William Radice’s Teach Yourself Bengali is, essentially, the Bengali text book, though it’s not of course overwhelmed with competition.
But there’s a lessor-known predecessor to Radice’s book, and an earlier entrant in the Teach Yourself series, and it’s this Teach Yourself Bengali, by DF Hudson, that I’m working my way through at the moment in preparation for our forthcoming trip to Kolkata.
I was given a copy by my father in law, though as a native Bengali speaker I was never sure why he’d have a first edition copy of the book, from 1965 no less, though it occurs to me now, for the first time, that it was probably bought for his (English) first wife.
His first marriage is not something I’ve ever spoken to him about – for all I know, he doesn’t know I know – so the book’s provenance is hardly something we’ve discussed.
But, back to DF Hudson, and he (she?) follows a somewhat traditional route to learning the language, beginning with the sounds you’re meant to make for the different letters.
I’ve always found this an off-putting way of learning a language. It’s part of the reason I’ve yet to make a start with Rupert Snell’s Teach Yourself Hindi and also why I found Radice’s book so refreshing in the way it eases you into the language without requiring you to endlessly practice pronunciation.
From there DF Hudson goes into a series of conversation drills that, somewhat unhelpfully, show the sentences in Bengali with the English written immediately afterwards. They also introduce tenses are a breakneck speed with little by way of explanation.
Nevertheless, it’s always nice to have a break from Radice’s book – which I’ve been relying on, off and on, for over seven years – and try another resource for learning Bengali, even if it’s a lesser one.
And DF Hudson does choose to end his Teach Yourself … with an intriguing set of Bengali proverbs, which is another plus point, even if it does make me wonder how many still are (or ever were) in common usage every time I leaf through the book.