I have worked through this book and would like to make a few comments to help others decide on buying it.
Firstly, I certainly agree with other reviewers that the book is not a quick bengali course that can be picked up to learn a few phrases. Instead, it is a serious course that will teach you how to read and write the language along with the pronunciation.
The first 13 chapters are entirely dedicated to teaching you the Bengali script. There are a few phrases but they will be of little use to someone wishing to just mutter a few things to Bengali speakers. If your aim is to learn just a few phrases, perhaps a Bengali phrase book would be of more use. Learning the script can take time and you will need a fair bit of patience to learn it. If you have no desire to read and write Bengali, this book is not for you because the author/publishers have designed the course without transliteration of the dialogues.
The next chapters are all written in Bengali script with the English translation. There is no transliteration, which is a real shame. I think that the author should have included this somewhere, even perhaps at the back of the book or at the end of each chapter. The lack of a transliteration in this book means that many potential learners of Bengali will automatically be blocked from accessing this book and I cannot understand why this was not included to increase the publisher's sales of this book. The grammar is however explained in English and examples are generally given with the transliteration rather than in Bengali script.
I would say that the course is well designed and covers all essential grammar. The author has clearly put a lot of thought into the course. It is a good course but has a few major faults...
I think that the author "William Radice" should have (definitely) included a vocabulary list in each chapter and the lack of this is the book's biggest fault, as well as not having the transliteration for each text. As new words pop up in the dialogues in each chapter, the author forces you to look up each and every new word in the Bengali dictionary at the very back of the book. This means that you can easily waste a whole hour having to make a list of new vocabulary for each chapter because the author/publisher has not included this. This has been the most frustrating part of the course for me and I am languages teacher/language course designer myself and vocabulary lists are essential to help students progress faster.
I am sure that the author would argue that the extra time spent looking up vocabulary in the dictionary is a useful task to help you imrpove your reading skills and that it is wrong to to learn bengali by reading a transliteration, but the lack of vocabulary lists and a transliterations slows the student's progress immensely and could easily make students lose motivation.
The last few chapters include various stories/cultural texts in Bengali. This is unusual in the Teach Yourself languages books and in this book, the author William Radice states that he had to fight to have this extra cultural part included in the book, but actually this is one of the nicest things about the book. I think that the Teach Yourself language courses should all include this cultural/story section. I have felt that this section has given me something to work towards and it is quite lovely getting to the end of the course and being able to immerse yourself in the culture rather than just arriving at a dead end. The stories add character to the book and the publisher should seriously consider adding them to all language learning books.
I am giving the book 4 stars. It is a good book and the course feels complete and is well designed. The book could be improved if the author/publishers included a vocabulary list for each chapter and a transliteration of the dialogues. If these were included, then the book would be perfect for all learners.
I work in East London and wanted to use this book to get bit of basic bengali as not everyone I deal with speaks english, however, before being able to listen to the dialogues and read along with them it turns out you need to spend 15 chapters learning the bengali script which is a bit of a pain when you only really want to pick up a few bits and pieces so you can be polite. It would have been good if the first few dialogues were 'transliterated' into latin characters (as I have seen with Russian courses before). Unfortunately for the casual bengali learner there isn't much choice of books to learn bengali so nevermind.
If your aim is to understand, speak, read and write Bengali, this is an excellent and very comprehensive course. William Radice introduces the Bengali script in manageable stages, using a helpful system of transliteration. As another reviewer has noted, if your aim is simply to pick up a few conversational phrases quickly, this course may not be ideal for you. But as Bengali uses what must be one of the most beautiful scripts in the world, it seems a pity not to learn it alongside the spoken language.