The intention to learn the language is always there. At minimum, being able to say hello and ask where is the restroom is located is always nice. I thought that having worked with an organization focused on Nepal (Edge of Seven) for over a year and finally getting to visit the country and see our projects, I would have an extra motivation to put the effort into learning a bit of the language before leaving the States.
Apparently I overestimated that motivation. I arrived to Nepal this fall still uncertain as to why Kathmandu sometimes excluded its “h” and knowing exactly one word: namaste! (And let’s be real, I only knew this word because most yoga studios in Colorado fully embrace this greeting.)
But I tried my best once I got to the country to learn what I could. Luckily, I had two stellar guides for my first couple of weeks to help we with some basics.
First were the greetings:
- Dhan-ya-bahd Thank you
- Na-ma-ste (Na-ma-skahr) Hello/Goodbye (polite)
- Ta-pai-lai kas-to cha? How are you?
- Ma-lai sun-cai cha. I’m fine.
- Ta-pai-ko nam ke ho? What’s your name?
- Mero nam Tamara ho. My name is Tamara.
Then there were our basic needs:
- Chi-yah Tea
- Khah-nah Food
- Pah-ni Water
- Char-pi Toilet
And just so we could complain a bit easier in the native language:
- Ma-lai tha-kai lahg-yo. I’m tired.
- Ma-lai bhok lahg-yo. I’m hungry.
- Ma-lai tir-khah lahg-yo. I’m thirsty.
- U-kah-lo Uphill
- O-rah-lo Downhill
- Tu-lo Big
- Sah-no Small
A few weeks into the trip, I started to pick up on some more food names that made it a bit easier for me to ask for things.
- Chi-ni Sugar
- Shyau Apple
- Sun-ta-lah Orange
- Ke-rah Banana
- Phar-shi Pumpkin
- Kah-kro Cucumber
- Ka-re-lo Green bitter squash
- Ah-lu Potato
I got down one question that inevitably got a response back in Nepali which I could never understand:
- Kah-ti rup-ya? How much does it cost? (How many rupees?)
But probably one of the best words that I learned in Nepal was pug-yo (That’s enough or I’m not interested). When dealing with the throngs of vendors trying to sell you everything you don’t need or waving off the third helping of dal baht from the very generous family, this word will give you the peace that you need.
After two months spent in Nepal, I would say that my total vocab was more accurately up to about 60 words. Not too bad for a foreigner with no prior knowledge of the language, I guess. But having some of these words down is so helpful when traveling through the country and, when I go back (and it will happen), I have that base to build on.