You will want to learn Bengali alphabet if you are interested. It may seem daunting at first. But don’t be discouraged!
Bengali is a phonetic alphabet. It may be easier than you think. What’s the best thing? The best part? You can read Bengali letters and read almost everything.
Before we start, a note from Fluent in Three Months: You can chat with native speakers for up to 15 minutes using the “Fluent In 3 Months” method. It takes only 90 days. Click this link to learn more.
TABLE DES CONTENTS
- What Is the Bengali Alphabet?
- Bengali Consonants
- Guttural Consonants
- Palatal Consonants
- Retroflex Consonants
- Dental Consonants
- Labial Consonants
- Miscellaneous Consonants
- Bengali Vowels
- How to Write in the Bengali Alphabet
- How to read consonants without vowel marks
- The Changing y’
- Other Marks In The Bengali Alphabet
- Consonant Clusters in the Bengali Alphabet
- Adding b or m
- r Sometimes also Doubles Consonants
- When s and sh are used with ss
- jny Look and Sound Special
- Most Common Consonant Clusters in Bengali
- How to Type in the Bengali Alphabet
- Reading and writing in Bengali is easy with practice!
What is the Bengali Alphabet (or )?
The Bengali alphabet is also known as the Bangla and Bengali-Assamese alphabets. It’s used to write Bengali and Assamese and sometimes Sanskrit.
It is similar to Thai or Hindi. Because a horizontal line, called a martra (maatraa), connects letters into one word, it is very similar to Devanagari.
Although you might believe that these alphabets are identical, there are many differences between them, such as those between Latin and Cyrillic.
It is important to examine the matra. Devanagari tends to be more blocky than Bengali, which is why it is so difficult to see beneath. Devanagari’s m is, however, written as m in Bengali.
Many letters are not the same in appearance. chh, for example, is ch in Bengali but ch at Devanagari.
Bengali has 32 consonants. They can be divided into five types:
- Gutteral (made in your back of your throat).
- Palatal (made by your tongue touching your roof of your mouth).
- Retroflex (made with your tongue curled up)
- Dental (the tongue touches the back of your top tooth)
- Labial (made with your mouth)
Some consonants may also be included
- They are also known as aspirated.
- Unaspirated is pronounced without any air.
Consonants that do not contain an “h” in the romanization are often unaspirated. A vowel may not be attached to a consonant. The consonant can be pronounced with an intrinsic “o” sound, similar to the English “on” sound.
Here’s a list of all the Bengali consonants.
- k (k). – A similar English word to “bake”:
- kh (kh), – This is an aspirated version of k.
- g (g). – A similar English word to “go”: “g”.
- gh (gh), a aspirated g.
- ng (ng), – This is similar to the “ng” in English.
- h (h), a similar English word to “hot”
- c (ch), – This one is not aspirated, similar to the “ch” in beach.
- ch (chh). This is an aspirated sound c, similar to the “ch” in “chair.”
- j (j), – A similar English word to “joy” but pronounced differently in Bengali dialects.
- jh (jh), a aspirated j.
- Y (j) – This pronunciation is the same as j.
- ny (n), – This sound is often pronounced similarly to a nasally “ny”, such as in English “canyon”
- tt (t), a retroflex sound that sounds like a “t” sound. Although this sound doesn’t have an English equivalent (but you can try to pronounce it with your tongue curled back).
- tth (th). This is an aspirated sound, not the English “th”.
- dd (d), – This is a retroflex sound. Pronounce a “d”, with your tongue curled back.
- ddh (dh), a aspirated dd.
- nn (nor n) – This sound is a retroflex “n”, but it is almost always pronounced exactly the same as the below dental n (n).
- r (r), pronounced like a Spanish “r”, in between an English English “r” or “l”.
- dd’ (r), pronounced with the tongue farther back than r
- ddh (rh), This is an aspirated Dd’.
- t (t). This is a sound that can be used to indicate a dental “t”. With your tongue touching your upper teeth, pronounce an English “t”.
- th (th). – This is an aspirated sound for t, and not the English “th”.
- d (d), – A similar English word to “dog”, but your tongue should touch your upper teeth.
- dh (dh), a aspirated d.
- n (n), – A similar English word to “nose” in the English language.
