Book Review: Ghulam Murshid’s Bengali-English-Bengali Dictionary

Not currently in stock at Amazon and almost certainly not to be found at a mainstream bookshop in the UK, Ghulam Murshid’s Bengali-English-Bengali Dictionary (pub. Ruposhi Bangla) is a very useful resource for the English-speaking student of Bengali.

The paperback size volume is set out in the two sections of the traditional language dictionary. First Bengali to English, then English to Bengali, both in an A-Z format. This doesn’t of course follow the Bengali alphabet, and thus doesn’t encourage the reader to learn it, but it certainly does make things easier for the beginner.

Another beginner friendly feature is that words are primarily given in ‘transliterated’ form (i.e. in the Latin alphabet). They are also shown in the Bengali script, which is handy as there’s not a standard Bengali-English transliteration scheme.

One omission is the absence of any context for words – e.g. Race is given as jati and dour but there’s nothing to indicate which, if either, refers to something you’d run as opposed to something that describes your appearance etc. But this does ensure the book is kept to a reasonable size and packs a decent amount of words in.

Beyond the main dictionary section of the book it also has a useful grammar primer, overview of verbs and several appendices. These latter include: days, (Bengali) months, telling the time; numbers from 1-100 and some larger ones, written in both English and Bengali in full and as numbers, and directions; relationships (son, daughter etc); biographical names*; geographical names/important places*; English words used in Bengali (e.g. accept kora)*. *Only shown in English and transliterated Bengali. This might be too much detail for you, but you won’t find it anywhere else.

Ultimately Murshid’s book is user-friendly and very useful, although I’d combine with the larger – and more doorstep sized – Samsad Bengali-English Dictionary.

I bought my copy from “Europe’s first and largest Bengali bookshop” Ruposhi Bangla, in Tooting, South London. Their website isn’t up to date, and it’s probably best to phone ahead to check opening times. But when I went a few years ago the owner couldn’t have been more helpful – having closed the shop to look after her grandchildren for that half-term week she kindly arranged a time to open it just for my visit!

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