Review: Bengali (Bangla) Dictionary and Phrasebook

Bengali Bangla Dictionary Phrasebook Hanne Ruth ThompsonIt’s one of the quirks of Bengali that a language estimated to be the seventh most spoken in the world has not had a dedicated phrasebook available for at least five years.

Lonely Planet’s Bengali phrasebook ran to just a single edition in the late 1990s, seemed a little ropey in places and hasn’t been available for years. It may have been partly replaced by their combined Bengali-Hindi-Urdu phrasebook, but it’s not the same as a dedicated resource for Bangla leaners.

Happily this situation is remedied this year with the publication of Hanne-Ruth Thompson’s Bengali (Bangla) Dictionary & Phrasebook.

Hanne-Ruth, who teaches Bengali at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), has produced a clear and easy to follow book that makes an ideal companion to Teach Yourself Bengali, the standard course book written by her colleague William Radice.

The Dictionary & Phrasebook is split into a grammar overview, topic-based phrases and an unexpectedly large dictionary for such a slimline volume.

I’ve been using both its dictionary (divided into Bangla to English and English to Bangla sections) and phrasebook sections for my 5 Bengali words posts, and found them very helpful.

Bengali (Bangla) Dictionary and Phrasebook

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A nice touch is the additional guidebook style information that enlivens some of the topic sections with advice on things like dealing with rickshaw drivers and, in a section titled ‘in no uncertain terms’, how to make your feelings absolutely clear.

So, whether planning a trip to Bangladesh or West Bengal, or just looking for a book to help with learning the language, Bengali (Bangla) Dictionary & Phrasebook would be a useful choice.

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2 responses to “Review: Bengali (Bangla) Dictionary and Phrasebook

  1. Daisy Paradis

    This is one of the best Bengali language books around. It serves everyone from casual travelers to people who really want to learn the language and may know quite a bit. The grammar section is the best I’ve ever seen: clear and concise. Vocabulary section is not huge, but basic 1,500 (or so) words clearly translated. Another really excellent feature: Thompsons’ system for English transliteration of Bengali letters is simple, direct and clear! Many otherwise excellent textbooks (Colloquial Bengali, for example) seem to compete with each other as to who can think up a more arcane transliteration scheme, as different as possible from other textbooks. It is a relief to use it, as small as it is. No disrespect to the other stalwarts in the field, Radice and Dimock, but definitely one of the top Bengali books.

  2. I’ve ordered it based on the recommendations and the grammar seems really clear! I’m pleased, it will be useful for when I go. I like the way the sentences are broken down to their literal meanings.

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