Languages of Bangladesh

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Languages of Bangladesh
Languages of Bangladesh map.svg
RegionalBangali, Chittagonian, Dhakaiya Kutti, Noakhailla, Rangpuri, Sylheti, Varendri
MinorityBishnupriya, Chakma, Dhakaiya Urdu, Hajong, Tangchangya, Oraon Sadri, Hindi, Khasi, Koda, Mundari, Pnar, Santali, War-Jaintia, Kurukh, Sauria Paharia, A'Tong, Chak, Chin, Asho, Bawm, Falam, Haka, Khumi, Koch, Garo, Megam, Meitei Manipuri, Tripuri(Kokborok), Mizo, Mru, Pangkhua, Rakhine/Marma
ImmigrantUrdu[1][2] • Rohingya
ForeignArabic, Farsi and English

"Languages spoken across Bangladesh" (2011)[3]

  others (2%)
Bangladesh linguistic diversity as per 2011 census[4]
Language Population
Bengali (বাংলা) 146,776,916
Others 2,995,47
Total 149,72,364

The national language and official language of Bangladesh is Bengali according to the third article of the Constitution of Bangladesh.[5] 98% of Bangladeshis are fluent in Bengali (including dialects) as their first language.[6] Bengali Language Implementation Act, 1987 made it mandatory to use Bengali in all government affairs except in the cases of foreign relations.[7] According to a 2011 census, Bengali is predominantly spoken by 98% of the country's population and it also serves as the national language of the nation. The indigenous people of northern and southeastern Bangladesh speak a variety of native languages.

Indo-Aryan languages[edit]

The lowlands of Bangladesh form the larger, central and eastern half of the ethno-linguistic region of Bengal and the Bengali language is spoken by the majority of the country's inhabitants i.e. the Bengalis. There are also some Eastern Indic language varieties, which are variously classified either as dialects of Bengali or separate but closely related languages. They can be thought of forming a dialect continuum.

Non-Indo-Aryan languages[edit]

The indigenous languages of the region are members of the Austroasiatic, Dravidian and Tibeto-Burman families. Most of these languages are spoken in mountainous areas.

Austroasiatic languages[edit]

While the more widely spoken and better-known Austroasiatic languages are spoken in Southeast Asia (e.g. Khmer and Vietnamese), smaller languages of that family are spoken by indigenous communities of northern and eastern Bangladesh.

Dravidian languages[edit]

Two Dravidian languages are spoken by indigenous communities of western Bangladesh.

Tibeto-Burman languages[edit]

The mountainous areas along the northern and eastern edges of the Indian Subcontinent are inhabited primarily by speakers of Tibeto-Burman languages. Indigenous Tibeto-Burman-speaking communities are found through the northern, eastern, and especially the southeastern parts of Bangladesh.

Other languages[edit]


English is used marginally in the judiciary.[8] Before the commencement of the Bengali Language Implementation Act, 1987, English had a considerable presence in official affairs, but since 1987 the usage of English has waned significantly in government. Due to the British colonization of the country, English is still a widely spoken and commonly understood language in Bangladesh.[9] English is taught as a compulsory subject in all schools, colleges and universities, and is often used secondarily in the higher tier of the judiciary. However, there are English medium education system in Bangladesh.[10] The British Council Bangladesh offers English language courses. During the colonial period, laws were written in English.


Arabic (عربي) was an official language ever since the territory of the modern state People's Republic of Bangladesh became a part of the Bengal Sultanate. However some disagree and believe the presence of Arabic came before during the Delhi Sultanate. Arabic is used in many Muslim congregations such as the weekly Jumu'ah Salah in which a sermon (khutbah) is given in Arabic in addition to Bengali. In the Constitution of Bangladesh, there are two references to Arabic to in the introduction and Part I of the constitution. The document begins with the Arabic phrase بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ which is translated as “In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful”. Article 2A declares that Islam is the state religion of the republic.

