Language in Nepal is extremely diverse. With over 120 languages spoken throughout the country. With some languages being spoken by only a small percentage of the country and others being the national language of Nepal, it can be an interesting task to communicate with everyone. But if you are visiting the country, don’t get too worried, as English is also spoken in Nepal – so you’ll be able to get around just fine!
Language can be a defining aspect for many Nepalese, as it shines a light on one’s history and heritage. It can instantly connect one person with another and strengthen community bonds no matter where they live in the country. Many of the 120 languages in the country are closely related, derived from Sanskrit, and are Indo-Aryan languages.
According to the recent Nepali census, ten stand out as the most widely spoken languages. In this article, I highlight the top 10 languages spoken in Nepal.
Quick Breakdown of the top 10 Languages in Nepal:
The table below gives a breakdown of the top 10 languages spoken in Nepal, the language family they below to, number of native speakers and the percentage of population.
|Rank||Language||Language family||Number of Native Speakers||Percentage of Population|
The top 10 Spoken Languages in Nepal
Nepal has over 120 different dialects and languages spoken throughout the country. Many of the languages have their own distinct regions where they can be found, as communities that speak them have lived in those areas for centuries.
Below are the top 10 languages spoken in Nepal. Much of this information is derived from the 2011 Nepali Census.
As the official language of Nepal, Nepali is the most widely spoken language in the country. According to the 2011 Census, around 44% of the population speaks Nepali as their first language, which is the mother tongue of approximately 11.7 million people.
Additionally, 78% of people speak Nepali as a first or second language, making it the universal language of the country. Nepali is also the official language of Nepal and is used for official documentation.
Maithili is Nepal’s second most widely spoken language, with around 11% of the population speaking it as their first language. Maithili is an Indo-Aryan language primarily spoken in Nepal’s Terai region. It is also spoken across the border in the Indian states of Bihar and Jharkhand. According to the 2011 Census, there are around 2.9 million Maithili speakers in Nepal.
It may be surprising to many people that Maithili is the second largest dialect in Nepal. One might tend to believe that languages like Newari, or Tamang or larger because of their prevalence in the hilly region of the country. However, Maithili which is spoken in the Terai of Nepal is a language spoken by millions, and has influenced an entire region’s artisans, developing some beautiful art and architectural wonders.
Bhojpuri is spoken by around 8% of the Nepali population, mainly in the country’s southern parts. It is a dialect that is closely related to Hindi and is also spoken in the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Jharkhand. According to the 2011 Census, there are around 2.1 million Bhojpuri speakers in Nepal.
Bhojpuri is a language that connects Nepalese with Indians. With so much cross over and interaction between the communities of each country, one can see a great deal of Indian influence in certain areas of Nepal’s Terai.
Tharu is spoken by around 6% of the Nepali population, mainly in the western and southern parts of the country. It is a Sino-Tibetan language that is primarily spoken by the Tharu people, who are indigenous to the Terai region of Nepal. According to the 2011 Census, there are around 1.6 million Tharu speakers in Nepal.
Tamang is spoken by around 5% of the Nepali population, mainly in the central and eastern parts of the country. It is a Sino-Tibetan language that is primarily spoken by the Tamang community, which is one of the largest ethnic groups in Nepal. According to the 2011 Census, there are around 1.3 million Tamang speakers in Nepal.
6. Newari (Nepal Bhasa)
Newari is spoken by around 3.5% of the Nepali population, mainly in the Kathmandu Valley. It is a Sino-Tibetan language that is primarily spoken by the Newar people, who are indigenous to the Kathmandu Valley. According to the 2011 Census, there are around 900,000 Newari speakers in Nepal.
The Newar community has a very rich and robust culture. The community is well known for its traditional Nepali dishes, having distinct festivals and events, being artisans, and have historically been involved with a great deal of business and commerce. You can find Newari communities in Patan, Bhaktapur, Bandipur, Tansen, and even in Purano Bautali in Butwal.
Magar is spoken by around 3% of the Nepali population, mainly in the western part of the country. It is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken by the Magar people, one of the largest ethnic groups in Nepal. According to the 2011 Census, there are around 800,000 Magar speakers in Nepal.
