WHEN the following Dialogues were first begun, I did not intend to add a Translation: but I soon perceived, that if they were so extended as to include the most common conversations of the country people, it would be necessary to translate them, and to add a few observations.
It is readily acknowledged, that whoever undertakes to learn a language, should accustom himself to give an account of every word, in whatsoever connection it may be found. It is on this count that dialogues with translations have been supposed to be useless, if not injurious, furnishing the student with a kind of knowledge gratis, which he ought to acquire by application; while they leave him unacquainted with the principles of the language. To avoid this evil, and at the same time furnish a necessary help to the student, I have only added a very free translation, leaving it to him to account for every word, by making a strictly literal one.
This appears more necessary when we reflect that many allusive expressions, and idiomatic forms of speech, have scarcely any intelligible meaning when translated literally; but when the student compares his literal translation with the free one annexed, he will easily see the reason of these apparent irregularities, and gain a flexibility of expression, which could not be soon acquired by constant and rigid attention to grammatical rules alone.
I do not suggest by this, that these conversations are ungrammatical; even those Dialogues are strictly regular which are inserted on purpose to show the difference of idiom among the lower orders of people in different situations.
A Khansaman, or a Sirkar, talking to an European, generally intermixes his language with words derived from the Arabic or Persian, and some few corrupted English and Portuguese words: examples of this, in several varieties, occupy the first thirteen pages of the following work. From the thirteenth to the nineteenth page are instances of the grave stile. At the twentieth page is an instance of the common talk of labouring people. Women speak a language considerably differing from that of the men, especially in their quarrels: instances of this, both in the friendly and contentious stile, will be found from page 52 to 56, 65 to 67 and from 77 to 87 inclusive. The proverbial expressions, and sudden transitions, in these dialogues, will make them appear difficult at first, but the difficulty will soon be surmounted. The dialogue, page 56 is the greatest instance of irregularity; it is the language of fishermen, and is peculiar to that class of people.
There are some contractions, the principal of which are the substituting of এ or য়া, instead of ইয়া; and sometimes the total elision of the ই, in the different forms of the verbs: চ is also substituted for জ at the end of a very few words.
That the work might be as complete as possible, I have employed some sensible natives to compose dialogues upon subjects of a domestic nature, and to give them precisely in the natural style of the persons supposed to be speakers. I believe the imitation to be so exact, that they will not only assist the student, but furnish a considerable idea of the domestic œconomy of the country.
The great want of books to assist in acquiring this language, which is current through an extent of country nearly equal to Great Britain, and which, when properly cultivated, will be inferior to none, in elegance and perspicuity, has induced me to compile this small work; and to undertake the publishing of two or three more, principally translations from the Sungskrita. These will form a regular series of books in the Bengalee, gradually becoming more and more difficult, till the student is introduced to the highest classical works in the language.
Serampore, June 1, 1818.