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 like the United States, Australia, or the United Kingdom, you may have one big burning question before you make the final decision to buy your flight tickets: Is English Spoken in Nepal?

In this quick run down, I 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.

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, 123 languages have been identified in Nepal, and have the following break down of language family:

Language familyNumber of SpeakersPercentage of Population
Indo-European21,752,49682.10%
Sino-Tibetan4,584,87117.31%
Austro-Asiastic49,8580.19%
Dravidian33,6510.13%
Others/Not reported73,3750.27%
Total26,494,504100%

Moreover, out of these 123 languages, 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:

RankLanguageLanguage familyNumber of Native SpeakersPercentage of Population
1NepaliIndo-European11,826,95344.64%
2MaithiliIndo-European3,092,53011.67%
3BhojpuriIndo-European1,584,9585.98%
4TharuIndo-European1,529,8755.77%
5TamangSino-Tibetan1,353,3115.11%
6Nepal Bhasa (Newar)Sino-Tibetan846,5573.20%
7BajjikaIndo-European793,4162.99%
8MagarSino-Tibetan788,5302.98%
9Dotyali/DoteliIndo-European787,8272.97%
10UrduIndo-European691,5462.61%

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.

History of English in Nepal

Is English spoken in Nepal? Jung Bahadur Rana first to introduce English classes in Nepal -
Jung Bahadur Rana, first person to introduce English classes in Nepal in 1853.

English being taught in Nepal has its origins tied directly to Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana, in the 1850s. Whereas, as history claims, after being humiliated during his visit to Britain because he could not speak English, established a school to teach English 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, and even demand that only English is spoken during school hours. Moreover, the interest families have in teaching English to their children is further supported by their interest in sending their children abroad for further education or employment, as well as getting them international jobs in the development sector in Nepal.

Takeaways – Do They Speak English In Nepal?

As a foreigner from the United States living in Nepal for over five years, 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 the English language, and if they can’t, 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 (United States, Australia, or the United Kingdom) or who speak English as a second language that you should have no problem traveling in Nepal.

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