SOAS University of London

South Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

Bengali Language 1 (PG)

Module Code:
Taught in:
Full Year

PLEASE NOTE: This module will be divided into two 15-credit modules next academic year (i.e Language A and Language B). The overall objectives and outcomes for the year will not change. There may be some slight changes to the formal assessment. Students will be required to take a written test in the last week of Term 1 and should therefore not plan to be absent from SOAS at this time.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  1. knowledge and understanding of basic Bengali grammar
  2. knowledge and understanding of essential Bengali vocabulary
  3. knowledge and understanding of the appropriateness of basic Bengali structures and expressions in a given context
  4. the ability to understand short passages in written Bengali on everyday topics
  5. the ability to produce short passages in written Bengali on everyday topics
  6. the ability to understand spoken Bengali and to engage in short spoken discourse on everyday topics


Total of 20 weeks teaching with 4 hours classroom contact per week in language classes.

Scope and syllabus

The module provides an introduction to Bengali language with emphasis on practical written and spoken Bengali. It covers script and sounds, verb morphology, tenses, noun phrase structure and case, adjectives and adverbs, postpositions, conjunctions and basic sentence structure. Communicative practice is established through learning language around dialogues and role plays dealing with a range of everyday situations.

The module provides students with a basic knowledge of Bengali and practice of using Bengali in a variety of everyday situations. It allows students to interact with Bengali speakers in Bengali and to acquire familiarity with the Bengali script. This provides students with a basis to approach research topics relating to Bengali language, literature and culture.

Method of assessment

One three-hour written exam (50%); a 2,000-word portfolio of marked homework, translation or essay agreed with the convenor (30%); an oral exam of 15 minutes taken in May/June (15%); two one-hour written in class tests (10%).

Suggested reading

1) The module will be based on;

  • Radice, William Teach Yourself Bengali, Hodder Education 2007 (3rd ed)

and additional materials which will be made available throughout the module.

(1) Introductions, Courses, Dictionaries

  • Adhikary, Debasis, English-Bengali, Bengali English Combined Dictionary,
    Star Publications, New Delhi 1998
  • Bangla Academy Bengali-English Dictionary (The Bangla Academy,
    Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1994)
  • Delacy, Richard and Ahmed, Shahara Lonely Planet Phrasebook Hindi, Urdu
    and Bengali - Lonely Planet Publications, Victoria 2005
  • Nasrin, Mithun and van der Wurff, Wim Colloquial Bengali Routledge 2008
  • SAMSAD, Sahitya. Samsad Student Bengali-English Dictionary.
  • SAMSAD, Sahitya. Samsad Student.English-Bengali Dictionary.
  • Seely, Clinton, Intermediate Bangla, Lincom Language Course Books, Munich 2002
  • Smith, William Bengali Reference Grammar Stockholm Oriental Textbook Series 1997
  • Thompson, Hanne-Ruth Essential Everyday Bengali Bangla Academy, Dhaka,
    2005 (2nd ed)
  • Thompson, Hanne-Ruth Practical Bengali Dictionary Hippocrene, New York 2009
  • Thompson, Hanne-Ruth Bengali 2 booklet (SOAS internal 2007)

(2) Literature and Culture (a selection)

  • Ahmed, Rafiuddin, The Bengal Muslims 1871-1906: A Quest for Identity Delhi, Oxford University Press, 1981
  • Bose, Buddhadeva The Selected Poems of Buddhadeva Bose translated by Ketaki Kushari Dyson, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2003
  • Eaton, Richard Maxwell, The Rise of Islam and the Bengal frontier, 1204-1760 Berkeley, University of California Press, 1993
  • Ghosh, Amitav The hungry tide London, HarperCollins, 2004.
  • Murshid, Ghulam, The Heart of a Rebel Poet: Letters of Michael Madhusudan Dutt New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2004
  • Ray Satyajit, Childhood Days, a memoir, translated from the Bengali by Bijoya Ray. New Delhi : Penguin Books, 1998
  • Seely, Clinton A Poet Apart: Literary Biography of the Bengali Poet Jibanananda Das, 1899-1954
    University of Delaware Press, 1991
  • Seton, Marie, Portrait of a Director: Satyajit Ray New Delhi, Penguin Books India, 2003
  • Tagore, Rabindranath Selected Poems translated by William Radice, Penguin 2005
  • Tagore, Rabindranath Selected Short Stories translated by William Radice, Penguin 2005
  • van Schendel, Willem A History of Bangladesh Cambridge University Press 2009
  • Yunus, Muhammad and Jolis, Alan Banker to the poor: the autobiography of Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank Karachi, New York, Oxford University Press, 2001.

3) Additional resources relating to language-based scholarship

  • Austin, Peter, ed., 2008, 1000 Languages: The world-wide history of living and lost tongues, London: Thames and Hudson.
  • Baker, Mona, 1992, In Other Words: A coursebook on translation, London: Routledge.
  • Duranti, Alessandro, 1997, Linguistic Anthropology, Cambridge: CUP.
  • Geertz, Clifford, 1973/2000, The Interpretation of Cultures: selected essays, New York: Basic Books.
  • Pinker, Steven, 1994, The Language Instinct: the new science of language and mind, London: Allan Lane.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules