Bengali (Bangla) is the essence and pride of all Bengal, no matter where its speakers reside or the number of years spent away from West Bengal (India) or Bangladesh, the two places where Bengali is a native language. While India has about 67 million Bengali speakers, its neighbor Bangladesh has approximately 100 million speakers. These figures do not indicate the entire population of Bengalis, as many speakers reside in various other countries. For instance, the UAE has about 70,000 Bengali speakers, and the US has a far greater number. The extensive diaspora of the Bengali population all over the globe has raised the language's everyday demand, as well as its popularity in the international scene.
Bengali is more than a language, as it opens the door to a whole vista of rich cultural materials, 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 winner of the Oscar's Lifetime Achievement Award. For those interested in philosophy and religion, knowledge of Bengali becomes crucial in understanding the philosophies of Swami Vivekananda, Chaitanya, and the Bhakti movement of Bengal.
In today's world, Bengali occupies an important place. Originating from middle of the tenth century, this language allows one to explore the prevailing trends of a community that holds onto traditional values, but, at the same time, is eager to explore new and diverse paths.