Language in Bhutan

Dzongkha – The National Language of Bhutan

Dzongkha is the national language of Bhutan. The word Dzongkha means the language (Kha) spoken in the Dzong. Dzongs are the fortresses established throughout the kingdom by Zabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in the 17th century.

Although there are over 18 languages in Bhutan that belong to the Tibeto-Burman group and Lhotsamkha (Nepali)  – Indo-Aryan group, the lingua franca of Bhutan is Dzongkha which is the native language of Bhutan.


Written Dzongkha follows a script similar to Tibetan and consists of 30 consonants and four vowels. The modern Dzongkha writing uses the alphabet system first introduced by Thonmi Sambhota. He was the son of Anu of the Thonmi clan from central Tibet; Sambhota was a minister of the religious Tibetan King Songtsen Gambo.

After mastering linguistics in India, Sambhota returned to Tibet and introduced the Tibetan alphabet system which comprises 30 consonants and four vowels. The sound system and the structure of the alphabets were based on Devangiri, a script used for many modern and older languages of India, including Sanskrit, Hindi and Nepali. Although the writing system of modern Dzongkha namely Jogyig was brought to Bhutan by Dematsema on the invitation of Sindhu Raja, the origin of the Bhutanese alphabet has to be traced back to Sambhota.


Dzongkha consists of 30 consonants termed as Selje Sumchu. These are used in combination with prefixes, suffixes and post suffixes. The words are formed with characters which are sub-joint and surmounted on the basic letter. Thus a simple word in Dzongkha may look complex with sub-joints, surmounts, prefixes and suffixes.

Spoken Dzongkha

Written Dzongkha may be similar to Tibetan but spoken Dzongkha is very different. Spoken Dzongkha consists of various articulations and is relatively easy to learn, speak and follow. Dzongkha has limited vocabulary and many modern words are still being introduced and some are still made up by a combination of terms. The separate honorific vocabulary exists for use in respect with the elders, for example the Dzongkha verb ‘to speak’ when used with people with same status is Lap where as when used in reference with elders it would change to Zhu.

Conversational Dzongkha

Like many other languages of the region, Bhutan too has many dialects depending on the region in which they are spoken. The difference is very minimal and can be understood. As the language is still developing, the vocabulary is limited and influenced by a combination of terms. There is an increasing trend of usage of English with Dzongkha in day to day conversation as the mixing of languages is easy to speak and understand.


Dzongkha is a developing language and the Dzongkha Development Commission is the body which is implementing the language policy and making it more user friendly through many projects like dictionaries and glossary of terms and computer fonts.

Examples of conversational Dzongkha:

Hello: Kuzuzangpo la

Welcome: Joen pa leg so

How are you? Ga day bay zhu yoe ga?

I am fine: Nga leg shom bay rang yoey

Good wishes: Tashi Delek!

Thank you: Kadrinche la



Biodiversity in Bhutan


  1. A brief background:

Bhutan is a small country in the Himalayas with total land area of 38,394 square kilometers.

Though the country is small, Bhutan has world’s most rugged topography that varies from 100 meters in the south to over 7,500 meters above sea levels in the north thereby bestowing Bhutan with outstanding landscapes of natural environment and biodiversity both rich and diverse. Today global community recognizes Bhutan as one of the 10th Global Biodiversity Hotspot.

A few facts about biodiversity of Bhutan as per information provided in National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan 2014 are specified below:

  1. Biodiversity
    • Ecosystem diversity:
      • Forest Ecosystem: The country is divided into three eco-floristic zones with different forests types:
        • Alpine zone (4,000+masl): Alpine meadows and scrubs forests
        • Temperate zone 2,000-4000masl): Fir Forests (3,000+masl), Mixed Conifer Forests (2,500 – 3.500masl), Blue pine forests (1,500-3,200masl), broadleaf mixed with conifer forests (2,000-2,500masl).
        • Sub-tropical zone ( 150-2,000 masl): Broad leaf forests (1,000-2,000masl), Chir pine forests (700-2,000masl), Tropical lowland forests (<700masl).
        • Aquatic Ecosystem: The aquatic ecosystems of Bhutan consist mainly of rivers, lakes, marshlands and hot springs.
        • Agricultural Ecosystem: Bhutan has six agro-ecological zones which includes Alpine (3600-4600 masl), Cool Temperate (2600-3600 masl), Warm Temperate (1800-2600 masl), Dry sub-tropical (1200-1800 masl), Humid sub-tropical (600-1200 masl) and Wet sub-tropical (150-600)
      • Species diversity:

Some figures on species diversity as recorded in National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan are:

  • Wild flora:
  • biodiversityVascular plants: over 5600 species of which about 105 species are endemic to Bhutan.
  • Pteridophytes: Over 410 species.
  • Mushroom: Over 90 species
    • Wild Fauna
  • Mammals: over 200 species of which 27 species are globally threatened: eg Golden Langur, Snow Leopart, Takin, Bengal Tiger, Black naked crane, red panda etc.
  • avefaunaAvefauna: Over 678 species of which 14 species are globally threatened.
  • Invertebrates (Butterlfly: About 140 out of estimated 800-900 species identified
  • Fish: over 50 species
    • Domesticated flora/Agricultural crops:

biodiversity-in-bhutanThere are wide levels of domesticated floral diversity encompassing ecosystem diversity, species diversity and genetic diversity. There are over 100 species that are cultivated in Bhutan which can be further divided into numerous varieties within species that are rich, diverse and unique. Important crops are rice, maize, wheat, buckwheat, barley, millets, legumes, oilseeds, all kinds of vegetables and fruits.



  • Domesticated Fauna/Livestock diversity.
  • Yak: 2 major categories
  • Cattle: Nublang/Siri
  • Horse: Yutha, Byotha, Jatha
  • Pig: Sapha, Domphaetc
  • Poultry: different strains
  • Sheep: 3 (Saktenpa, Jakar and Sibsoo type)
  1. Bhutan for Biodiversity:

Bhutan is one of the few countries in the world that has entered into 20th century with biodiversity intact. This is due to various enabling factors and strong legal instruments that are in place to protect biodiversity in the country. These includes:

  • A far sighted visionary leadership of our kings. “Throughout the centuries, the Bhutanese have treasured their natural environment and have looked upon it as the source of all life. This traditional reverence for nature has delivered us into the twentieth century with our environment still richly intact. We wish to continue living in harmony with nature and to pass on this rich heritage to our future generations.”- His Majesty the King Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
  • A unique GNH philosophy of socio-economic development where in environment preservation is one of the four pillars of GNH. This ensures that development is never achieved at the cost of the environment.
  • Constitution of Bhutan as Bhutan is only the country in the world where its constitution mandates 60% of its forest for all times to come.
  • Strong conservation ethics and religious practices of the Bhutanese people living in harmony with nature.
  • Many policy documents and action plans are in place which includes ‘Vision 2020’ for sustainable development, ‘robust Biodiversity Action Plans’ which is a guiding documents on biodiversity conservation and sustainable use across all sectors.
  1. Visit Bhutan to witness unique biodiversity

Bhutan is unique country with rich and diverse flora and fauna. Bhutan is a unique country with very strong commitment for conservation of biodiversity. Bhutan is a unique country with astonishing natural beauty with 72% forest cover. Bhutan is a unique country with carbon neutral policy. Therefore, do not delay in witnessing this world heritage of wild flora, wild fauna, domesticated flora and domesticated fauna in Bhutan with Yak Holidays Int’l.