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Do They Speak English in Bangladesh?

Do They Speak English in Bangladesh

Bangladesh, located in South Asia, boasts a rich cultural history, intertwined languages, and an impressive education system. Among the multitude of languages spoken in Bangladesh, where does English stand? Let’s find out!

Key Takeaways

Official LanguageBengali (Bangla)
Percentage of English SpeakersApproximately 18% of the population
Usage of EnglishSecond language, used in business and education
English ProficiencyModerate to High in urban areas
Language of InstructionBengali in most schools, English in private institutions

The Landscape of Languages in Bangladesh

The Dominance of Bengali

Bengali (or Bangla) is the state language of Bangladesh and is spoken by the majority of the population. It’s not just a language; it’s a cornerstone of Bangladeshi identity and culture. The country even celebrates International Mother Language Day on 21st February to commemorate the sacrifices made for the Bengali language in 1952.

English: A Colonial Inheritance

The British colonial legacy has left its imprint in many South Asian countries, including Bangladesh. English was introduced during the British Raj and has since remained a significant language.

Table 1: Legacy Languages of Bangladesh

LanguageOriginCurrent Usage
BengaliIndigenousMajority of the population
EnglishBritish Colonial EraEducation, business, and urban areas
ArabicIslamic InfluenceReligious contexts
UrduPakistan EraSmall sections of the population

Other Languages

A variety of tribal languages are also spoken in the hill tracts and other remote areas. These languages represent the rich cultural diversity of Bangladesh.

The Prevalence of English in Bangladesh Today

While Bengali reigns supreme in the everyday lives of Bangladeshis, English has carved out its own space, primarily in the domains of business, education, and urban communication.

In Business and Professions

Many businesses, especially those with international ties, prefer English for communication. This trend is especially noticeable in:

  • International trade and commerce
  • IT and outsourcing sectors
  • The medical profession, where many terms are in English
  • Legal proceedings that involve international laws or parties

In Education

English is a mandatory subject in Bangladeshi schools from primary to higher secondary levels.

Table 2: Language of Instruction in Bangladeshi Schools

School TypeLanguage of Instruction
Government SchoolsPrimarily Bengali with English as a separate subject
English Medium SchoolsEnglish
Madrasas (Islamic Schools)Bengali and Arabic
International SchoolsEnglish, with global curriculum standards


  • University courses, especially in science and technology, often use English textbooks.
  • Students seeking international scholarships or studying abroad are required to prove their proficiency in English through tests like IELTS or TOEFL.

In Media and Entertainment

  • English newspapers, such as The Daily Star and The Dhaka Tribune, have significant readership.
  • English is common in advertising, especially for luxury or international products.
  • Cable TV and online streaming have made English movies and series popular among the urban youth.

Why English Remains Relevant

  1. Global Connectivity: As globalization connects the world closer than ever, English serves as a bridge for Bangladesh to communicate with the international community.
  2. Economic Opportunities: Outsourcing, IT, and other sectors that deal with international clients require employees proficient in English.
  3. Educational Prospects: English proficiency opens doors to scholarships, international universities, and global research collaborations.
  4. Cultural Exchange: English movies, music, literature, and online content have found a fond audience in Bangladesh.

The Road Ahead

While English has certainly found its footing in Bangladesh, the future lies in a harmonious blend of Bengali and English. As the country progresses, a bilingual approach can help in preserving cultural identity while embracing global opportunities.

In conclusion, yes, a significant portion of the Bangladeshi population does speak English, especially in urban and professional settings. It’s a testament to the country’s adaptive nature and its vision for a globally connected future.