Foreign nationals flock Bishwa Bhasha for Nepali, Newari, Sanskrit and Pali (with video)

Published On: September 7, 2019 09:01 AM NPT By: Aditi Baral

Briton David Richardson and French Gaelle Rousseau head for their classes at Bishwa Bhasa Campus at Exhibition Road in Kathmandu this week. Aditi Baral/Republica

KATHMANDU, Sept 7: The number of foreigners aspiring to learn the languages spoken in Nepal has witnessed a sharp increase.

While the number of foreigners enrolled in the Himalayan language classes at Bishwa Bhasha Campus last year stood at 275, the number of foreigners taking the same language classes has reached 375 this academic year, according to the campus administration.

The foreigners enrolled in Himalayan language classes in the Campus also known as the Campus of International Languages this year have opted to learn Nepali, Nepal Bhasha, Sanskrit and Pali languages.

The love of foreigners to learn the languages spoken in Nepal is visible as soon as you enter the premises of the Campus at Bhrikuti Mandap area in the capital city. You can see a number of people from different nationalities trying their best to speak in Nepali and some even trying to sing a few words of popular Nepali numbers in a broken yet endearing rhythm.

David Richardson, 64, is a native from England and he is learning Nepali. David is a first-semester student, who tries his best to talk in Nepali every time he interacts with a Nepali. Every morning at 10, he along with his French friend Gaelle Rousseau, 29, goes to Bishwa Bhasha Campus to take their classes. Together they have a long conversation in Nepali before going into their respective classes.

Richardson is a photographer and he has been living in Nepal for almost a decade now. “I understand Nepali and I can communicate with people in Nepali but I cannot understand the Nepali characters,” he said, adding “I take photographs that mostly exhibit lifestyle, cultures and religions practised in Nepal. Having complete knowledge of local languages is the best way of understanding the practices of that place. That is why I am taking Nepali classes.”

The Bishwa Bhasha Campus is the only language teaching campus of the country's oldest university, Tribhuvan University. The campus offers a total of 12 foreign languages and four other local languages including Nepali and Sanskrit to aspiring students.

Gaelle has been living in Nepal for a year and she runs a vegetable farm along with her Nepali friends in Sipadol, Bhaktapur. She travels from Bhaktapur to Bhirkutimandap to take one-and-a-half-hour Nepali class every morning. “The reason I am studying Nepali is simple — to communicate with the locals,” said Gaelle.

Only foreigners are allowed to take the Himalayan language courses. There are about 375 students taking this course — around 190 of them are Chinese. Korean, Japanese, Singaporean, Spanish and Australians are learning different Himalayan languages.

While most of them are studying the Nepali language, some are studying Sanskrit, Newari and Pali as well. According to the college administration, around 290 of them are studying Nepali language, while the others are studying Sanskrit, Newari and Pali. There are about 30 students studying Sanskrit, 25 students are learning Newari and 15 others are learning the Pali language.

Each course has been designed in such a way that the students get knowledge of four basic language skills — listening, speaking, reading and writing.

The Nepali language course is of six semesters, and three other Himalayan language courses are of two semesters each. Students have to sit for examinations at the end of each semester where they are tested under oral, listening comprehension and reading, reading composition and dictation and grammar.

A native of Japan, Yasuhiro Hayashi, 33, is studying Nepal Bhasha (Newari language) who has been staying in Nepal for two years and he can now speak fluent Nepali. “I am taking Newari language class because I want to communicate with a lot of locals from the Valley. Newars are Nepal's major ethnic groups and I believe that learning Newari will help me understand the history, culture and civilization of this beautiful city,” Hayashi told Republica. Hayashi runs a YouTube channel named Nepapi Channel where he posts videos of Nepal and Nepali culture dubbed in the Japanese language.

“Although only 7-8 students attend the Newari language class every day, I am happy that people from different nationalities are interested in learning the Newari language,” said Professor Chandraman Bajracharya, a Newari language teacher at Bishwa Bhasha.

The campus is currently running two types of language programs — the Himalayan language program and the foreign language program. It teaches four languages —Nepali, Nepal Bhasha (Newari), Sanskrit and Pali Language under Himalayan language program and 12 different languages- Chinese, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, French, Arabian, Russian, Korean, Japanese and English under foreign language program.

Two years ago the campus also started a three-year Bachelors in Nepali course. There are 25 students taking this course, 10 of these students are from Yunan Minzu University of China as a part of a student exchange program. “They studied Nepali in the Yunan Minzu University for four semesters and now they are sent to this campus to complete the last two semesters,” said Campus Chief Bhim Regmi. “They will study the 5th and 6th semesters for one year and will be sent back to their respective universities after completing the course” he added.

However, many claim that a large number of students get enrolled at the Bishwa Bhasha Campus only to prolong their stay in Nepal rather than genuinely studying Nepali languages and culture. “I do not rule out that possibility. But I have found most of those enrolled in our campus are really enthusiastic and passionate about learning Nepali languages and culture,” said Campus Chief Regmi.

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