2010-08-11

Bangla Resources

Today I have been featured on the Official Google Blog (lucky me!).  The feature was about how I have used Google's Docs and Transliteration applications to help myself learn Bangla. If you have been reading Stationary Waves, you know that from time to time I will post a Bangla Word of the Day, featuring one or two words that are either incredibly handy when speaking Bangla, or particularly eloquent in use.

Blog reader ahnberg asked me in a recent comment if I had taken the time to publish my Bangla dictionary. The answer is no, but in light of the recent spotlight and question, there is no better time than the present.

So here it is, my friend - The Bangla Dictionary. Obviously, this is not my own personal Google Doc. This is an Excel version, which I have uploaded to Rapidshare for those who are interested.

Now, this dictionary reflects the earliest period in my Bangla education. It started out as one sheet, then as my vocabulary grew, I started sorting the words according to the parts of speech. Some of the words in the dictionary are a little wrong or misleading, so have a native Bangla speaker handy.

Also, for those of you who keep track of such things, this dictionary reflects Bangla as spoken in Bangladesh. The vocabulary is a little simpler and less eloquent than what is used in West Bengal. Bear that in mind.

Ahnberg also asks if I have any tips for learning Bangla. Well, these are a few lessons I have learned along the way:

  • Spend some time getting familiar with the syntax of the language. You have to understand that first in order to start forming sentences with your new vocabulary.
  • Start with simple sentences. Most people don't use long, complicated sentences when speaking Bangla, and you likely won't be able to wrap your head around complex syntax until you start reading Bangla books.
  • As tempting as it might be to speak with an accent or in a dialect, I strongly recommend learning to speak formal Bangla. Resist the urge to say things like "korsilam," and instead use the real word with the correct pronunciation ("korechhi," in this case).
  • Do learn Bengali script. It will help you understand pronunciation, and it allows you to access the online Bangla-English dictionaries. It will also allow you to read classic Bangla poems and stories, which contain a rich cultural backdrop that comes with speaking the language.
  • Don't be afraid to practice with someone who knows the language.
  • Even if you can only speak a word or two, do it. People really appreciate it. :)
  • Try to write down every new word you hear, immediately.
  • Most importantly, don't give up!
The most important Bangla online resource I can point to is this Bangla-English dictionary. In order to read the script, you should check out this website describing the Bengali script. (Don't forget to study the conjunct consonants on that website - they are a little daunting at first, but don't be scared. In general the first consonant appears on top and the second below.)

Between those two websites and a native Bangla speaker, you should be on your way. However, if you're like me and you prefer to take a more academic approach to things, spend an afternoon reading the Wikipedia articles on the Bengali Language and the Bengali script. It is pretty dry reading, but it is worth reading at least once. It will give you a full picture of what you're dealing with.

Bangla seems like a challenge at first, but with a little perseverance, you'll be well on your way in a year or two. Good luck, and let me know how it goes!