Do People Speak English in Nepal?

Nepal is an Asian country located between Tibet and India. The most famous feature of this country is its mountains and the fact that it boasts 8 of the 10 tallest mountains in the world, including the highest peak of Mount Everest. People travel from all over to hike and go mountain climbing.

Nepal’s population is about 29.9 million people. Out of the total population about 35.8% or 10.7 million Nepalese people speak English. The level of English isn’t of a high level but you should be able to talk about basic topics including food, health and travel if you find someone who can speak English. Nepal is poor country with low levels of education, therefore not as many people can speak English as developed countries.  

As you travel in Nepal, how easy can you rely on your English skills to get by? Let’s look at one of the world’s most famous countries for mountain climbing to see how easy it will be explore Nepal while speaking English.

English Use in Major Nepalese Cities

Kathmandu – Nepal’s capital Kathmandu is located in a valley surrounded by the Himalayan mountains. At the heart of the mazelike alleys of the old town is Durbar Square which hosts a religious festival featuring masked dances which becomes frenetic during Indra Jatra. A 2015 earthquake damaged or destroyed many of the cities historic sites. Durbar Square’s palace, Hanuman Dhoka, and Kasthamandap, a wooden Hindu Temple were destroyed, so they are being rebuilt. While traveling around Kathmandu, you should have no problem using English.

Biratnagar – Biratnagar is an industrial city, and the capital city of Province No. 1. Biratnagar was declared a metropolitan city on May 22, 2017, thus making it the fourth most populated city in Nepal. Biratnagar is a good base for explorers who are venturing on to places like Illam, Taplejung, Sankhuwasabha, and Panchthar in eastern Nepal. A variety of colorful haat bazaars (weekly markets) are held in different parts of the city, where farmers from the rural neighboring lands set up stalls for trading produce, spices, and crafts. Biratnagar has many important religious sites, temples, and gardens. Two main gardens are Gopal Garden, near Hathkhola and Hridreyandra Bal Udhyan near Thulo Mill. Temples, painted colorful and visually appealing, are considered Biratnagar’s gem. As an industrial city, residents might not have the same English competency that others have in larger cities like Kathmandu.

Pokhara – A metropolitan city in Nepal, Pokhara serves as the capital of Gandaki Pradesh. In terms of area, it is the largest metropolitan city in the country and the second largest in terms of population. Pokhara is considered Nepal’s tourism capital, as a base for hikers on the Annapurna Circuit through the Annapurna Conservation Area of the Himalayan Annapurna Ranges. Most of the elite Gurkha soldiers are stationed in the town. As a base for ecotourism and mountaineering, local residents most likely possess a working knowledge of English.

Janakpur – Janakpur is a sub-metropolitan city in Province No. 2 of Nepal’s Dhanusa district. The town is a cultural and religious tourism hotspot. The city was established in the early 18th century, and is also known as Janakpurdham. An earlier city existed in the area, also known as Janakpurdham, which was the capital of the Viedha dynasty that ruled the Mithila region in ancient times, all according to oral tradition. Janakpur’s center is surrounded to the north and west of the center by the imposing Janaki Mandir. This temple, one of Nepal’s largest, was built by Queen Brisabhanu Kunwari of Tikamgarh in 1898. In Janakpur, you may encounter English speakers at tourist destinations like the religious temples or marketplaces.

Chitwan – Chitwan is one of Nepal’s 77 districts, situated in the southwestern part of Bagmati Pradesh with Bharatpur, the second largest city of Nepal after Kathmandu. Bharatpur is a south-central Nepalese commercial hub that serves most higher education, health care, and transportation interests. Chitwan lies in Nepal’s Terai zone. As Nepal’s second largest city and home to most higher education and healthcare, you can expect to find many English speakers in this city.

What Languages are Spoken in Nepal?

Nepali – Nepali is an Indo-Aryan language within the Eastern Pahari sub-branch. It is Nepal’s official language, and one of India’s 22 recognized languages. In some cases, the language is known as Gorkhali or Parbatiya. The oldest known inscription of Nepali is believed to be the Dullu Inscription, written during the reign of King Bhupal Damupal in the year 981 CE. An ancestor of Sanskrit, the language is thought to share a lineage with other Northwest Indian languages like Punjabi, Sindhi, and Lahanda.

Maithili – Maithili is another common Indo-Aryan language spoken in Nepal. It is the second language that is spoken the most in Nepal. 11.6% of the Nepalese population speak Maithili.

Nepal Bhasa – Also known as Newari, this language is spoken by the Nepal Mandala Newar people. While some listeners might think that it is very similar to Nepali. The languages are quite different from each other. The language once served as the country’s administrative language, but the language’s importance has declined since the the 20th century, and today UNESCO regards it as a “definitely endangered” language.

Limbu – The Limbu language is spoken by East Nepal related tribes and clans. The people are members of the Kirati tribe, and they have a Tibetan origin. There are 487,300 Limbu speakers in Nepal.

