdue dialect has decreased over the years.
“The youth and native families are reluctant to speak in native Gongdue dialect,” he said. “There was no research and documentation done to preserve and protect oral literature.”
He said the project was timely and that these native dialects were at high risk of getting extinct. “It is important we record this for future,” Norbu Wangdi said.
The trend is the same for native speakers of Chali Kha in Chali, Mongar with the local dialect common only among the elderly.
Sangay Zangmo, a field researcher with BOLP said that the younger people were not familiar with some native words spoken by the elderly.
“Most children are brought up away from the village and they are not familiar with the native dialects,” she said.