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Pronunciation of Bangla Alphabet

The Bangla Alphabet

Bangla has 11 vowels and 39 consonants. When vowels are used to change the pronunciation of a consonant, the vowel is replaced by its vowel sign or diacritic.

Each letter in Bangla has a corresponding sound. I have represented the Bangla letters with 1 to 3 letters in English which correspond most closely to the way the letter is pronounced. This is called the Phonetic Scheme and is used throughout this site.

Vowels

The Bangla alphabet has 11 vowels in common usage. All vowels, except the first vowel have a corresponding vowel sign or diacritic.

Vowels are usually studied in pairs as shown below.

Vowels and Vowel Signs - অ/ and আ/া

Letterঅ/আ/া
Phoneticoa
Sounds Like:
on
Aadvark
Play Sound

The first vowel is called the inherent vowel in Bangla and does not have a corresponding vowel sign like the other 10 vowels. The sound of is like the "o" in "on" or "off".

All consonants in Bangla are pronounced as if they had a "o" sound at the end. So the first Consonant (k) will sound like "ko".

Words with Letter অ + আ


Vowels and Vowel Signs - ই/ি and ঈ/ী

Letterই/িঈ/ী
PhoneticiI
Sounds Like:
hit
skiing
Play Sound

is called the short "i" (hroswo-i) and the letter is the long "i" (dIrgho-i). In modern Bangla usage, the short and long forms have similar pronunciation. These vowels are shown here because they are still used in spelling Bangla words.

Words with Letter ই + ঈ


Vowels and Vowel Signs - উ/ু and ঊ/ূ

Letterউ/ুঊ/ূ
PhoneticuU
Sounds Like:
put
vacuum
Play Sound

and represent the short and long "u" sound, respectively. In modern Bangla usage, the short and long forms have similar pronunciation. These vowels are shown here because they are still used in spelling Bangla words.

Words with Letter উ + ঊ


Vowels and Vowel Signs - ঋ/ৃ

Letterঋ/ৃ
Phoneticrri
Sounds Like:
wring
Play Sound

Words with Letter ঋ


Vowels and Vowel Signs - এ/ে and ঐ/ৈ

Letterএ/েঐ/ৈ
PhoneticeOI
Sounds Like:
neigh
noise
Play Sound

The letter is a dipthong.

Words with Letter এ + ঐ


Vowels and Vowel Signs - ও/ো and ঔ/ৌ

Letterও/োঔ/ৌ
PhoneticOOU
Sounds Like:
most
go+huge
Play Sound

The letter is a dipthong.

Words with Letter ও + ঔ


Consonants

There are 35 consonants and 4 consonant signs in common usage.

The consonant letters are pronounced as if they ended with the inherent vowel "o" (as in the sound of the "o" in "on" or "off"). So the letter (k) sounds like "ko".

There is a logic to the grouping of the letters, each set having a sound that emanates from the mouth with a different combination of the throat (guttural), palate (palatal), tongue (cerebral), teeth (dental) and lips(labial).

The first 25 consonants are grouped in sets of 5 letters in the order shown.

Gutturals - in the throat

ক খ গ ঘ ঙ (k kh g gh Ng).

Letter
PhonetickkhgghNg
Sounds Like:
skin
khaki
go
ghetto
king
Play Sound

The first and third letters are pronounced normally, while the second and fourth are pronounced aspirated (as if with a puff of breath). The last letter is pronounced nasally.

Words with Letter ক + খ

Words with Letter গ + ঘ

Words with Letter ঙ


Palatals - on the palate

চ ছ জ ঝ ঞ (ch chh j jh NG).

Letter
PhoneticchchhjjhNG
Sounds Like:
cheat
watch
jingle
jhansi
gnome
Play Sound

The first and third letters are pronounced normally, while the second and fourth are pronounced aspirated (as if with a puff of breath). The last letter is pronounced nasally.

Words with Letter চ + ছ

Words with Letter জ + ঝ

Words with Letter ঞ


Cerebrals - with the tongue bent back on the roof of the mouth

ট ঠ ড ঢ ণ (T Th D Dh N).

