When you learn Bengali, you are learning one of the top 10 most spoken languages in the world! Bengali, also known as Bangla, is a language of the Indian sub-continent spoken by 200-300 million people of Bangladesh and eastern India, and is the inspiration for the UNs International Mother Language Day.
As an Indo-European language descended from Sanskrit it is distantly related to English and most of the languages of Europe. There is not much that is recognizable, however. Bengali has much in common with other south Asian languages such as Assamese, Pali and Marathi. It is written in the Bengali script, which is similar to the Devanagari script of Hindi, and has a rich literary tradition.
For a language with so many speakers and such historical significance, there are surprisingly few resources to learn Bengali either online or with commercial products, at least in English. The best resources seem to be in Hindi. There are a few to get you started, however.
This website provides a basic introduction to the written form of Bengali. Use this to prepare yourself for a more complete course such as the Teach Yourself Bengali course below.
Free Downloadable Software
Transparent Language offers a free vocabulary trainer to get started learning Bengali. Get your Free BYKI™ Lite download by Transparent Language
It is a flashcard program to help you learn the most important words and phrases in Bengali with audio. It is a limited version of the program but can be upgraded to the full version if you like it.
Teach Yourself Bengali
The longstanding Teach Yourself series has always had the widest variety of languages and it is good to see that they have a course to learn Bengali. The Teach Yourself Bengali coursebook includes all the most important vocabulary and phrases, everyday conversation topics and grammar. It also comes with two audio cds. It may be challenging for a beginner but makes for a good introduction to the language if worked through diligently. It is inexpensive and is easy to find as it is available in most bookstores or online. This is the best course for Bengali for most people.
This inexpensive software program to learn Bengali is a great tool to have in your arsenal. Lots of vocabulary and phrases, dialogues, audio from native speakers, games, activities and much more to get you started. It is transliterated, so if you need to learn the unique Bengali script you will need another resource to study from.