Background and status
Bengali (also known as Bangla), spoken by an estimated 210 million people, ranks as the fifth most spoken language in the world. Bengali is the national and official language of Bangladesh, and one of the 23 official languages recognised by the Republic of India. It is the official language of the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura and Assam. It is also a major language in the Indian union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
There is a large Bengali diaspora in South East England and North America and a relatively smaller number of Bengali speakers are found in Continental Europe, Middle East, East Asia and Australia.
Despite its classification as an Indo-European language, Bengali also exhibits a variety of influences from other Southeast Asian language families, including the Tibeto-Burman and Austro-Asiatic. These linguistic families contributed to the development of both Bengali’s vocabulary and grammatical structure.
Growth and usage
Modern Standard Bengali (Literary Bengali) serves as the lingua franca of the nation, with 98% of Bangladeshis fluent in Standard Bengali or Bengali dialects as their first language. There is a strong linguistic consciousness of the Bengali people to gain and protect spoken and written Bengali. Thus it is used in all areas of life and popular culture. The Bengali film industry is one of the strongest in the world.
Bengali is also the only language in the world to have a National Language Day to remember its language movements and people sacrificing their life for their mother language. In 2009, elected representatives in both Bangladesh and West Bengal called for Bengali language to be made an official language of the United Nations.