Nepal, a diverse nation in the heart of the Himalayas is a beautiful tapestry of both the natural and cultural beauty. Nepal is a multicultural country and thus, there is diversity among the people too. The people diverse in their culture, castes, religion, languages, rituals, etc live in a harmony in the country.

Nepal, a home to more than 100 ethnicities, consists of 123 languages spoken in the country according to the Central Bureau of Statistics., it was called Khaskura (language of the Khas- rice farmers of Nepal’s western hills). It was also called Parbatiya (language of those who live in Parbat- the hills) and later on Gorkhali (Language of the Gorkhas). Nepali is the official language of Nepal. However, according to the article 6 of constitution of Nepal, all native languages spoken in Nepal are national languages of Nepal. 2011 national census of Nepal gives the statistics that there are 44.6% of people who speak Nepali as their mother tongue in Nepal. Numerically too, Nepali language is very important in Nepal.

The languages of the multi ethnic and multicultural country, Nepal can be divided according to its origin. The languages according to the origin in Nepal are Indo-Aryan (Indic) language, Tibeto-Burman language, indigenous languages, Dravidian languages and Munda languages. Among these, the three quarters of total languages spoken in Nepal belongs to Tibeto-Burman language. It includes Newari language (Nepal bhasa), Limbu, Tamang, Rai, Magar languages, etc. Some languages are in the verge of extinction. For example, Kusunda language and thus the necessary steps should to be taken to preserve them as they are also one of the cultural heritages of our country.languages of nepal

The top 10 languages spoken in Nepal according to the statistics of Nepal Census 2011 are as follows:

  1. Nepali: 44.63% of Nepali people have Nepali as their mother tongue. It is the most widely spoken language in Nepal and is the official language as well. It is an Indo Aryan language and has been derived from Sanskrit language. Nepali is an important language, not only to Nepal but to the significant population of India, Bhutan, Myanmar and worldwide diaspora.
  2. Maithili: It is an Indo Aryan language and is a native language to Nepal and India as well. The second largest language spoken in Nepal i.e. by 11.67% of people is spoken mainly in the south eastern Terai region of Nepal.
  3. Bhojpuri: It is the Indo Aryan language that constitutes of 5.98% of people speaking the language in Nepal. It is mainly spoken in Terai region of Nepal.
  4. Tharu: It is the Indo Aryan language spoken by the Tharu people residing in Terai region in Nepal. According to 2011 Census of Nepal, 5.77% of Nepalese have Tharu or Tharuhat as their native language.
  5. Tamang: It is the most widely spoken Sino Tibetan language in Nepal and constitutes of 5.1% of people speaking it as their native language. The language is native to the Tamang people of Nepal. However, the language varies from one place to another with the lexical similarity between 63% to 81%. Different dialects of Tamang language comprise Eastern Tamang, Northwestern Tamang, Southwestern Tamang, Eastern Gorkha Tamang and Western Tamang.
  6. Newari: Newari language, also known as Nepal bhasa is a native language to the Newar people of Nepal. It is also a Tibeto-Burman language. 3.19% of people speak this language as native language in Nepal.It has been listed as an endangered language by spoken as the population of people speaking Newari language has been dropping according to the statistics.
  7. Bajjika: It is a dialect of Maithili language that constitutes of 2.99 percentages of people speaking it in Nepal. Bajjika language is spoken in Sarlahi, Mahottari and Rautahat districts of Nepal.
  8. Magar: It is a Sino Tibetan language spoken by 2.97% of people in Nepal. It is spoken by the Magar people and can be divided into Eastern group and western group.
  9. Dotyali: This Indo Aryan language is spoken by 2.97% of people in Nepal. It is spoken largely in Doti district (far western region) and mid western region of Nepal. It consists of four main dialects namely, Baitadeli, Bajhangi Nepali, Darchuli and Doteli.
  10. Urdu: It is mutually intelligible with standard Hindi language and it is spoken by 2.61% of people in Nepal.

Language is a means to communicate with people. There are nearly 6500 languages in the world. About 2000 languages have less than 1000 speakers. That means many of these languages are in danger to extinct.

