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The idiosyncrasies of Bhutanese English 

A Member of Parliament was trolled on social media for serving “snakes” (snacks) and Facebook users usually write “congress” when they say congrats.

Phrases like, “today itself,” “on top of that,” “pass out,” “bunk,” “pre-pone,” and use of redundant words like “each and every,” “I myself,” and “until and unless” among others are idiosyncrasies of Bhutanese English, which are unrecognisable to native English speakers.

These common errors, according to a former lecturer of College of Language and Cultural Studies (CLCS), Jude Polky’s research paper are a result of migration of Indian English to Bhutan.

While Indian style of education dominated the country’s school, the paper states that Indian teachers who taught in Bhutan were not first language English speakers, and many brought with them significant grammar and pronunciation errors and idiosyncrasies that are common across Indian subcontinent and Bhutan.

“It is not a simple task to change language styles and habits that have ben employed since the introduction of English in Bhutan,” it states.

However, the research is an outcome of the author’s own difficulties faced and experience during her four-years of teaching at CLCS. About 470 CLCS students were studied for the research and students were made to write essays, letters, and deliver oral presentations among others.

More than 70 percent of the letters studied for the research reflect a florid style, often beginning with “With due respect an humble request under your kind consideration and sympathetic action please…”

Use of overly formal language, Jude Polsky wrote, is strikingly similar to Indian English.

Many of the errors in Bhutanese English, according to the research reflect the East India Company legacy, while others have their genesis in translation from Hindi and other Indian languages.

The paper also pointed out that statement such as “I’m going to Trongsa” will often elicit the response “is it?” instead of “are you?”

Pronunciation, lack of stress, is also one of the barriers for communication between a native English speaker and Bhutanese, it was pointed.

Although many errors in English may have some basis in translation from Dzongkha and other local languages, the research stated that majority of the more persistent errors have their foundations in India, influenced by complexities of British Colonisation.

The paper also stated that Royal University of Bhutan is attempting to distance itself from the Indian style of education, “didactic chalk and talk teaching.” Many teachers, according to the paper viewed students’ participation as loss of teacher control in classroom.

However, it was also found that most students are resistant to change and this may hinder Bhutanese university students’ future opportunities for employment and universities abroad.

Tshering Dorji 

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