Bengali (Bangla) is simply more than a language. It is the essence and pride of all Bengalis, no matter where they reside and for however many years they have been away from West Bengal (India) or Bangladesh, the two places where it is spoken as a native language. While India has about 67,200,000 Bengali speakers, its neighbor Bangladesh has approximately 100,000,000 speakers. These figures do not indicate the entire population of Bengalis as many others reside in various other countries. For instance, U. A. E. has about 70,000 Bengalis and the US. has a far greater number. The extensive diaspora of the Bengali population all over the globe, has raised the everyday demand and popularity of this language in the international scene. Bengali is more than a language for it opens the door to a whole vista of rich cultural material, that is both traditional and contemporary. Those who learn Bengali, soon find themselves enamored by the works of Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel laureate in literature, and hosts of other reputed literateurs. Others learn to appreciate the beauty and craft of Bengali cinema, especially the films of Satyajit Ray, the Oscar winner of the 'Lifetime Achievement Award'. For those interested in philosophy and religion, a knowledge of Bengali becomes crucial to an understanding of the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda, Chaitanya and the Bhakti movement in Bengal.
In today's world Bengali occupies an important place. For this language, whose origins lie in the middle of the tenth century, allows one to simultaneously explore the ancient traditions as well as appreciate the prevailing trends of a community of people who hold onto their traditional values, but at the same time are eager to explore new paths in diverse directions.