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     Volume 5 Issue 92 | April 28, 2006 |

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Book Review

Laerning French - in Bangla !

Barrister Sadia Arman

French for Bangla Learners by Mohammed Ataur Rahman, is the first book on the French language written specially for Bangla speaking learners. French, which today is the second international language, as well as the original language of the European Communities, now the European Union, was, in the context of Europe, always the language of the elite. The language of high culture from the 16th century onwards, it was mandatory for members of high society to use French in everyday conversation, just as it is for us to sprinkle ours with English today. Proficiency in the language put one in the well-educated and cultured class. Today, in an increasingly globalised world, French for Bangla Learners is just the book for ambitious young Bangalis who are making continual forays abroad for business, employment, entertainment, education or permanent settlement, esp in the context of bilingual Canada, countries in South East Asia and the Pacific. The book is edited by Uday Shankar Barua, senior-most teacher at the Alliance Francaise, Dhaka, and recommended by six persons of international reputation home and abroad, from the Chief Justice of Canada and Dr. Kamal Hossain to Dr. Mahmud Shah Qureshi, Professor and Head of the Department of Language, Communication and Culture, Gono Bishwabidyalay.

The author, an advocate of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, holds prestigious qualifications on French language from the University of Dhaka, Alliance Francaise, and the French Education Ministry.

"French for Bengali Learners"
by Mohammed Ataur Rahman
Pages: 581
Price: 350
Published by: Friend's
Book Corner, Dhaka

The layout and design of the book is aimed to facilitate the learning process, in the shortest possible time and without the aid of a teacher, of the committed student who is a total stranger to the peculiarities of the French language but who has a reasonable command of English and Bangla.

Since the greatest difficulty in learning this language lies in mastering its pronunciation, Rahman catches the bull by its horns in the first chapter by tackling the elusive nature of French pronunciation with lists. He ventures into muscular acoustics in attempting to illustrate how the French R, the U and the dz are pronounced through the use of the throat, the wind-pipe, the tongue and the palate! Emphasis on pronunciation continues throughout the thirty-five chapters of the book, and every French word is given its meaning in English and its linguistic pronunciation in Bangla, building a solid foundation of context for every new word learnt. In the very beginning he also illustrates the basic principle of liaison in French pronunciation, before the reader has even started on the journey properly -- thus putting the baby in the walking wheeler before it can stumble.

Rahman is adept at visualisation. He visualises all sorts of casual dealings with combinations of people and shades of meaning in a variety of contexts, such as conversation at the bus-stop, the street, the post-office, the tobacconist's, the Bank, the tailor's, the railway station and even international customs. These conversations are generally between two-persons and in French vocabulary and using progressively advanced levels to raise the platform of learning as required.

In the fifth chapter, Rahman embarks on the tricky concept of gender in the French language. Every noun in French, unlike in Bangla and English, is either of the masculine or feminine gender. Moreover, since there are no rules to guide which should be which, the author wisely suggests that every noun should be learned not in isolation but with the accompanying article indicating its gender, i.e, le, la, un or une.

Here and there apart from the lessons and the list of words, the author speaks to his readers directly in Bangla, illustrating basic rules, anomalies and characteristics of the French language. These "mini-lectures" provide excellent guidance to the student. Like a patient teacher, Rahman often makes comparisons with their similar grammar and usages of English. Sometimes, as in Chapter twenty-two, he has, in his translations in idiomatic English, taken extra care to put in brackets the literal translation of the French word as well, so that the reader is not confused, and can understand the words and the usage thoroughly. Further, it should not remain unsaid that departing from the usual practice of English books published in this country, there are very few spelling mistakes.

Towards the later part of book, letter writing and application writing have been addressed, and the job-interview follows, things of practical guidance to the aspiring young professional in a French speaking country. Common idioms and phrases, proverbs and common abbreviations follow, and at the very end two small French-Bangla, and Bangla-French dictionaries with pronunciations are thoughtfully given.

The author deserves considerable applause for a carefully designed, very well-written, and readable book, that promises to be of equal value to the unaided beginner of studies in French, the casual traveller, and the immigrant who is looking for a job. It is hoped that Mohammed Ataur Rahman's upcoming book, French Vocabulary and Conjugation, shall follow the trail blazed by French for Bangla Learners, and build up on the foundation laid down by this pioneering book in Bangladesh.



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