Ashnav Lal, UNH sophomore from Nepal, explored the many intricacies of the Nepali language in this week’s Cultural Connections event presented by the Memorial Union Building (MUB) and the Office of International Students and Scholars on Friday, March 31, in the Entertainment Center of the MUB.
During the event, Lal discussed his overall experience with languages growing up in southern Nepal but ultimately tightened the focus around Nepali, the oldest language in his home country.
“There are around 123 languages spoken in Nepal,” Lal said. “There are so many ethnic communities that each one has its own variation of the Nepali language depending on where you are from.”
The family on Lal’s father’s side originates from Nepal, while family on his mother’s side hails from India. The diversity within Lal’s family resulted in him acquiring the languages of Nepali, Hindi, Maithili and English at a very young age.
“I worked with him to prepare this presentation and I know how excited this made him,” said Gigi Green of the Office of International Students and Scholars. “Since British-English was emphasized so much throughout Ashnav’s education, teaching an audience about Nepali is a great opportunity for him to reconnect with his roots.”
Lal engaged the audience with fun exercises centered on the Nepali language. Each table in the room was equipped with a cup of markers and a stack of blank paper for audience members to take a stab at writing the Nepali vowels and consonants. Once Lal briefly taught everyone the sounds associated with the language, he then encouraged members of the crowd to guess the Nepali words as he spelled them out on a white board.
“I do things like this so I don’t forget my culture,” Lal said. “When I am presenting, I feel so proud and happy to be from Nepal. Teaching people about my culture makes me feel closer to it and I want people to know about the millions of languages and cultures out there in the world other than their own.”
Lal looked like a natural on stage, calling on audience members at random to comically attempt to pronounce the difficult Nepali language. His personality and charisma had the crowd laughing even while teaching basic sayings like hello, goodbye and thank you. Lal’s energy on stage was infectious as it became clear that the Nepali language is something he is very passionate about.
“The language of Nepali is something you don’t really have any opportunities to learn or hear about in the United States, so I thought it was very interesting and informative,” said UNH sophomore Carl Svensson. “I loved how[Lal] had everyone in the room talking and fully engaged in his presentation. It made it really fun to listen to.”
The event came to an end as Lal called on audience members to spell out their names, proving he was successful in teaching the incredibly unique language of Nepali.
“Thank you to the Office of International Students and Scholars for helping me so much,” Lal said at the conclusion of the event. “I really think that if more people attend these types of things, people would become more aware and open-minded toward other cultures and languages that they know nothing about, like Nepali.”