Nepal is declared as the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. The new constitution that was announced on 20 September 2015 has listed 121 Nepali languages as the mother tongue in Nepal. Out of 121 languages of Nepal, 120 languages are still spoken by the people while one of them has already extinct. Similarly, 110 of them are indigenous, 10 of them are non-indigenous, 8 languages are institutional, 18 are developing, 30 are vigorous, 55 are in trouble and 9 of them are dying. Most of them belong to Indo-Aryan and Sino-Tibetan families. The official Nepali language originated from the Indo-Aryan while others like Newari, Rai, Limbu, Magar, Tamang belongs to Sino-Tibetan. Besides, there are others regional languages like Urdu, Gurung, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Sherpa etc spoken in the different parts of Nepal. Similarly, many indigenous village sign languages like Jhankot sign, Jumla sign, Ghandruk sign are spoken in Nepal and a Nepali sign language is the national sign language of Nepal.

The new constitution of Nepal states that all mother tongue languages spoken are the national languages.  The main official language of Nepal is Nepali with about 44.6% speakers and the second most spoken language is Maithali with 11.57%.

Top 10 languages spoken in Nepal

  1. Nepali

Nepali is the main official language of Nepal. It is widely spoken all over Nepal. About 44.6% of the total population speak this language fluently. Nepali greets each other with NAMASTE by joining two hands and bowing down head. NAMASTE is the most spoken word in Nepali.

  1. Maithali

The second most spoken languages in Nepal is Maithali with 11.57 % of the total population. It is spoken mostly in the eastern Terai region like Janakpur, Sagarmatha and Koshi region. People who speak this language are called Maithili as they are the inhabitant of Mithila region. It is also spoken languages in Northern Bihar of India.

  1. Bhojpuri

Bhojpuri is the third most spoken languages in Nepal. About 6% of the total population of Nepal speak Bhojpuri. It is mainly spoken in the southern Terai region like Rautahat, Bara, Parsa, Chitwan, Nawalparasi, and Rupandehi. It is also one of the major languages spoken in the different parts of India like Bihar, UP, Jharkhand.

  1. Tharu

These languages is spoken by Tharu people mostly living in the Terai region of Nepal like Kailali, kanchanpur,  Saptari, Rupandehi, Bara, Parsa, Surkhet, Nawalparasi, Rautahat, Dang etc . Tharu population is about 6.6 % in Nepal and 5.8 % of the total population speaks tharu languages.

  1. Tamang

Tamang are mostly inhabitants of the Hilly and Himalayan regions of Nepal. They are specially found in the Makwanpur, Nuwkaot, Sindhupalchwok, Lalitpur, Dhading Rasuwa, Dolakha, Chitwan and Kavrepalanchowk. About 5.1 % of the total population are native speakers of this language.

  1. Newari

Newari is also known as Nepal Bhasa. They are the original inhabitants of Kathmandu Valley. Especially, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Lalitpur are considered as the main origin of Nepal Bhasa. There are about 3.2 % people who are speaking Nepal Bhasa.

  1. Bajjika

People living in Sarlahi Mahottari and Rautahat districts of Nepal mostly speak this language. About 3 % of people are speaker of this language. It is a Bihari language that serves as the transition language between Maithali and Bhojpuri.

  1. Magar

Magar is residing mainly in the Lumbini, Gandaki, Sindhuli Districts of Nepal. They speak magar language called Dhut Magar. The magar script is also called Akha lip. There are about 3 % of people speaking this language in the country.

  1. Doteli

It is mainly spoken in the western part of Nepal like Dadeldhura, Doti, Baitadi, Bajura, Bajhang, and Darchula. About 3% of the total population of Nepal speak this langauge.

  1. Urdu

Urdu is the main language of Muslims of Nepal. About 2.6 % of the people of Nepal speak this language. It is mainly spoken in Terai region.

Language spoken in Nepal data

There are many other languages like Limbu, Awadhi, Gurung, Rai, Sherpa, Hindi, Chepang and many more spoken in Nepal. Here is the table that shows the data of different languages spoken in Nepal according to the national census 2011.

Nepal Bhasa846,557
Language Not Known47,718
Other languages21,173

Table reference:

Languages are the identity of people and the country. So, they need to be protected. They should be passed from one generation to another so that they remain alive. In the present context, most of the Nepalese people have been studying the foreign languages like English, Korean, Japanese, Indian, Chinese, and Germany etc. It is good to learn new languages but it is bad to forget the national languages and this is what happens in the present days. People are speaking new languages more than their original one. The government of Nepal should give more attention to protecting the local languages of Nepal. Many organizations have done a great job by publishing the books in different languages. It is our duty to protect them too.