Nepali is part of Indo-Aryan or Indic branch of languages, which belong to the Indo-European family. However, not all the native languages of the country belong to the language family as some belong to the Tibeto-Burman family of languages. Most of the indigenous languages, including Nepali, are written using the Devanagari script. The script comprises thirty-three consonants and fourteen vowels, a total of forty-seven primary characters. Regional languages in the country include Maithili which is spoken by the people of Province No. 1 and No. 2, and Nepalbhasa or Newa, native to the people of Kathmandu. Other indigenous languages such as Angika, Gurung, Limbu, Tharu, Tamang, Sherpa, and Sunuwar are also listed as regional languages.

Maithili is the second largest language in Nepal after Nepali. It is the indigenous language of approximately 11.67% of the population. The third largest language is Bhojpuri, with around 5.98% native speakers. Bhojpuri is a Hindi language, and it is spoken by the people of the Terai region. The Tharu language is the fourth largest local language in Nepal with a total of 1.53 million speakers, constituting 5.77% of the national share. It is spoken by the Tharu people who are mainly found in Terai. The Tamang language is spoken by 5.10% of Nepalese as a first language, and Nepalbhasa is the mother tongue of around 3.2% of the population.

The famous phrase Namaste is a Nepali word meaning hello or goodbye. It is used for general greetings. When someone wants to inquire how you are in Nepali, they use the expression tapaii lai kasto cha or timi lai kasto cha. You can answer by saying maalai sanchai cha, dhanyadab, meaning I’m fine, thank you. Other useful Nepali words include swagatam which means welcome, maapha ganus which can be used to excuse oneself or to say sorry, and shubha yatra, commonly used to wish someone an enjoyable journey. When you want to wish a Nepali speaker a pleasant day, you use the phrase subha din.

Out of the 123 languages of Nepal, 55 of them are said to be endangered, and nine are already dying. Some of the languages that are spoken by less than 5000 people as a first language include Sanskrit, English, Pahari, and Raji. In spite of being listed as a regional language, the Angika language has only 18,555 native speakers. Nepal also has 21,061 native Bengali speakers, 77,569 Hindi speakers, and 114,830 speakers of the Sherpa language.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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