I can’t do Dzonglish (now, it seems)

I cannot do Dzonglish. Do you know what Dzonglish stands for, or are you too old, or never knew about it in the first place? In which case you are a rare breed. Dzonglish, as the word suggest, means a mix of Dzongkha (the national language of Bhutan) and English.

This all seems weird to me given that, when I was in the U.S and even prior to going there, I did Dzonglish pretty well. It just came out organically, without me ever noticing it, until my host-dad pointed it out once, but I was doing Nepalish then. What changed then? In the past five years. As a Bhutanese being bilingual is common, right?

Picture courtesy: Assurance Agency

When I was in the U.S, I was speaking English twenty-four by seven. Some days I would want to throw up, and words, as simple as ‘I’, ‘sun’, would come out mumbled-jumbled. Basically, I was tired of speaking English. I think part of it was also deep sadness and (insecurity) in not being able to speak my native tongue as well, and thinking I was losing out or slowly getting further away from it ;“practice makes you perfect” “you got to keep up with it,” respectively. The need to want to speak in Dzongkha became so prominent to the point that my Parop accent, which wasn’t as prominent as before I left for college, became quite noticeable. And I took great pride in it.

In New York City, while hanging in Queens, amongst Bhutanese aunties, most of whom were from eastern Bhutan, they would comment on my now accentuated Parop accent, ecstatically. Which brings to our question, what happened then? Why do I find it difficult and less confident to speak in Dzonglish? Why am I so aware of that and why do I find it easier to just speak in English, Nepali, or Dzongkha, or Hindi or Spanish. BTW, if this adds any context to the story, I am currently in Bhutan. I think part of it has to do with identity. Post-America identity. Who am I now? I know I have changed, (plenty?) in these last few years, simply because that’s the law of nature, and more so because of the experiences I have had, some of which seems life-changing, universe bending. I was also in Washington D.C, on and through the first day of the George Floyd Protests, which I am sure impacted me. In addition, I faced another traumatic experience, at the hands of someone I thought a “friend.” Yes being bilingual is fun and all, with which comes a bilingual experience and thought too, but in real life, it is much more complex, and less aesthetically pleasing.

Some of it I think also comes from wanting to hold on to my America identity. Pheesh. And why wouldn’t I, so much of the good that I am is because of my time there, no I don’t mean an American degree. Though I think I should be proud of that too- I now think. I mean the people that I met. The kindness they showed me, when I most needed it. The restaurants I ate at.

Part of it I think also comes from this inward criticism that speaking in English means you are showing off, or a high-five, or more importantly, the other. Though I think most people don’t actually think that way.

I wrote a poem the other day:

Line 1:

Why do you need to have connections to be good looking

Line 9 and 10:

To speak English

And not care and worry about being judged