Krsna Kirtana Songs est. 2001                                                                                                                                                      www.kksongs.org


Home à Languages and Pronunciation

Welcome to the KKSongs Bengali Pronunciation Guide!

 

AUDIO CLIP: Bengali Pronunciation Guide

 

Bengali has been one of the sweetest languages of India. In fact, Bengali is the closest language to Sanskrit. Most Vaisnava acaryas and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu spoke Bengali. Despite the honor the language has held, speaking and writing Bengali has been uniquely difficult, as pronunciation and writing techniques are never consistent. It takes practice and experience to be able to write, read, and pronounce Bengali words and phrases properly. Most of the bhajans found on KKSongs is Bengali. Even though the pronunciation is never the same, this guide will at least help clear some of the uncertainties. The Bengali language recognizes eleven vowels, thirty-two consonants, one nasal element, and one aspirate element.

 

Learn to Read Bengali through the KKSongs Bengali Guide.

 

VOWELS:

 

 

a

ā

i

ī

u

ū

e

ai

o

au

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the vowels.

 

The letter “a” is pronounced as “aw” in “raw” or “o” in “go.”

 

The letter “ā” is pronounced as “a” in “father.”

 

The letter “i" is pronounced as “i” in “sin” (say “seen” with a shorter “ee” sound)

 

The letter “ī” is pronounced as “ee” in “seed”

 

The letter “u” is pronounced as “u” in “should” (say “shood” with a shorter “oo” sound)

 

The letter “ū” is pronounced as “oo” in “roof”

 

The letter “ṛ” is pronounced as “ri” in “rip” (say “reep” with a shorter “ee” sound)

 

The letter “e” is pronounced as “ay” in “pay” (avoid adding the “y” sound at the end). In some words, it’s pronounced as “e” in “echo” or “a” in “apple.”

 

The letter “ai” is pronounced as “oi” in “oil.”

 

The letter “o” is pronounced as “o” in “no” (avoid the u/w sound as the end)

 

The letter “au” is pronounced as “ow” in “low.”

 

CONSONANTS:

 

ka

kha

ga

gha

ńa

ca

cha

ja

jha

ña

ṭa

ṭha

ḍa

ḍha

ṇa

ta

tha

da

dha

na

pa

pha

ba

bha

ma

ja

ya

ra

la

 

śa

ṣa

sa

 

 

ha

 

 

Here is the table of consonants in Bengali.

 

The first set of five consonants is known as the gutturals. They are sounds pronounced through the throat.

 

The letter “k” is pronounced as “k” in “kite”

 

The letter “kh” is pronounced as “ck-h” in “kick-hard”

 

The letter “g” is pronounced as “g” in “goat”

 

The letter “gh” is pronounced as “g-h” in “dig-hard”

 

The letter “ń” is pronounced as “n” in “song.” (Just the n, not the g. This is the nasal element for the gutturals)

 

 

The second set of five consonants is known as the palatals. They are sounds pronounced through the palette.

 

The letter “c” is pronounced as “ch” in “church.”

 

The letter “ch” is pronounced as “ch-h” in “staunch-heart”

 

The letter “j” is pronounced as “j” in “jiffy”

 

The letter “jh” is pronounced as “dge-h” in “hedge-hog”

 

The letter “ñ” is pronounced as “ny” in “canyon” (This is the nasal element for the palatals)

 

 

The third set of five consonants is known as the cerebrals. They are sounds pronounced through the tongue touching the roof of the palette.

 

The letter “ṭ” is pronounced as “t” in “hot”

 

The letter “ṭh” is pronounced as “t-h” in “hot-house”

 

The letter “ḍ” is pronounced as “d” in “road”

 

The letter “ḍh” is pronounced as “d-h” in “red-hot”

 

The letter “ṇ” is pronounced as “na” in “nut.” (This is the nasal element for the cerebrals).

 

 

The fourth set of five consonants is known as the dentals. They are sounds pronounced through the tongue touching the teeth.

 

The letter “t” is pronounced as “t” in “hot”

 

The letter “th” is pronounced as “t-h” in “hot-house” or “thick”

 

The letter “d” is pronounced as “d” in “road”

 

The letter “dh” is pronounced as “d-h” in “red-hot” or “th” in “though”

 

The letter “n” is pronounced as “na” in “nut.” (This is the nasal element for the dentas).

 

 

The fifth set of five consonants is known as the labials. They are sounds pronounced through the lips.

 

The letter “p” is pronounced as “p” in “popcorn.”

 

The letter “ph” is pronounced as “p-h” in “up-hill” or “f” as in “foot.”

 

The letter “b” is pronounced as “b” in “baby.” If “b” is the second half of a combined letter, then it will be pronounced like a “w.”

 

The letter “bh” is pronounced as “b-h” in “tub-hot”

 

The letter “m” is pronounced as “m” in “mother.”

 

 

The set of letters are known as semi-vowels, or letters that will serve dual-functions as consonants and vowels.

 

The letter “y” is pronounced as like the Bengali “a.” It is occasionally pronounced as “y” in “yes” or “w” as in “wait.”

-         In combined letters, it causes the first letter to be repeated. Example: nitya is pronounced as “nitto.”

-         When combined with “ā”, it produces an English short “a” sound, like “apple.”

 

The letter “j” is pronounced as “su” in “measure.”

 

The letter “r” is pronounced as “r” in “right.”

 

The letter “l” is pronounced as “l” in “light.”

 

 

The next three letters are known as sibilants, or sounds based on a special hissing.

 

The letter “ś”, “ṣ” and “s” are pronounced like “sh” in “shine.” (The “s” is softer in “sh” sounds)

 

 

The letter “h” is pronounced as “h” in “heaven.” (in Indian languages, it’s more aspirated than in English)

 

The letters řa and řha are weak retroflex letters are which sound like Spanish “para” which has a weak r and hard d sound. The letter řha has a slightly harder sound.

 

The nasal element known as the anusvara is ḿ. It is pronounced as “ng” in “wrong” (“g” sound is included). It assumes any appropriate nasal element.

 

The aspirate element known as the visarga is ḥ. It causes a “ha” sound to come. For instance, aḥ is pronounced as “aha” or iḥ is pronounced as “iḥ.”

 

UPDATED: April 1, 2009

 

1