Best Way to Learn Bengali?
December 24, 2017 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Having immense difficulty finding reliable resources to study Bengali, even paid tutors. I am in greater LA area for what it is worth.

I am very interested in learning to speak/read/write Bengali, and have a few friends who are native speakers who have been epically helpful in this, but my quest to find study materials to supplement and structure what they have shown me has proven totally fruitless.

Each of the Bengali guidebooks I have found on Amazon my friends have pointed out significant issues with (typically related to mistranscribing pronunciation, but sometimes with incorrect grammatical formations too).

I have also sought out classes or tutors in and around LA county - no luck, even though there seems to be a big Bengali community in LA.

I know that the language is coming to Duolingo in 2018 (I'm excited), but other than that options seem limited. Can anyone make recommendations?

Extra extra credit if it is for the Indian/West Bengali dialect of Bengali.
posted by sidi hamet to Writing & Language (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried contacting the Bengali Association of Southern California? Founded more than 40 years ago, part of its mission is to: "Nurture and promote Bengali and Indian culture and languages in Southern California, including conducting classes to teach the language and other cultural traditions." Even if there isn't a current class schedule, BASC might be a resource for tutors.

There are many LA-area Bengali organizations with Facebook pages; churches near the the "Little Bangladesh" section of Koreatown might be resources, too.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:03 PM on December 24, 2017

I should just put this in my profile; I give the same answer for almost every language learning resource question.

Peace Corps, the Foreign Service Institute, and the Defense Language Institute have all developed bodies of training texts for various languages their volunteers/officers/soldiers may need. Having been developed by the US Government, they are technically public domain, but the government is not obligated to actually host them, just make them available upon request.

Happily, the folks over at LiveLingua have done just that, and they DO host the materials. Looks like for your specific language of interest, there are Peace Corps and FSI materials available.
posted by solotoro at 12:58 PM on December 24, 2017 [8 favorites]

Of the two links that solotoro gave, the Peace Corps one is clearly better but should be treated as a taster course. Sadly, I can't find anything better online.

I can give you some general advice. Speaking, reading and writing are really separate skills. I would suggest that you focus on speaking first. For various reasons Bengali script is harder to learn than Devanagri (for Hindi).

Realize that this is hard. I would guess that 99% of westerners will find it difficult to even pronounce the letters ত থ দ ধ accurately. If you can hear the difference, you are already doing very well. Accept that you will make native speakers cringe when you speak simple sentences. And that is okay!

Spending months learning conjugations and vocabulary is not a productive use of your time. Accept that your grammar will be terrible and try to keep moving. Also, tapes that go much slower than conversational speed are also, imo, a big dead end. If you use them, challenge yourself to repeat the sentences faster and faster till you start tripping over words.

Sorry if the above sounds too pessimistic. Unless you can commit to a college course, my advice is to get an enthusiastic tutor and start with word and sentence repetition as quickly as you can. If you've already started, perhaps I can help further over memail.

Good luck!
posted by tirutiru at 4:50 PM on December 24, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hey there, welcome to Bangla! shagatom :)

Have you seen the Teach Yourself Bangla by Radice? I used an earlier version in my classes when I started.

Or Hanna Ruth Thompson has good Bangla stuff - there is a beginners book. (Came out after I got past beginner level). Probably Bangladeshi Bangla.

Both of these are really well established researchers and teachers of Bengali.

Do you know about italki? It's a site that links learners with teachers.

On facebook there's a let's learn Bengali group

I had a great teacher based in Kolkata, who really helped me w advanced Bengali grammar, and could link if you like. She did online lessons with me too.

Memail me for that or other questions. I love Bangla.
posted by squishles at 5:50 AM on December 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

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