iPhone Bengali script problems

iTransliterate iPhone app

Bengali vowels on the iTransliterate iPhone app

If you view writing in Bengali script on an iPhone you’ll pretty quickly notice a fundamental problem with the way it appears.

This has to do with vowels not being shown correctly and it occurs because of the type of fonts being used and the way they work.

There are two forms for writing Bengali vowels, a long and a short form. Vowels that appear after a consonant are shown in the shorter form, appearing as vowel marks or ‘kar’s. They are variously written before, after or under the consonant they actually follow when reading the word.

But on an iPhone the i-kar, e-kar and the vowel sign for the letter O, an e-kar before the letter followed by an a-kar after the letter, are all displayed incorrectly (see the above iTransliterate iPhone app screenshot).

There are some expansive and reasonably technical notes here on why Bengali and other Indian languages don’t appear properly on smart phones.

The link is to a blog post by Richard Ishida, who’s the international­ization activity lead at the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) and also contributes to the Unicode Editorial Committee – which is a long-winded way of saying he knows what he’s talking about.

Ultimately though it’s a known issue with the fonts involved, and not a problem with your Bengali transliteration app, the mobile version of certain parts of this blog or BBC Bangla Tweets on an iPhone – all of which suffer from being incorrectly displayed at the moment.

The only good news about the problem is that if you are writing in Bengali script on an iPhone, with one of the transliteration apps say, if you email this writing to yourself, opening the email on a computer with Bengali fonts installed, the vowel signs will be correctly displayed.


4 responses to “iPhone Bengali script problems

  1. Very interesting. Thank you. I sometimes wonder if Bangla will ever be a language option for the iPhone. Seems crazy though that they can’t implement Bangla but have got Japanese sorted – kanji and kana.

    • Sadly, and despite the large number of Bengali speakers, I don’t think it’ll be that high on the agenda. As it is with offline resources, so it is online. But the vowel sign problems aside, I must say that I’m very impressed with the ‘banglaTyping’ app – finally an easy way of adding a crondrobindu above vowels (must write a review of it soon).

  2. Pingback: iPhone apps for Bengali transliteration | A Tangle Of Wires

  3. Daisy Paradis

    I checked your links about displaying fonts. Ishida may know what he’s talking about, but I sure don’t!

    Never mind speaking Bengali, French or anything else, I don’t speak computer very well.

    The o-kar and i-kar problems are related to font layout on your computer and browser. And mine. I think it is not too hard to work out for the PC but for mac OS X I continue to have problems. I got a very good system: LaserBengali for mac OS9 with correct display of i’s, o’s, e’s etc. plus nice quality font and almost every juktakor and chandrabindu you could want. Plus a nice man who developed it who answers questions on the phone.(And yes, I paid for it–it’s not free) It’s from Linguists Software, Inc. That’s the good news. The bad news is it looks nice and can be put in a pdf. file or excel, and word, but the Mac OS 10 version is much inferior re juktakors and left-side e’s and it doesn’t play nice with other font layput schemes. There is always Google transliterate.

    Now the more time I spend trying to get my Bangla to display right, and reading about Unicode, the more baffled I am. Help! I need a Bangla-bole-NY-e thake-mac-support-wala.

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