The beginning of a brand new year means a new bucket list. And that means newer destinations and languages! So join BnP this month to know a little more about this Eastern Indo-Aryan language spoken in the land of roshogollas and fish. This month, ladies and gentlemen, we are celebrating Bengali.
So who speaks Bengali?
Bengali or Bangla is the national language of Bangladesh and the second most spoken language in India, its language belt currently ranging from Bangladesh to West Bengal, Assam and Tripura. It has evolved from the Magadhi Prakrit and Sanskrit languages and boasts of about 220 million native and about 300 million total speakers worldwide, being the seventh most spoken language in the world and the eleventh most spoken language by the total number of speakers all over.
Even though Bengali is the language native to the erstwhile region of Bengal (present-day Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal), its importance in South Asia can be gauged by the sole fact that the National Anthems of Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka were all first composed in Bengali.
Of scripts and peculiarities
What’s interesting about the Bengali alphabet is that all the consonants have a built-in vowel sounds. Diacritical marks are used when writing to change the default vowel sound. This can be utterly confounding to Westerners, because a word can be repeated several times with different marks and thus is pronounced differently each time, with a different meaning.
In a study conducted by UNESCO, Bengali was found to be one of the top few sweetest spoken languages in the world! The result being a fiercely passionate commitment to speaking the language. But it of course has its own set of idiosyncrasies. The alphabet ‘z’ does not exist; nor does ‘v’. This gives rise to hilarious realities. For example, you could be left wondering which “bolbo” car your neighbour managed to buy.
How’s it trending
C.V. Raman, Rabindranath Tagore, Amartya Sen and Mother Teresa are some names that bring only one civilisation to mind. Known for its literary, artistic and revolutionary heritage, Bengali literature is rich, extensive and constantly growing. Add to it the many generations of poets, writers, artists, philosophers and of course, some outrageously beautiful women!
As for spoken Bengali, Mudar Patherya shares with us that “The fact that Bengali represents an interesting collection of words drawn from Sanskrit and Persian is itself a validation of some interesting realities – that the essential Bengali culture is accommodating and absorbing; that the language has drawn influences based on functionality and spoken refinement. (…) There has often been a reference to the fact that even a simple exchange in Bengali between two individuals often sounds like a love poem!”