- l (l), a similar English word to “long”
- p SS – Similar to “potato” in English, but with a slash “p”.
- ph (ph, f) – This aspirated p sound can sometimes be pronounced as an “f”, but it is often spelled as such.
- b (b). – A similar English word to “boy” in the English language.
- bh (bh), a aspirated b.
- m (m). – A similar English word to “mom”
- Sh (sh). Identical to “shop”‘s “sh” sound.
- ss (sh). – Please see note below.
- s (sh). – Note that historically, sh, ss and s were distinct sounds. Modern Bengali does not usually distinguish between the two.
- y’ (y), – This letter could be either the semiconsonant y (as in “year”), or silent.
The Bengali alphabet has 11 vowels:
- A (o or o). O is the same as “on” and o is the same as “own.”
- aa (a), – Similar to the “a” in art.
- i (i), – Similar to the “ee” in “cheese.”
- ii (ii) – The same as above.
- u (u). – Similar to the “oo”, as in “hoop.”
- uu (u), – The same as above.
- R (ri), pronounced like r+ i.
- e (e, ae): E is similar to “e” in the egg and “ae” is like the “ae” in the pe.
- ai (oi), – Mix o and i.
- (o), – Similar to the “o” in “own.”
- au (ou): Blend o with u.
In the past, u and UU were distinct sounds. They are identical in modern Bengali. Fun fact: R is considered both a consonant (and a vowel) in English. However, it’s considered a vowel by Bengali.
How to write in the Bengali Alphabet
Bengali is written in the same way as English, from left to right. If you need to write a vowel at the beginning or end of a word, use the letter above.
Like other Brahmic scripts, and even Korean!, vowels can be added to “decorate” consonants. Vowels that are pronounced after consonants change form and connect with them.
This is how they evolve:
- aa – aa
- i – I
- ii – ii
- u – U
- uu – uu
- R – R
- e – E
- ai – Ai
- au – au
The consonant’s location is marked by the open circle. Because a is intrinsic in consonants, it doesn’t have a vowel form.
We can therefore create consonant-vowel combinations by taking the first consonant (k):
- k (ko), ko or k
- kaa (ka)
- ki (ki).
- kii (ki)
- Ku (ku)
- kuu (ku)
- kR (kri).
- ke (ke, kae).
- kai (koi)
- ko (ko).
- kau (kou)
Sometimes, a consonant-vowel combo will change:
- gu = g + u
- shu = sh + u
- ru = R + u
- hu = h + u
- ruu = r + uu
How to read consonants without vowel marks
Let’s take a look at k once more. It is possible to read it in three ways, as you have probably noticed.
How can you tell if the consonant must be pronounced without a vowel, with an o sound or with an _ o sound
When faced with a consonant without a vowel mark, there are some general spelling rules you can follow:
It’s often or at the beginning of a word. If the next vowel in a word is an i or u, it will be pronounced o.
Ex. kraa (kora, “to do”), pre (pore, “after”), ktthin (kothin, difficult)
The Changing y’
Another consonant to be on the lookout for is y’ (y). Only the vowel can be pronounced when it is attached to a vowel at the end of a word. Ex. pey’aalaa (peala, “cup).
It is usually pronounced as an e when y’ appears in middle of words that do not contain a vowel. It is pronounced o when it follows an i or e sound. Ex. py’saa (poesha, money), tRtiiy’ (tritio, “third”).
Final note: oy’aa can be pronounced wa rather than oa. Ex. khaaoy’aa (khawa, “to eat”).
Other Marks In The Bengali Alphabet
You can also introduce a few marks in the Bengali alphabet
- N (ng) : This is the exact same as ng, and appears at either the middle or end of words. Ex. baaNlaa (bangla, “Bengali”).
- H: This is most commonly added a breathy sound called “h” at the end of words. Ex. Ex. It usually doubles the consonant it is in the middle if it occurs. Ex. duHkh (dukkho, “sad”).
- N: The vowel is nasalized. The nasalized vowel is what makes er ( , regular third person possessive) andeNr ( honorific third person possessive). In dialects around Kolkata, nasalization is more common than in Bangladesh.
- : A consonant that has this below it is pronounced with no vowel. is the only way to pronounce k.
