Social media have been abuzz with discussions on a proverb the prime minister said in his response to a question from a reporter during the meet the press session earlier this month. Many made fun of it without even understanding what it meant.

It is an old saying in Dzongkha. ‘Chu ma thom lay lham phue’ loosely means taking off one’s shoes before sighting the river, or in other words, deciding before gauging the problem in its entirety. 

Why the question was asked and what was said in the response is another issue. The other more significant issue here was many of us mocking the use of an old adage that was once an integral part of our national language.  

We have talked much about promoting Dzongkha, our national language, for decades. However, it is evident from our daily lives that we have very little progress to show. 

One time, it was mandated that all circulars and notifications be written in Dzongkha by all the agencies. The truth is all meetings, even those without foreigners, are also conducted in English. Our policy failed and the repeated attempts to resuscitate this significant unifying factor collapsed. Now even the Dzongkha Development Commission has vanished. 

How do we make it interesting? How do we make it the language of choice? How do we make it simple and attractive? The questions are many.

Perhaps, it is only the armed forces that communicate in Dzongkha constantly, both written and spoken. If officials issuing orders or those at the decision-making level are finding Dzongkha cumbersome or boring, the efforts were not effective. 

Dzongkha has come a long way. But it is not because of our policies. The major boost the national language got was from the film or music industry, and the media, especially radio and television. Parliament sessions, the gewog and dzongkhag tshogdes, are helping more and more people master the language. These are all encouraging signs.

There should be a positive and innovative approach to promoting Dzongkha. We can use advanced technologies –  Apps to teach and learn Dzongkha. There are Dzongkha dictionaries, grammar books and other reading materials.

Those who know Dzongkha say that learning Dzongkha is not difficult if we put effort like our kids learning Korean today. 

Dzongkha is the bearer of our culture and cultural values. A conveyor of our belief systems. If we cannot speak the language well, then we cannot appreciate the intrinsic aspects of our society fully; we lose a big part of what makes us Bhutanese. Then, the joke is on us.