English – Nepal has about 123 native languages. Some Nepalese speak English as a second or foreign language, so English has most likely been influenced by the many other languages present in Nepal. English use is most prevalent in Kathmandu. While Nepali is the mother tongue, English is widely used as a business language. In Nepal, where modern English education began in the 1850s, there is little consensus between teachers and practitioners about whether to follow American, British, or Indian English standards and conventions, or whether to allow the development of Nepal-specific standards.

Is English necessary in Nepal?

As a tourist, you should not have any problem finding English speakers in tourist spots. In 2018, it was reported that 1.2 millions international tourists visited Nepal. A high amount of international tourists does not always mean high English competency rates, but expect that people in tourist destinations will have a working knowledge of English. As mentioned elsewhere, English is compulsory in schools. In most cities, you will be able to find at least one or a handful of English speakers.

As a local who speaks English, unless you worked in the tourist industry as a trekking guide in the mountain, then you might only speak English a handful of times a year. Generally though it is probably hard to find people who can have a fluent conversation with. Nepal’s economy is tourism based, so it might be more difficult to find someone to have a substantial conversation. English is a compulsory subject in school, which makes it possible to find English speakers.

English Teaching in Nepal

Many people might be drawn to teach in Nepal because of the mountains, and the adventure of climbing the tall peaks. Nepal is also known as the birthplace of Buddha. It is the extreme adventure and culture that attracts teachers to Nepal, instead of the salaries.

Most teaching jobs are volunteer and internship positions in Nepal. All monasteries and village schools need English teachers in rural places across the country. Although unpaid, these jobs provide teachers with free food, lodging, and life-changing experiences. Imagine waking up every morning in the Himalayas, and you’re a three-day hike from the nearest village.

If you’re after paid positions, then do not be discouraged. Paid teaching jobs are available, but you will need to live in larger cities. Generally Nepal’s salaries range from 55,000 to 110,000 rupees, or $500 to $1000 a month. Universities and international schools will pay significantly higher for a teacher with more experience and qualifications, generally anywhere from $2,000 to $2,5000 a month. Most schools require a bachelor’s degree and related experience, and while a TEFL certificate is valuable, it might not be necessary.

Beyond voluntary work, there are many positions available for skilled workers. Jobs range administration, management, finance, and accounting, and all the way to computer engineering web development, and teaching. Most of the jobs are located in Kathmandu.

Employers include NGOs and other charitable organizations such as Oxfam, schools and colleges, government agencies and a wide variety of technology firms, ranging from web development and software engineering to everything in between.

There are online resources for finding jobs in Nepal. Jobs Nepal has many listings for different types of jobs, positions, and categories.

Mountain Trekking in Nepal’s Peaks and Avenues

Nepal was closed to the outside world until 1950. Nepal is a fascinating country with things to satisfy the curiosity of any traveler. As the host of 8 of the world’s 10 tallest mountains, Nepal has always attracted adventure seeking travelers. Nepal’s climate varies from tropical savannah to ice and snow at its highest elevations. Adventure seekers can participate in a wide range of extreme sports including paragliding, mountain biking, and kayaking.

Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Lalitpur are the largest cities in Nepal. The cities give a glimpse of Nepal’s medieval history, and modern stores such as trekking supply stores, bakeries, and bars. Living costs in Nepal are unbelievably cheap; a few U.S. dollars can go a long way. Though be sure to bring enough local currency as currency exchanges are infrequent. Although the U.S. dollar and Euro is accepted at all shops, restaurants, or other places. Nepalese cuisine varies throughout the world, although dal-bhat-tarkari, a dish of curried lentils served over rice, is very common.

Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain, is located in Nepal. For tourists, mountaineering and other forms of adventure and eco-tourism are important attractions. Buddha’s birthplace and other important religious sites are located in Nepal. The tourism industry is viewed as a way to alleviate national poverty and bring social equity. Every year it is estimated that the tourism generates $471 million.

Overall, it might be very difficult to find work and living arrangements in Nepal. Despite that difficult hurdle, life in Nepal is improving in many aspects from healthcare to education. Nevertheless if you plan on attempting to relocate to Nepal, then be aware of a few precautions.

Nepal has a public and private healthcare system, both of which fall below international standards. Kathmandu has the highest-quality healthcare with general hospitals and clinics supplying modern medicines. Rural locations have government clinics which provide essential care.

Education is also improving. Both the literacy and enrollment rates are gradually rising, but matriculation rates are still low, with a sharp drop of graduationg rate between elementary and secondary school. Nepal has six universities. The university offers programs in engineering, medicine, business administration, humanities, and education.

As a mountainous country located in the Himalayas, transportation around Nepal is limited. Nepal’s north is mountainous, whereas the south is more connected by rail and road to India. It is possible to move around Nepal by road, but be prepared for limited options. If you travel to Nepal, then you must be seeking some sort of adventure. That adventure awaits you in Nepal. Whether you are looking a mountaineering adventure or attempting a religious pilgrimage, then you can find it Nepal. Maybe you will not find it at all, but as they say it is the journey that counts.

Final Thoughts

So, that is about everything I have to say about the amazing country that is Nepal. English is quite widely spoken but concentrated in the tourist areas and the big cities. It would be useful to spend some time learning some basic Nepali if you plan to take a trip there.

Thanks for taking the time to read this overview of English in Nepal.

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