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Comparative Linguistics: Prepositions vs. Postpositions- English vs. Bangla

In class last week, we had a lesson on the locative case and postpositions. While that might seem confusing if you don't know those words, in practice, this divergence from English becomes quite simple. While in English a speaker might be used to forming the prepositional phrase (remember this from grade school, folks?) (preposition + a noun), Bangla manages to form similar structures in reverse (noun+ a preposition) by attaching an ending to an existing noun in the sentence. Just like in English though, the preposition used will modify the noun that it is 'attached' to. Rendered from English to Bangla- a phrase like "in the city" would become literally "the city in". Our comrade, Scott Brown, did a great explanation of this, so I'll upload a video of him giving us a mini-lesson on Bangla syntax and postpositions. - Sarita Download Trim.FFCD7B92-9567-4994-9045-D3EEB3EC7896

Bangla Alphabet Videos

I found these videos useful while learning the Bangla alphabet. The first is a song, while the second is a slower video that goes through each pronunciation with a word starting with that character:  

1) Bangla Nursery Rhyme:

2) Bangla Bornomala:

~ Calynn

Negatives আছে - নেই !!

" আমার বই আছে" / I have a book"

" আমার বই নেই"/ I don't have a book"

Students, listen to this song. 

This is a sad song, no doubt. But it helps to remember that  ' নেই'  is the opposite of 'আছে'.  It will make you very depressed but you will not make this common mistake again.

" আমার বই আছে নেই"

Skip a couple of lines and then you will come to the right sentence.

একবার বল, নেই, তোর কেউ নেই, তোর কেউ নেই।



Again, the days have gone, when teaching materials were mainly based on grammar. I am very happy with the text 'Epar Bangla Opar Bangla' which follows communicative methods. But we cannot ignore language structure totally. 

Bangla has so many 'negatives', it is very hard for students to remember all of them. 

I think that an enormous amount of extra materials I need to provide my students which I definitely do not have at this moment.

We always have to remember that whatever we teach, students should be proficient with four skills ( speaking, listening, reading and writing). 


Here, Scott and Kellyn are practicing on board. 







Spell out loud (for teachers)

Students usually do not like this exercise. It is tough no doubt. But when I explain them that this is necessary then they agree to do so. Sometimes, they ask for it, like students of SASLI 2015. 

The point of doing this is they may need to know a word from their friends, they may not always find a blackboard, any board or a piece of paper. What happens if they talk to someone in phone and another person tries to use a word which they probably know but cannot hear it clearly ? We can think of thousand situation like this. 

To me, it helps a lot immensely, specially if I get the same students in 2nd. Year Bangla. 

But, the exercise is draining and in the beginning it needs a lot of patience to learn.


I started with words with all vowel signs , this was a bit hard for them. It is best to to deal with one sign, like লে

ল-এ এ-কার। 

These two sounds one after another is very difficult to hear in the beginning. Go slow. 


Then you can spel out one word and students can write it.  


ব-এ- আ-কার, ব-এ- আ-কার = বাবা

I do not use any random word. I use the words from the list of words which I use for vowel signs. Then I sue the words from ' Script and Sound' chapter of workbook of 'Epar Bangla Opar Bangla'. We have to use the high frequency words and we have to recycle them. 






Bangla vowel signs

Take one step at a time. Learning vowel signs without words is very painstaking.


I would like to add a list of vowels for the teachers and students for reference. In classroom, one has to figure out how to work with each sign. 


Download Vowels and their signs


With one vowel sign, I use a bunch of words which are useful to my students. This simple looking words are absolutely necessary to me before moving to 'Epar Bangla Opar Bangla' workbook chapter, ' Script and Sound'. 

If you use these words, please remeber that no signs are attached to the vowels at the top of each page. The reason is that most fonts do not allow us to use the signs without the consonants. 

Please add the signs. 

Download Wordswithvowelsigns

The meanings are not included. I tell them after they work with the pronunciation. But a lot can be done at this stage. I will work on that.

One huge problem which students face at this time is whether they will pronounce inherent vowel with each letter or not. 

What will be the pronunciation of গরম ? garomo ? garom ? 

I tell them to think about all the possibilities when they work in pairs or group. Then we go through the words.

In Suniti Chatterjea's book, there is a list of rules regarding that. I translated that and made a shorter list for students before. Nobody used that and I lost it. 

probably I should translate that again. Probably it will be comforting for the students to have something to fall back on. 


Sam's work on board on this.


 Learning words with vowel signs is  also learning vocabulary. 

A couple of activities students do in class.

a. They play pictionary. One student draws something on the board, others guess what the word is.

(Speaking Exercise).

b. They write a couple of words in English on the board . Everybody switch places and  write the Bangla word ( Translation method).

WP_20150616_003 WP_20150616_004

Then the students can check each other's words. Finally, the teacher can check them. 

This is always fun. One can not go wrong about it. 


Challenges : Students are juggling with a couple of things at this point. retroflex- dental sounds, vowel signs, three ' ro', two ' sho'. two ' no' and a lot more. 


Materials I use for Bangla script

The course material, 'Epar Bangla Opar Bangla/ Bangla Across Borders' have a very beautiful Script Tutor where the alphabets, vowel signs, words, stroke orders and sounds are there. The course material is free. But one has to get a licence first.


I do not use Script Tutor in class. I teach my students hand writing version. God knows, how different it is from print version. 



Learning Bangla Script (2)

At some point, many of the letters look very similar. Students know about it more than I do. So, again, I learn from them. I tell them to go the board and write the similar looking letters in groups.


Here, they are. SASLI Bangla students, 2015





Learning Bangla Script

There are infinite ways to learn a script. 

I first introduce my students one letter at a time. Pronunciation and stroke order. I start with one at a time. 

Then students go to the board for practicing the letters. Fortunately, in SASLI, classrooms  have huge boards and the number of Bangla students never go beyond eight. 

It is always better for the students to learn a couple of letters and then come to the board. Coming to the board after one letter will involve a lot of movements and coming to the board after learning ten letters will be too much and  it may be stressful for them. I think three or four letters are good to practice in one cluster. 

Using flash cards is very useful. Again, many ways are there. This is the picture where students have learned all the letters and they are working as a group to arrange the alphabets in traditional way as they are arranged in general. They have a template in front of them. If necessary, they may look at that template. 

SASLI 2015 students: From left, Scott, Tim, Sam, Calynn and Sarita.






Course materials for learning Bangla language

For elementary level students who would like to learn Bangla through communicative method, I would recommend you to use 

Epar Bangla Opar Bangla/ Bangla Across Borders

There are textbook, workbook, script tutor, audio and video materials. This course material is free. You have to get the licence from University of Washington, Seattle. 


Important materials for learning Bangla for all levels is in this website. It is definitely a good resource page.

Bangla Instructional Materials, the website is hosted by University of Chicago

Lecturer and Professor ranks in USA

I get a lot of emails from the students of South Asia interested in doing research in Bangla in USA and they like me to guide them. I want to make it clear that in USA,usually  lecturers instruct language classes, and professors guide PhD students and teach so called, ' content classes'. Of course, there are exception of this practice. 

I teach Bangla language courses and  I do not guide PhD students in the University of Chicago.