No Bengali On Duolingo? We Got You Covered

February 25, 2021

There is no Bengali on Duolingo and that makes me very disappointed and sad. I'm very interested in learning Bengali... mostly because I have friends who speak Bengali as their native language, and it would be very nice for me to have the opportunity to learn this interesting language on Duolingo. 

About The Bengali Language 

Bengali was also known by its endonym Bangla (বাংলা), are an Indo-Aryan language and the lingua franca of the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent. It is the most widely spoken language of Bangladesh and the second most widely spoken of the 22 scheduled languages of India, after Hindi. Bengali has approximately 228 million native speakers and another 37 million second-language speakers. Depending on whether Hindi and Urdu are considered one language, Bengali is the fourth or fifth language most-spoken native language and the seventh most spoken language by a total number of speakers in the world.

The Bangla language experienced its renaissance in the 19th and 20th centuries, so Rabindranath Tagore, the first Indian to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote in that language.

Where Is Bengali Spoken

Bengali is the official and national language of Bangladesh, with 98% of Bangladeshis using it as their first language. Within India, Bengali is the official language of the states of West Bengal, Tripura, and the Barak Valley region of the state of Assam. It is the most widely spoken language in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands as well in the Bay of Bengal. Also, it is spoken by significant populations in other states including Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Uttarakhand. Bengali is also spoken by the significant global Bengali diaspora (Bangladeshi diaspora and Indian Bengalis) communities in Pakistan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Middle East.

Why Should We Have Bengali On Duolingo?

Having a Bengali course for English speakers on Duo would be awesome! As I already said, Bengali is the 6/7th most-spoken language in the world! I am currently learning Bengali and would love to have Duolingo help me during the process.

I've been waiting for a Duolingo Bengali (for English speakers) course for years. It would be so helpful, and fascinating too, as there's a great deal of Bengali literature worth reading, let alone all the speaking opportunities, and there are over 300 million speakers worldwide. 

I have friends who are Americans born Bangladeshi and lost most of their abilities to speak the language when they grew up. Even though they can still understand the language, being able to practice on Duolingo and learning to read and write would be an amazing thing for them. They feel so ashamed when they can't communicate with family members in Bangladesh, and their parents are a bit busy teaching them. The same thing happens with Urdu. Hopefully, the Duo team will add the Bengali course sometime soon!

There are many people who work in Bangladesh as health workers!!! People they help sometimes struggle to trust foreigners and it would help so much if they knew the language!

Why Is There No Bengali On Duolingo?

Sadly the Bengali course is still not in the incubator! Together with Urdu, they're the two most spoken languages not yet added to Duolingo. I decided to look into this a bit more and find out the real reason for that situation. 

I see few possible reasons: 

  1. Most Bengalis are well versed in English. For Bengalis, the practice of learning English is a colonial legacy. Apart from their mother language, they have been learning English since the British became successful in colonizing this land and its people.
  2. Bengali is a too complex language for Duolingo. I don't think so, particularly for speakers of Indo-European languages because, as a member of that language family, Bengali already has many similarities in terms of syntax and vocabulary. In terms of script, Duolingo already has Hindi, another language from the subcontinent which has a script other than Roman.
  3. Duolingo doesn't have enough money to build up courses for all languages. That’s probably why it’s taking Duolingo longer to develop the Bangla course. If they had money from more users paying for it then they’d probably have more money to hire people to get the job done faster. However, there is a serious number of Bengali native speakers who are willing to teach and Duo still doesn't see it as a good idea to let them contribute.

What Are The Alternatives To Duolingo?


No Urdu On DuolingoI am glad you asked. There is one very obvious recommendation that can be made here, and that is the Ling Bengali app. Ling uses native Bengali speakers to help you learn Bengali, just like it will sound in the country. 

Through the gamification of learning, also makes the whole process much more engaging. You can see yourself progress as you make your way through the different topics and tests that come along with it.

Then there is the chatbot feature that simulates conversations and makes for great practicing your Bengali language skills. For an introvert like me, it helps to build up my courage to eventually feel confident enough to use it when out and about.

While these mobile apps do share a common goal of making language learning fun and accessible, what sets Ling apart is the focus on practical vocabulary, sentences, and phrases that you will use in everyday speech. 

Simply Learn

No Urdu On DuolingoThis one is actually a part of the same family as Ling. Simply Learn Bengali is a phrasebook in app form, giving you all the benefits that come with that. You can listen to the words and phrases being spoken by native Bengali speakers, along with the Bengali and phonetic spellings of the words.

It makes for a great companion both when practicing and when you are in Bengali. It makes use of flashcards and the spaced repetition learning technique that is said to really improve language learning.

It may not be the top choice if you want a deep understanding of the language but helps you start out with pronunciation and basic grammar like word order.

What Are The Chances Of Bengali Appearing In Duolingo?

I have recently read in some forums that there is an English for Bengali speakers course in progress right now on Duolingo (reaching 75%). Hmmm...shouldn't it be vice versa? The Duos team probably thinks that there are thousands of stuff for Bengali people to learn English on youtube and almost nothing for English to Bengali.

Maybe it's true. But Bengali speakers almost always have a way to learn English. However, this might be one of the very few chances for English speakers to learn Bengali. I mean, the English course for Bengali speakers will not be as popular or useful as the Bengali course for English speakers. Take a look at Hindi for example. The number of English speakers eager for the Hindi course is a huge lot more than Hindi speakers learning English.

Duolingo will almost certainly do an English course for speakers of Bengali first. I assume they will do the reverse course after that. I would suppose that such a course would be a very high priority as Bengali is the most widely spoken language without an ESL course option on Duolingo.

I have applied to volunteer for the English go Bengali course. They said that they weren't getting qualified volunteers and that they'll work on it themselves. I hope they manage to finish it soon, and I heard the beta is going to be completed this May. I'm just really waiting for the Bengali to English course though. The lack of resources is abysmal, and I don't think English will come in handy to people who live in cities. Maybe if Duo makes an initiative to reach Bangladeshi and West Bengal villages, then they'd come in handy.

But of course, it's all up to the Duolingo staff.

How can we encourage them to make headway on this? As Bengali is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, shouldn't there be a Duolingo option to learn it already?

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