10 cool things you didn't know about the Bengali language

By Kashfia Kayes, Dhaka, Bangladesh

An article I once read said Bangla is the sweetest language in the world and the comment section seemed to strongly agree. To which I realized, we often forget to appreciate the beauty at home. The mere idea of having cute two-syllable names to call different extended family members in place of the dry “uncle” and “aunty” gives me diabetes. I want to share some cool facts about the beloved Bangla language in the hope to help you re-appreciate the “daal-bhaat”.

The letter আ from Guba’s  Bengali Alphabet flashcards set

The letter আ from Guba’s Bengali Alphabet flashcards set

1.     Indian national anthem was first written in Bangla. You read right! Originally written in Bangla, it is the first of five stanzas of a poem written and later set to notations by Rabindranath Tagore. Yes, he also wrote the Bangladeshi national anthem. More reason to be in awe of this Nobel Laureate!

2.     People sacrificed their lives for this language. In 1952, the people of Bangladesh shed blood and gave lives to make sure they could speak this language and boy, were they successful! UNESCO declared 21st February as the International Mother Language Day in 1999 to honour this movement.

The letter ফ from Guba’s  Bengali Alphabet flashcards set

The letter ফ from Guba’s Bengali Alphabet flashcards set

3.     Bangla is the 7th most spoken language in the world. Walking through the streets of a random city thousands of miles away from home, you hear a familiar chatter. The warmth of an argument in Bangla feels like Rabindra Sangeet. I’m sure, like me, you have made friends in strange lands on the basis of speaking the same tongue and you’re bound to come across a Bengali even in the middle of a desert!

4.     Bangla is an honorary official language in Sierra Leone. This country, far far away from the birthplace of Bangla, is in West Africa. In 2002, in the light of Bangladeshi peacekeepers’ contribution in Sierra Leone’s 11-year civil war, Bangla received this title. But I suggest you don’t try and communicate in it while there as you may be disappointed at the clueless faces.

The letter গ from Guba’s  Bengali Alphabet flashcards set

The letter গ from Guba’s Bengali Alphabet flashcards set

5.     Grandchild of Sanskrit and Magadhi Prakrit. So when you travel to places with the same grandparent language, you’ll find a lot of common words; even understand full-sentences! In my own experience visiting Nepal, I quickly realized I understood most of the things that were being said. Although belonging to completely different terrains and lifestyles, Bangla and Nepali share A LOT of the same words like numbers “Ekta, duita, tinta”, “bhishon” “prochondo” and much much more!

The letter অ from Guba’s  Bengali Alphabet flashcards set

The letter অ from Guba’s Bengali Alphabet flashcards set

6.     It doesn’t discriminate, it’s gender-free! There are no gender specific pronouns in Bangla, but it does have gender-specific terms like actor and actress, and mother and father.

7.     Technically, the first Nobel Prize won by Asia was for Bangla! Nobel Prize winning Gitanjali, by the legendary Rabindranath Tagore, was written in Bangla. This was later translated in to many languages for better distribution. Proud much?

8.     Study says, Bangla has more than 100,000 unique words. There are words all languages share with each other. Bangla borrows words from Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Sanskrit, Japanese, Dutch, Portuguese, French and English. All this borrowing, creating and deriving resulted to Bangla having more than 100, 000 unique words!

The letter ই from Guba’s  Bengali Alphabet flashcards set

The letter ই from Guba’s Bengali Alphabet flashcards set

9.     Bangla radio stations are very popular around the world. India, Germany, Japan, Thailand, Philippines, England and many other countries have popular full-Bangla radio stations with high levels of listenership. I guess, wherever, we are always trying to make it sound like home.

The letter হ from Guba’s  Bengali Alphabet flashcards set

The letter হ from Guba’s Bengali Alphabet flashcards set

10.  World-renowned universities teach Bangla courses and degrees. Harvard University, the University of Texas, University of London, King’s College London, City College of New York, University of Toronto, among many more; I’m sure you’ve heard about all of these schools. Well, they all offer either a course or a full-degree in Bengali language! How cool is that?

 

The letter ঙ from Guba’s  Bengali Alphabet flashcards set . Bangla slang “Bang-er baccha!” translates to “You frog’s child!”

The letter ঙ from Guba’s Bengali Alphabet flashcards set. Bangla slang “Bang-er baccha!” translates to “You frog’s child!”

**BONUS COOL THING: Most slangs in Bangla are just animal names. Animal-lovers, move to these Bengali community-pockets or the Bangla speaking areas, and behold the cutest verbal fights in the world. Be it being called a piglet or a puppy, it ought to crack a smile on that grumpy face.