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Bhutan Observer
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What of language? what its purpose?
Ap Tsara, April 16, 2013
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Wai! The compulsory use of Dzongkha even in the non-Dzongkha speaking communities for election campaigns has left many observers wondering whether we are not enmeshed by the clash of priorities again.

While we understand that we must take pride in speaking and learning our national language, talking to listeners who don’t even know functional Dzongkha just to abide by the rules we have made for ourselves is a bit too hilarious. And that too, in matters of national importance.

There are many isolated communities in Bhutan where Dzongkha is not spoken at all. They consider Dzongkha the language of the educated. The speeches of the candidates sounding Greek and Latin, therefore, is understandable.

If the purpose of the campaigns is to let the people know their candidates well and decide who they should vote for, delivering talks in the dialect of the region would best serve the purpose. Letting the people vote simply because they have the right to, with little knowledge of what the candidates stand for may not be the correct form of voter education.

Dzongkha must be preserved. It must be promoted. But in a manner that is prudent and applicable. The fact that Dzongkha is the sole language in the parliament explains that we are doing what we can to promote it. The language barrier may have dissuaded many of our parliamentarians from active participation and remained mere seat-warmers. That doesn’t matter. For the post they are in, they must be fluent in the national language.

But for the voters in the remote corners who do not know Dzongkha it’s a different matter. We already hear of people judging their candidates by considering who is better-looking and who is draped in better garments. Silly as it sounds, it echoes loud the message that they have no other choice.

Calling the people who have understood not a word of what the contestants said to the polls is akin to a bull charging in the dark.

That will do more harm than good.

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