How to Learn Bengali Phrases

Written by lorraine j. floyd
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How to Learn Bengali Phrases
The circle on Bangladesh's national flag represents the fight for independence. (Bangladesh flag image by Vladislav Gajic from

Bengali (also known as "Bangla") is Bangladesh's national language and the official language of West Bengal.

The Bengali language shares some words with Arabic, Urdu and Persian. Written in the Bengali script, the language closely resembles Hindi.

If you want to learn some Bengali phrases, you need to learn how to listen to the language as well as speak it. Use flash cards and audio tools and make it a habit to study every single day, whether you have an hour or five minutes. Consistency is key.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Book with basic Bengali phrases
  • Blank flash cards
  • Audio CD

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  1. 1

    Write out on a piece of paper 30 phrases you want to learn. Write the phrases in your native language.

    If you are trying to learn Bengali phrases, chances are that you are not concerned with grammar and spelling rules at the moment. Therefore, determine which Bengali phrases and sentences you do want to learn.

    There are several variations on the Bengali language, namely the Hindi and Muslim variations. If you are travelling to Bangladesh, you will most likely need words from the Muslim variation of Bangla. If you are saying "Hello" to a Muslim, you would say "assalaamualaikum." If you are speaking the Hindi variation of Bengali, you would say "Nomashkar." Choose your phrases based on the variation you want to learn.

    If you are learning Bengali for travel purposes, include basic phrases such as "Please speak slowly," which is "aste bolben ki."

    Learn social greetings and other words as a way to respect culture. Knowing how to say "thank you" ("dhonnobad") is important in any situation, in any language.

  2. 2

    Make flash cards. Flash cards are great tools for learning words or phrases in any language. Look for the Bengali translation for your phrases in a book or on the Internet. For example, Lonely Planet offers a pocket-sized Hindi, Urdu & Bengali Phrasebook. You will most likely find translations and pronunciation aids for any of your phrases in these books.

    Write the phrase in your native language on one side of the card and write the phrase in Bengali on the other side. Write out the transliteration of the phrase. Do not attempt to "copy" the script, as your attempt may not resemble the original script at all.

    While you write out the flash cards, play close attention to the pronunciation of vowels. Make any notes on the other side if necessary, such as "The a in this word sounds like 'can.'" Some Bengali language websites include transliterations with capitalised vowels, which may guide your pronunciation. The capital A in "dhonnobAd," for instance, indicates that you should pronounce the "A" like the "o" in "problem."

    Bring the flash cards with you everywhere. You do not know when you'll be stuck in line or waiting for your order at a restaurant. With these cards, you can go over the phrases anywhere at any time.

  3. 3

    Listen to an audio CD. If it is in your budget, purchase a Bengali language audio CD or cassette which provides the pronunciation of basic phrases. Having an audio component in your study will improve your own pronunciation and understanding of the Bengali accent. For example, William Radice's "Teach Yourself Bengali" book also includes two audio CDs. An audio component will help you learn how to pronounce vowels and some of the more complicated consonant sounds, like the "jh."

    If you cannot afford to spend money on a CD, look for websites that provide audio clips for some basic phrases, such as Virtual Bangladesh. Go through these clips a few times a day. Look out for the subtleties in pronunciation and try to adjust your accent accordingly.

Tips and warnings

  • Study a few phrases every day. If you try to memorise the 30 phrases at once, you will most likely forget many of them.

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