Magars can be found throughout the hilly region of the country, especially in areas like Syangja. Magars are well known for being the warrior caste and have a strong military and warrior tradition!
Awadhi is spoken by around 2.5% of the Nepali population, mainly in the eastern part of the country. It is an Indo-Aryan language spoken in the southern parts of Nepal. According to the 2011 Census, there are around 650,000 Awadhi speakers in Nepal.
Awadhi is also known as Audhi and is primarily spoken in the Terai of Nepal and the Awadh region of present-day Uttar Pradesh, India. The name Awadh is connected to Ayodhya, the ancient city, which is regarded as the homeland of the Hindu god Rama
Gurung is spoken by around 2.3% of the Nepali population, mainly in the central and western parts of the country. It is a Sino-Tibetan language spoken by the Gurung people, one of the largest ethnic groups in Nepal. According to the 2011 Census, there are around 600,000 Gurung speakers in Nepal.
Gurung or Tamu are an ethnic group indigenous to the hills and mountains of the Gandaki Province of Nepal. They can be found in districts such as Dolpo, Gorkha, Kaski, Lamjung, Manang, Mustang, Parbat, and Syangja. They are one of the main Gurkha tribes and are now famously known for becoming Gurkha Soldiers. They are known to be a fearless community, ready for combat and for being good-natured in daily life.
Limbu is spoken by around 1.3% of the Nepali population, mainly in the eastern part of the country. It is a Sino-Tibetan language that the Limbu or Yakthung people speak. They are an indigenous tribe of the Himalayan region of eastern Nepal, Sikkim in India, and even parts of western Bhutan. According to the 2011 Census, there are around 350,000 Limbu speakers in Nepal.
The Limbus, are believed to be descendants of the Kiratis, and are recognized as being the earliest inhabitants of eastern Nepal. The Limbu people are also known as having very distinct, traditional wear in Nepal, with their own dances, as well as culture and mythology.
Language in Nepal: What are the Top 10 Languages Spoken
While Nepali is the most widely spoken language, the country’s linguistic diversity is one of its defining characteristics. The different languages spoken throughout Nepal reflect the country’s diverse ethnic and cultural heritage and have played a significant role in shaping the communities and regions of the country.
Luckily, more recently a growing interest has been in preserving and promoting Nepal’s linguistic diversity. The government has taken steps to encourage the use of local languages in education, and efforts are underway to document and study the country’s different languages and dialects.
Language, and ethnicity of the communities throughout the country also play a large role with religion in Nepal. Although a large portion of the country are Hindus, some of the indigenous people celebrate a mixture of Buddhism and Hinduism, or a completely different religion all together.
While Nepali remains as the number one spoken language in the country, the other top 10 languages spoken throughout Nepal are equally significant and interesting to study!
FAQs: Language in Nepal
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding language in Nepal.
Nepal has 122 major languages spoken, according to the 2011 census of Nepal. 78% of people speak Nepali as their first or second language, which is the country’s official language. The other 121 languages spoken in Nepal are all recognized national languages.
Nepal’s top 3 languages spoken as first languages are Nepali at 44.64%, Maithili at 11.67%, and Bhojpuri at 5.98%.
– Nepali (44.64%)
– Maithili (11.67%)
– Bhojpuri (5.98%)
The five languages spoken most frequently in Nepal are Nepali at 44.64%, Maithili at 11.67%, Bhojpuri at 5.98%, Tharu at 6%, and Tamang at 5% of the population. Most people in Nepal speak Nepali as a first or second language, making it extremely common throughout the country.
The top 10 languages spoken in Nepal are Nepali (44.6%), Maithili (11.7%), Bhojpuri (6.0%), Tharu (5.8%), Tamang (5.1%), Newar (3.2%), Magar (3.0%), Awadhi (2.5%), Gurung (2.3%) and Limbu (1.3%).
Nepali is spoken by 78% of the population as a first or second language. It is the official language of the country. However, there are 121 languages recognized as national languages. Maithili is the second most spoken language, followed by Bhojpuri.