grammar, useful words and phrases (with sound
files), and an online English to Bengali dictionary).
Learn Bengali -
Learn to Read Bengali
introduction to the Bengali language, a
schema, a small collection of
useful words and phrases, and a 3,000 word English to
language spoken in Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal by approximately 190 million people.
Two Bengali dialects are
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
Bengali distinguishes four to six cases, depending on
whether the word inflected represents a rational or a nonrational being or
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
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
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.