Nepali is the main state language in Nepal. English is widely spoken among Nepalis working in the tourist industry and you won't have any troubles travelling around the country speaking only English, even on mountain trekking routes. That said, locals will be delighted if you learn just a handful of Nepali phrases, and will be even more impressed if you can pull out a few words of Tibetan, Tamang or Newari.

Courses

Nepali is not a difficult language to learn, and you will see notices around Kathmandu advertising language courses. Most schools offer courses or individual tuition. Expect to pay about US$50 for a two-week course or around US$3 to US$5 per hour for private tuition.

There are often flyers around Bodhnath advertising Tibetan-language tuition as well as opportunities to volunteer teaching English to Tibetan refugees.

There are a number of language centres in Kathmandu and Pokhara.

Rangjung Yeshe Institute This affiliate of Kathmandu University offers a variety of long-term courses on Buddhist studies and Tibetan language.

Cosmic Brontosaurus Language School Offering individual or group lessons from beginner to advanced, the rather primitive classroom in a wooden shack along the lake is surrounded by banana plants and is the perfect spot to learn Nepali. Prem, who runs the school, is a lovely guy, and has several years’ experience working with the UN as a translator.

Intercultural Training & Research Centre This well-respected language centre works with many NGOs, including the UK’s Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). It offers crash courses (three hours), 60-hour beginner courses and six-week intermediate courses. Tuition is one-on-one and costs around Rs 400 per hour.

Kathmandu Environmental Education Project Offers six-day Nepali-language classes over the last week of each month. Cost is US$50 per person.