Is English spoken in Nepal? Make Travel Easy!

Deciding to travel to Nepal to take in its beauty, or to conquer one of its eight mountains over 8,000 meters is a big decision! However, as a tourist from an English speaking country, you may be wondering: Is English Spoken in Nepal?

Although Nepal was closed off to outside influences before the 1950s, the country has had a long relationship with English. Whereas, it was introduced to the country in the middle of the nineteenth century.

In this quick run down, I use my experiences over the last five years of living in Nepal as an expat to provide information regarding the situation with English speakers in Nepal, and how easy it is to be a tourist from an English speaking country.

Let’s get right into it!

Is English spoken in Nepal?

Yes, according to Nepal’s 2011 census, about 81,000 Nepalis speak English as a second language. Almost everyone involved in the tourism, hospitality, or transportation sectors, speak or understand English. Moreover, English speaking Nepalis are concentrated in the cities, with many of them living in Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara, and Chitwan.

During my travels throughout Nepal I have found plenty of Nepalis understanding and speaking English. Moreover, I haven’t experienced an instance where a tourist was unable to get what they needed or wanted while traveling.

Are signs, menus, prices, and other written text in English?

Most of the signs, menus, prices, directions, or any other information are written in English. Especially in the major tourist destinations, you will find written text in English. As a tourist traveling in Nepal, you should have no issue being able to read whatever you need. 

The only thing to be conscious about is if you are traveling to any remote part of Nepal that doesn’t get much tourism. Restaurants or transportation vehicles in these areas may use Devanagari script instead of translating it into a second language like English. However, if you ever find yourself in this situation, you should have no problem finding someone to help you and point you in the right direction.

The Languages Spoken in Nepal

According to Nepal’s 2011 census, 122 languages have been identified in Nepal. Language in Nepal is extremely divers and robust as there are various sub dialects that increase the total number of languages spoken across Nepal significantly.

That being said, Nepali language is the official language of Nepal and has 11.8 million native speakers (44.6% of the population) making it the most commonly spoken language in the country. The top ten native languages spoken in Nepal are as follows:

In regard to English being spoken, it ranks at 76 with only 2,045 native speakers in Nepal. However, do not let this number deter you, as mentioned above approximately 81,000 Nepalis speak English as a second language. English is a common language and well known by business owners in Nepal.

Fun fact, not only is Nepal diverse with languages, but also in terms of religion and ethnic communities. Whereas, there are over 100 ethnic castes, and 10 major religions in Nepal. Want to learn more about religion in Nepal? Check out my blog covering the major religions in Nepal!

History of English in Nepal

Jung Bahadur Rana, first person to introduce English classes in Nepal in 1853.

English has been taught in Nepal since Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana, in the 1850s. Whereas, after being humiliated during his visit to Britain for not being able to speak English, he established a school to teach it to the ruling families’ children. 

By bringing in two teachers from England, Jung Bahadur Rana began educating his family in 1853. Education for other children (government officials’ children) was not allowed until 1876. Even though English began as a prestigious language reserved for the one percent in Nepal, it is now open to the wider population.

Many families now seek to send their children to private schools that teach English. These schools even make it mandatory to only speak English during school hours. Moreover, the interest families have in having their children learn English is further supported by their interest in sending their children abroad for further education or employment. To find out about just how many Nepalis travel abroad, have a look at my How Many Nepalese are Living in the US?

Takeaways – Do They Speak English In Nepal?

As a foreigner from the United States and an expat living in Nepal, I have had no issues communicating with Nepalis. I have traveled throughout the country (from Kathmandu to Pokhara, and from the mountains and hills to the Terai) and have found people that can easily understand English, and if they can’t, they will find someone to help translate for them.

Although not all Nepalis can speak fluent English, – many do use a mix of Nepalese English – they are able to communicate all important information and answer whatever question you may have. I would tell people thinking about traveling from English speaking countries or who speak English as a second language that you should have no problem traveling in Nepal.

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