As part of the volunteering induction, we had a Nepali lesson. Going into the lesson, pretty much all we could say was “Namaste” (“Hello” or literally, “I bow to the god inside of you”). I’d like to say that coming out of the lesson, we were able to say a huge amount more but that unfortunately would be quite far from the reality of the situation.
Things probably started to go a bit awry when we were told there were 8 vowels and 36 consonants and then quickly went downhill at an ever increasing pace when we then learnt there were 5 sub-groups of consonants each with a nasal consonant and a strong distinction between aspirated and unaspirated sounds. Not being natural linguists, this was a little beyond us particularly when we learned that not using the correct sound could get you into all sorts of problems: for example, aspirating the word “dahl” could mean you end up with condoms with your rice instead of the Nepali lunch staple of rice and lentils.