- (t): This refers to the unaspirated “t” in dental terminology. Sometimes it appears at the end or middle of words. Ex. shr (shorot, fall/autumn).
- rk: The dash above the k indicates that r is connected to another consonant. It can be used to follow any consonant but it cannot be used independently on all computers. This example creates a rk sound. Brssaa ( Borsha), “rain”, is another example. It can also be written as r.
- r (r), This is the r after another consonant. Ex. Ex.
- y: This is the y sound that connects to a consonant. However, it does not have a j sound. It doubles the consonant that is before it when it appears in the middle of or at the end of a word. Ex. dhnybaad (dhonnobad, “thank you), saahity (shahitto, “literature”). It usually creates an ae sound at the beginning of a word, unless the next vowel in the word is an i, u sound… Bythaa ( Baetha) means “pain”.
Consonant Clusters within the Bengali Alphabet
You’ve seen that consonants can sometimes connect with other consonants to create new forms. Some of these are simple to understand. These are just a few examples.
- l (l), + pSS = lp. This is used in glp golpo. It means “story”.
- C (ch), + c(ch) = cc. (cch is pronounced like a double, harder consonant). This is used in baaccaa baccha child.
Sometimes the form may change and it can be difficult to understand without knowing the combination. These are some common examples:
- ng (ng), + g (g), = ngg, There is no difference between the sound. This is used in sngge shonge.
- d (dh + dh(dh) = DDH (Ddh). This is used in yuddh juddho. It means “war”.
Sometimes the pronunciation can change, as shown below.
Adding or to m
Sometimes, the B or M sounds may not be pronounced if they are grouped after another consonant. Ex. Ex.
Additionally, if one is placed behind a consonant at the end or middle of a word it will double the preceding consonant. Ex. Ex.
These special uses are remnants from Bengali that were used for Sanskrit, and should be remembered.
r Sometimes also Doubles Consonants
The preceding consonant is doubled by adding r to it. You can still get the r sound. Ex. Ex.
What are s, sh and ss?
If s, sh or ss is placed behind a t. th. kh. n. r. l, it becomes an s sound instead of a s sound. This is most common with s. Byst ( Baesto “busy”) is a combination of s + t and st.
kss and jny Special
These are two common clusters, which look and sound different from what you might expect.
Kss is made of k + ss. However, it is pronounced kkh when it appears in the middle or at the end of a word. Ex. shikssk (shikkhok, “teacher”). It’s pronounced kh at the beginning. This is the same pronunciation as kh. kssmaa (khoma, forgiveness).
Jny is made of j + ny. It is pronounced g at words’ beginnings and gg at their ends. You can also turn an aa into an sound. Ex. jnyaan (gaen, “knowledge”), abhijnytaa (obhiggota, “experience”).
Below is a list listing some of the most popular consonant clusters found in Bengali. The most common clusters are two consonants, although it is also possible to have three.
Do not worry about remembering them all. Many of them are easy to recognize or follow common patterns. The rest can be learned with practice.
These are listed in alphabetical order in Bengali.
k + tt = ktt
k + t = kt
k + R = kr
k + l = Kl
k + ss = Kss
k + s = ks
g + dh = Gdh
g + = n
g + L = gl
ng + k = ngk
ng + G = ngg
c + = cc
c + ch = Cch
j + j = jj
j + ny = jny
j + B = jb
ny + c = nyc
ny + ch = nych
ny + j = nyj
ny + jh = nyjh
tt + tt = tttt
dd + Dd = dddd
nn + tt = nntt
nn + tth = nntth
nn + dd = nndd
t + = tt
t +th = tth
t + = tb
t + m =
t + R = tr
d + D = dd
d + Dh = ddh
d + B = db
d + m = Dm
dh + B = dhb
n + T = nt
n + Th = nth
n + D = nd
n + dh = ndh
n + = nn
n + m =
p + T = pt
p + = pp
p + pl =
ph + = phl
b + J = bj
b + D = bd
b + dh = Bdh
b +b = bb
b + l =
bh + R = bhr
m + p = MP
m + B = mb
m + bh = Mbh
m + = mm
m + L = ml
l + k = lk
l +p = lp
l + l = ll
sh + c = shc
sh + b = shb
ss + k = ssk
ss + tt = sstt
ss + TTH = sstth
ss + = ssp