Five Things You Never Knew about Bengali Translation

Speaking as a Bengali translator, I can tell you that professional translation between Bengali and other languages isn’t easy. Some of the things that make it difficult are very language-specific.

Here are five of my favorites:

  1. Bengali has three letters that sound similar to ‘s’ and ‘sh.’ These three letters are called ‘sha.’ Although there are distinctions in their pronunciation, at times they sound like each other. In different words, the same letter sounds very different. So if you are translating something in Bengali and you use the wrong ‘sha,’ it will result in a hilarious mistake and the meaning will be lost.
  2. Exaggerated statements sound strange and inappropriate in Bengali. For example, sentences like ‘Oh my God!’, ‘Oh no!’ cannot be translated directly, because in Bengali, we don’t use such exaggerations to begin with, making their translations really awkward.
  3. Most translation technologies do not work well with Bengali. You cannot rely on translation tools, as most of them perform poorly when translating Bengali. The sentence structure of Bengali is quite tough to formulate and it changes based on the situation, and most translation tools were not designed with this in mind.
  4. Bengali is a fast-evolving language that borrows from its neighbors. The language frequently adopts words from other languages. Meanwhile, the original Bengali words are quickly discarded. For example, if you try to translate the words, ‘chair’, ‘television’, or ‘telephone’, most Bengali speakers will not even understand your translation when using the original words. Sometimes the translated word is so difficult or outdated that transcription is used instead of translation. This happens especially for technical words.
  5. There are actually two forms of written Bengali. One is called, ‘Sadhu bhasha’ and the other is called ‘Chalito bhasha’. The ‘Sadhu bhasha’ form is no longer used in general but if you are translating a legal document of governmental form, you must use the ‘Sadhu bhasha’ form. In that form, the verbs are longer and the words are more formal.

Bengali translation can be quite tough, even for expert native speakers who are professional translators, but it’s also really fun. Transforming a different language into Bengali and seeing how beautiful the words and sentences can be, is an experience that I truly enjoy. In Bengali, it’s less about the sentence structure and more about the feeling that needs to be conveyed, and you can say a lot with just a few words.

About Rehana Parvin

I’m a native Bengali translator living in Bangladesh. I have a graduate degree in Applied Statistics, and am the winner of multiple government awards in science and education. I have extensive experience in SEO, including translation of metadata, along with keyword prominence, density, and curation.