Letter
PhoneticTThDDhN
Sounds Like:
token
whittle
dive
adhere
noise
Play Sound

The first and third letters are pronounced normally, while the second and fourth are pronounced aspirated (as if with a puff of breath). The last letter is pronounced nasally.

Words with Letter ট + ঠ

Words with Letter ড + ঢ

Words with Letter ণ


Dentals - with the tongue on the teeth

ত থ দ ধ ন (t th d dh n).

Letter
Phonetictthddhn
Sounds Like:
Wyeth
think
hindu
sadhu
no
Play Sound

The first and third letters are pronounced normally, while the second and fourth are pronounced aspirated (as if with a puff of breath). The last letter is pronounced nasally.

Words with Letter ত + থ

Words with Letter দ + ধ

Words with Letter ন


Labials - on the lips

প ফ ব ভ ম (p ph,f b,w bh,v m).

Letter
Phoneticpph,fb,wbh,vm
Sounds Like:
pauper
cipher
boy
abhorrent
mother
Play Sound

The first and third letters are pronounced normally, while the second and fourth are pronounced aspirated (as if with a puff of breath). The last letter is pronounced nasally.

Words with Letter প + ফ

Words with Letter ব + ভ

Words with Letter ম


Sibilants - s sounds as if hissing

শ ষ স (sh Sh s).

Letter
PhoneticshShs
Sounds Like:
show
cash
wish
Play Sound

These three letters are representations of the "s" sound. All three forms are pronounced similarly today, but the separate letters are artifacts from Bangla's Sanskrit roots.

Words with Letter শ + ষ

Words with Letter স


Semi-Vowels - letters sometimes used as vowels

য র ল হ য় ড় ঢ় (J,Y r l h y R Rh).

Letter
PhoneticJ,Yrl
Sounds Like:
joy
right
lady
Play Sound

Letter
PhonetichyRRh
Sounds Like:
hole
happy
rhythm
arrhythmia
Play Sound

These letters are sometimes used as vowels especially when combined with other consonants. The three "ro's" র ড় ঢ় (r R Rh) sound similar in common modern usage and are separately retained for historical reasons from Bangla's Sanskrit origin.

Words with Letter য + র

Words with Letter ল

Words with Letter হ + য়

Words with Letter ড় + ঢ়


Consonant Signs - special consonants that are never used to form compound consonants

ৎ ং ঃ ঁ (t^ ng,ng^ H^ n^).

Letter
Phonetict^ngH^n^
Sounds Like:
nitwit
Bengali
poof
sand
Play Sound

These letters are used for special sounds and are generally not used in compound consonant clusters.

Words with Letter ৎ + ং

Words with Letter ঃ + ঁ


Pronunciation Obstacles for New Learners

  1. English Letters that are Pronounced Differently
    Native English speakers pronounce the English letters 'p', 't', 'k' and 'c' with aspiration. You can notice your own pronunciation by holding a sheet of paper horizontally in front of your mouth as you say "Can you Please Keep Talking?" Aspiration means a puff of air escapes from your mouth as you say each of these letters.

    Speakers of Indian languages do not aspirate letters 'p', 't', 'k' and 'c'. This is sometimes called speaking English with an "Indian Accent".

    Native English speakers will have to relearn the pronunciation of these letters when it comes to pronouncing Bangla letters. Specifically, there are Bangla letters corresponding to

    • English Letter p corresponds to Bangla Letter named Consonant po
    • English Letter t corresponds to Bangla Letter named Consonant To
    • English Letter k,c corresponds to Bangla Letter named Consonant ko
  2. Speakers of other Sanskrit-Based Languages
    All Sanskrit-based languages have an inherent vowel. In Hindi, for example, the first Vowel (a) has a "short a" sound, so all Hindi consonants will be pronounced with an "a" sound at the end, like the first Consonant (k) will sound like "ka". This should be noted by Hindi speakers who want to pronounce Bangla words authentically. When you pronounce Bangla words, you need to pronounce the inherent vowel in the Bangla way - o as in on
  3. Vowels অ (o) and ও (O)
    Vowel অVowel ও/ো
    অ/
    o
    on
    ও/ো
    O
    most

