Online Language Courses  
  • Bengali Primer - (a transliteration schema, basic grammar, useful words and phrases (with sound files), and an online English to Bengali dictionary).  
  • Learn Bengali - Phrases
  • Learn to Read Bengali
  • Survival Bengali - (an introduction to the Bengali language, a transliteration schema, a small collection of useful words and phrases, and a 3,000 word English to Bengali dictionary)


  • Bengali is an eastern Indo-Aryan language spoken in Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal by approximately 190 million people.

  • Two Bengali dialects are significant: Sadhu-Bhasa, the literary language, which has a vocabulary with many Sanskrit words and is unintelligible to the uneducated; and Calit-Bhasa, the colloquial speech, which has many contracted forms. Calit-Bhasa is spoken by the educated Bengalis as well as by the common people; it is based on the dialect of Calcutta and surrounding districts.

  • Unlike western Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindi, Bengali has preserved case inflection for nouns and pronouns.

  • Bengali distinguishes four to six cases, depending on whether the word inflected represents a rational or a nonrational being or thing.

  • Bengali is an English word referring to both the language and the people speaking the language; in Bengali the language is called Bangla, now more widely used in the international arena, whereas the people are called Bangali. The area where Bengali people live is called Bengal in English and Bongo in Bengali. The region is now divided into the western part, West Bengal (or Poshchim-Bongo) which is an Indian state and the eastern part, Bangladesh (East Bengal or PurboBongo) which is an independent country.

  • Between 1947 and 1971, when Eastern Bengal (present-day Bangladesh) was part of Pakistan, the Bengali language became the focus and foundation of the national identity of the people of East Bengal which resulted in the creation of the sovereign state of Bangladesh.

  • Possibly the greatest and most prolific writer in Bengali is Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore who is widely recognised as the Shakespeare of India. Influenced primarily by universalist Hindu philosophy in the Upanishads, Tagore dominated both the Bengali and Indian philosophical and literary scene for decades. His 2,000 Rabindrasangeets play a pivotal part in defining Bengali culture, both in West Bengal and Bangladesh. Other notable Bengali works of his are Gitanjali, a book of poems for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, as well as short stories and several novels.

  • In a similar category is Kazi Nazrul Islam, a Muslim who remained in Bangladesh after the partition and whose work, like Tagore's, transcends boundaries, adored by Bengalis both in Bangladesh and West Bengal. Most notable are his 3,000 songs.

  • Bengali is usually written in the Bengali script. This is a Brahmic script, very similar to the Devanagari used for Hindi and Sanskrit. Each base symbol represents a syllable, and other symbols can be added to change (or suppress) the vowel of that syllable. Consonant clusters are often indicated by ligating two symbols.
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