Intrigued by my language classes, I did a little research and asked around to find the history and importance of Bangla.
Bangla (sometimes refered to as Bengali) is a member of the Indic group of
Indo Iranian or Aryan branch of the Indo–European family of languages. Oddly enough, the British Raj beginning in the mid-1800s stimulated the value of Bangla. Authors became interested in Calcutta and Dhaka, with Calcutta being
the capital of India at the time and Dhaka a large trading port. English writers learned Bangla and translated literature. The poet Rabindranath Tagore was the first Asian man to win a Nobel Prize in 1913; he was Bengali. With the invasion and cultural control of the British, using Bangla was a way to assert their cultural heritage.
With the Indian Partition and religious diaspora (Hindus to India, Muslims to Pakistan), East Bengal (East Pakistan) was being forced by the Pakistani government to speak 'Urdu and Urdu only.' This was the last straw: East Pakistan created the Bangla Language Movement of 1952, the first move towards independence. People, including students, held riots fighting for their national identity that was tied their language. After West Pakistan did little after 500,000 people died in a cyclone, Bangladesh fought for its independence in the Liberation War in 1971.
The language is strongly tied to the culture and it's nationalism. Upper class Bangladeshis know English pretty well, and it is a requirement for university. Lower class Bangladeshis know a few words (prices, food). But everyone speaks Bangla perfectly. An example of how language is tied to culture is saying, 'I go now.' In Bangla, they say, 'ami ekhon ashi' which literally means, 'now I come.' My teacher explained that Bangladeshis do not like to end encounters. If you say, "I go now" they will insist you stay. If you say 'I come now' it is like saying "I am moving locations away from you but I am not going anywhere." Maybe odd to you, but there is such hospitality that 'going' implied that the friendship has ended.
While I'm still struggling with the sounds, my vocabulary is growing and I hope to be comfortable soon!