Need to streamline Dzongkha spellings

At a retreat early this week in Gelephu, media professionals met to thrash out the issue of decreasing popularity of Dzongkha. Causes were identified and solutions worked out. More needs to be done, however. Key institutions have to come together if any progress is to be made towards standardising the language and making it less confusing.

Because Dzongkha, our national language, is an integral part of the country’s culture and identity, we have a standing command from the throne that Dzongkha should be the language of official correspondence and that it is the priority of the government to promote Dzongkha. Yet, we are faced with one of the greatest ironies of our time: English remains the preferred language of correspondence in the country.

At the heart of declining popularity of Dzongkha seems to be lack of uniform grammar and spelling. And this, media professionals said, has led to complicating the language, which is why children today find Dzongkha the most difficult subject.

Dzongkha Development Commission (DDC) has its own way of spelling Dzongkha words. Quite astoundingly indeed, the commission’s two dictionaries – English-Dzongkha and Dzongkha-English – have different spellings for the same word! And we have school textbooks with their own spellings of words. Media houses have long been trying to standardise Dzongkha spellings. Both think theirs is the right way.

The problem of inconsistent Dzongkha spellings has been longstanding, especially in the media, that at one point of time in 2011, DDC approved a budget of Nu 840,000 for Dzongkha Lekchoe Tshogpa (Dzongkha review committee) to review and improve standard of news published in Dzongkha. The committee died a quite death not long after. That our national language should suffer due to lack of fund is both ridiculous and painful.

At a time when we are beginning to make Dzongkha the main subject from classes PP to XII, language standardisation is more than just necessary. We may deploy adequate Dzongkha teachers in schools and supply sufficient Dzongkha teaching and learning materials, but if we cannot come to agree with as simple as how words should be correctly spelt, nothing much can be achieved in promoting our national language.

It is time the media houses, DDC and Department of Curriculum Research and Development flung their institutional pride out the window and came to agreeing on the one right way to spell Dzongkha words. A common ground must be sought for all the influence they have.

Promoting Dzongkha will remain a daunting task or else.

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