Arabic is the religious language of Muslims. The Quran, Sunnah, Hadith and Muslim theology is taught in Arabic with Bengali translation. The Bangladeshi diaspora living in the Middle East has further increased the number of people who can speak Arabic in Bangladesh. Arabic is taught as a religious language in mosques, schools, colleges, universities and madrassahs as well as in tradition Bengali Muslim households. Arabic is an obligatory subject in the Madrasah education of Bangladesh. A majority of Bangladesh's Muslim population has had some form of formal or informal education in the reading, writing and pronunciation of the Arabic language as part of their religious education.[11]


A Persian manuscript of Bengal showing Alexander sharing his throne with Queen Nushabah. The scene is based on Nizami Ganjavi's Iskandar Nama (Book of Alexander). The manuscript was published by Sultan Nusrat Shah who reigned between 1519 and 1538. (British Library)

From ancient times, Bengal and Persia had been in contact with each other and there were many trading posts around coastal Bengal. As people converted to Islam, they became acquainted with Persian, the language of the Sufi preachers.[12] Bengal witnessed an influx of Persian scholars, lawyers, teachers and clerics. The influence of the language spread rapidly after it gained the status of court language for over 600 years (1203-1837 AD) under the Delhi Sultanate, Bengal Sultanate and Bengal Subah. Thousands of Persian books and manuscripts were published in Bengal. The period of Sultan Ghiyathuddin Azam Shah's reign is described as the "golden age of Persian literature in Bengal". Its stature was illustrated by the Sultan's own correspondence and collaboration with the Persian poet Hafez; a poem which can be found in the Divan of Hafez today.[13]

Presently, Persian is taught in some madrasas, mostly those belonging to the Befaqul Madarisil Arabia Bangladesh board, as well as at the University of Dhaka.[14]


Urdu (اردو‬) was an official language in post-partition 1947 to 1971. It is still spoken by the settlers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. They are living in Saidpur, Dhaka particularly Old Dhaka, and other parts of Bangladesh.


  1. ^ "'Stranded Pakistanis' living in camps in Bangladesh – in pictures". The Guardian. 11 August 2014. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  2. ^ "Vote for 'stranded Pakistanis'". BBC News. 6 May 2003. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  3. ^ › site › page Population-and-Housing-Census - বাংলাদেশ পরিসংখ্যান ব্যুরো
  4. ^ › site › page Population-and-Housing-Census - বাংলাদেশ পরিসংখ্যান ব্যুরো
  5. ^ "Article 3. The state language". The Constitution of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. Ministry of Law, The People's Republic of Bangladesh. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  6. ^ Faquire, A.B.M. Razaul Karim (December 2010). "Language Situation in Bangladesh". The Dhaka University Studies. 67: 63–77.
  7. ^ "Bangla Bhasha Procholon Ain, 1987" বাংলা ভাষা প্রচলন আইন, ১৯৮৭ [Bengali Language Implementation Act, 1987]. Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs. Government of Bangladesh. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  8. ^ "Bangla Rules in All Domains of National Life". Daily Sun. Archived from the original on 25 April 2019. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  9. ^ "'Language of Bangladesh, Culture".
  10. ^ "English medium education system in Bangladesh". The Daily Observer.
  11. ^ ATM Muslehuddin (2012). "Arabic". In Islam, Sirajul; Miah, Sajahan; Khanam, Mahfuza; Ahmed, Sabbir (eds.). Banglapedia: the National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Online ed.). Dhaka, Bangladesh: Banglapedia Trust, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. ISBN 984-32-0576-6. OCLC 52727562. Retrieved 27 November 2021.
  12. ^ Sarah Anjum Bari (12 April 2019). "A Tale of Two Languages: How the Persian language seeped into Bengali". The Daily Star (Bangladesh).
  13. ^ Abu Musa Mohammad Arif Billah (2012). "Persian". In Islam, Sirajul; Miah, Sajahan; Khanam, Mahfuza; Ahmed, Sabbir (eds.). Banglapedia: the National Encyclopedia of Bangladesh (Online ed.). Dhaka, Bangladesh: Banglapedia Trust, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. ISBN 984-32-0576-6. OCLC 52727562. Retrieved 27 November 2021.
  14. ^ Sakurai, Keiko (7 March 2011). The Moral Economy of the Madrasa: Islam and Education Today. Taylor & Francis. p. 74.

Further reading[edit]

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