    Although both অ and ও are represented by the Phonetic English o and O, the pronunciation of
    • o is as in "on"
    • O is as in "most"
  4. Pronouncing 10 sets of Unaspirated and Aspirated Consonants
    UnaspiratedAspirated  UnaspiratedAspirated

    k
    skin

    kh
    khaki

    g
    go

    gh
    ghetto

    UnaspiratedAspirated  UnaspiratedAspirated

    ch
    cheat

    chh
    watch

    j
    jingle

    jh
    jhansi

    UnaspiratedAspirated  UnaspiratedAspirated

    T
    token

    Th
    whittle

    D
    dive

    Dh
    adhere

    UnaspiratedAspirated  UnaspiratedAspirated

    t
    Wyeth

    th
    think

    d
    hindu

    dh
    sadhu

    UnaspiratedAspirated  UnaspiratedAspirated

    p
    pauper

    ph,f
    cipher

    b,w
    boy

    bh,v
    abhorrent

    Non-native speakers will need some practice to attain proficiency in differentiating between, and pronouncing, the Unaspirated and Aspirated consonants.

    The sound of aspiration can be simulated by adding a short "h" sound to the letter. This will cause a puff of air at the end of the letter. Each of the first 5 sets of consonants has 2 sets of Unaspirated/Aspirated consonants.

    • Gutturals - The ko line
      • "k" = 'ক' and "kh" = 'খ'
      • "g" = 'গ' and "gh" = 'ঘ'
    • Palatals - The cho line
      • "ch"= 'চ' and "chh" = 'ছ'
      • "j" = 'জ' and "jh" = 'ঝ'
    • Celebrals - The To line
      • "T" = 'ট' and "Th" = 'ঠ'
      • "D" = 'ড' and "Dh" = 'ঢ'
    • Dentals - The to line
      • "t" = 'ত' and "th" = 'থ'
      • "d" = 'দ' and "dh" = 'ধ'
    • Labials - The po line
      • "p" = 'প' and "ph" = 'ফ'
      • "b" = 'ব' and "bh" = 'ভ'
  5. Pronouncing the 5 Nasal Consonants
    'ঙ''ঞ' 'ণ''ন' 'ম'

    Ng
    king

    NG
    gnome

    N
    noise

    n
    no

    m
    mother

    These Nasal sounds follow the 2 sets of Unaspirated and Aspirated Consonants shown above. They are:
    • "Ng" = 'ঙ'
    • "NG" = 'ঞ'
    • "N" = 'ণ'
    • "n" = 'ন'
    • "m" = 'ম'
  6. Four Sets of Similar Sounding Letters
    'জ''য'  'ন''ণ'  'ই/ি''ঈ/ী'  'উ/ু''ঊ/ূ'

    j
    jingle

    J,Y
    joy

    n
    no

    N
    noise
    ই/ি
    i
    hit
    ঈ/ী
    I
    skiing
    উ/ু
    u
    put
    ঊ/ূ
    U
    vacuum

    The lower-case English letter is assigned to the more common Bangla letter, and the upper-case English letter is assigned to the other. For example,
    • "J" = 'য' and "j" = 'জ'
    • "N" = 'ণ' and "n" = 'ন'
    • "I" = 'ঈ/ী' and "i" = 'ই/ি'
    • "U" = 'ঊ/ূ' and "u" = 'উ/ু'
  7. The 3 "s" sounds
    'স''শ''ষ'

    s
    wish

    sh
    show

    Sh
    cash

    The most common s sound is "s" assigned to 'স'. In Sanskrit, the sound of 'শ' has a "sh" sound and this is assigned to it. Finally, the sound of the letter 'ষ' is a deep "s" sound most often heard in the name of the Hindu diety Krishna, so 'ষ'is assigned the Phonetic "Sh". Although the three "s" sounds are similarly pronounced in contemporary Bangla, the three forms are retained in the alphabet for writing and spelling to be consistent with the pronunciation in the Sankrit root words.
  8. The 3 "r" sounds
    'র''ড়''ঢ়'

