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23 September 2014
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Bengali today
The history of Bengali
Names and writing system

Bengali today by Viv Edwards

Bengali is spoken by some 100 million people in Bangladesh and over 70 million people in India. Although the Bengali community in the UK dates back to the 1870s, the most significant arrivals were in the 1960s and 1970s. The majority came from the Sylhet region of Bangladesh, which has long-standing links with the UK through the jute, tea and shipping industries. At home, many Bangladeshis speak Sylheti, a language closely related to Bengali. However, they have varying degrees of competence in Bengali, which is also regarded as the language of culture.

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Bengali speakers are dispersed through the UK in cities such as Coventry and Bradford. By far the largest community, however, is to be found in London. In a 2000 survey of London school children, Bengali/Sylheti was the most commonly spoken language after English, used by 4.51 per cent of the school population. Speakers are concentrated in an area stretching from Westminster to Newham, with particularly high proportions in Tower Hamlets. Brick Lane, an old street that runs from Whitechapel to Bethnal Green, is sometimes affectionately referred to as 'Bangla Town'. Its large numbers of Bangladeshi restaurants and fabric shops are a popular visitor attraction. Very much smaller Bangla communities have moved from London and other big cities to smaller centres such as Gloucester.

Six weekly newspapers serve the Bengali community. Radio stations broadcasting programmes in Bengali include BBC Asian Network, Sunrise Radio in West London, Asian Sound Radio in Manchester, Me FM in Aberdeen, Radio XL in the West Midlands and Sunrise Radio in Yorkshire.


Your Comments
What is your experience of Bengali in the UK?

Syeda Zinnat Akhter from Rome, Italy
It is amazing to know that there are so many people who speak Bengali,and I am proud that we Bengalis are everywhere around the world.

Sanjay Dhar, New Zealand.
Great to know that I share my mother tongue with so many people from all over UK. It also speaks of the tolerant nature of English and British society. Models to emulate, isnt it.

Zeenat from Leicester
It is amazing to know that there is such a large percentage on people conversing in Bengali. Articles regarding your own culture are always great to read. Thank you for the in-sight. Also proud to be a Bangladeshi.

Satadru Ray from Calcutta, India
I am amazed to know that so many people speek my mother toung. I am proud to be a BENGALI.

Rizwana Yusuf Newcastle
proud to be a bengali

Jakaria Ahmed, Chester
Many thanks to the bbc for the fabulos articles on the history of bengali language. I being a bengali who likes to think knows a little on the history of bengal am astounded at the ammount of information on this site that I was unaware of.

Abdul Rohman from Northampton
I'm glad for the insight, thanks to the BBC.

Tashrifa Ahmed from Shropshire
Wow i am shocked to be honest, i had no clue that so many people speek my language in the uk.

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