    r
    right

    R
    rhythm

    Rh
    arrhythmia

    The most common r sound is "r" assigned to 'র' called boye-sunno ro as it looks like a dot added to 'ব'. The next most common form of "ro" is "R" assigned to 'ড়' called doye-sunno ro as it looks like a dot added to 'ড'. Finally, the hard "ro" sound is "Rh" and assigned to 'ঢ়' and is called dhoye-sunno ro as it is a dot added to 'ঢ'. Although the three "r" sounds are similarly pronounced in contemporary Bangla, the three forms are retained in the alphabet for writing and spelling to be consistent with the pronunciation in the Sankrit root words.
  9. The 3 "ng" sounds
    'ং''ঙ''ঞ'

    ng
    Bengali

    Ng
    king

    NG
    gnome

    The most common of these is the Consonant Sign Onuswar 'ং' and is assigned "ng". This letter is used in the name of the language Bangla বাংলা(bangla). Since Consonant signs cannot any sound changing vowel signs attached, there has to be a different rendering to refer to people from Bengal who are called Bangali. The letter 'ঙ' is assigned "Ng" and this can have the "a" sound attached making Bangali বাঙালি (baNgali). Finally, the 'ঞ' is assigned "NG", this letter being seen mainly in words with compound consonants like বিজ্ঞ(bijNGo)=>learned and পঞ্চম(poNGchom)=>fifth.
  10. The Other 3 Consonant Signs
    'ৎ''ঃ''ঁ'

    t^
    nitwit

    H^
    poof

    n^
    sand

    The Consonant Sign Khondo-to 'ৎ' is a truncated "to" sound and is assigned "t^". It is used in words like সৎ(sot^)=>honest. The Consonant Sign Bishorgo 'ঃ' is assigned "H^" as it sound like an abrupt "h" like দুঃখ(duH^kho)=>sorrow. The Consonant Sign Chondro-Bindu 'ঁ' is assigned "n^" as it is an "n" sound that is attached to the previous consonant as in আঁকা(an^ka)=>draw.

The Complete Phonetic Scheme

The Phonetic Scheme was designed so that each Bangla Letter is represented as closely as possible with 1 to 3 English letters. Capital and lower-case English letters are used.

In some of the older Phonetic Transliteration Tables, "c" was used to represent the 'চ' ('ch') sound as in "Ciao" in Italian and "ch" was used to represent the aspirated 'ছ' ('chh') sound. As there is no word in English (except for some Proper Names) where "c" is pronounced as 'চ' ('ch'), I have decided to let "ch" represent the Bangla 'চ' ('ch') sound and "chh" represent the Bangla 'ছ' ('chh') sound in the Phonetic scheme thoughout this website.

The complete Phonetic Table is shown below.
Vowels

o

a

i

I

u

U

rri

e

OI

O

OU

Consonants

k

kh

g

gh

Ng

ch

chh

j

jh

NG

T

Th

D

Dh

N

t

th

d

dh

n

p

ph,f

b,w

bh,v

m

J,Y

r

l

sh

Sh

s

h

y

R

Rh

t^

ng

H^

n^

You can also look at the Phonetic Table, sorted by the English Letter assignments.
a
b,w
bh,v
c
ch
chh
D
d
Dh
dh
e
f
g
gh
h
H^
I
i
J,Y
j
jh
k
kh
l
m
N
n
n^
NG
Ng
ng
O
o
OI
OU
p
ph,f
q
R
r
Rh
rri
s
Sh
sh
T
t
t^
Th
th
U
u
x
y
z

You will notice that some sounds in English do not appear in Bangla. Specifically, in the Phonetic scheme used here, the letters 'c', 'f', 'q', 'x', 'z' do not have a sound corresponding to any letter in contemporary spoken Bangla.