Belgrade

Speaking Serbian

19 Oct 2018
If you haven't had travelled much in Slavic countries, when you first hear Serbian you might think everyone around you is arguing, but this is (usually) not the case. The language just naturally sounds a bit rough, and you'll soon find that behind the harsh sounds, the people are actually incredibly good-natured. Because of the rich history of the country, many words and phrases were picked up from other languages that are still used today. According to a recent study, there are around 7,000 Turkish words still used in the Serbian language, such as bakšiš (meaning tip), which came courtesy of the 500-year occupation by the Ottoman Empire. You might also notice quite a few Germanic words in everyday use, like šnajder (meaning tailor), which found their way into common use due to the historical proximity of the Austro-Hungary Empire. However, one of the most frequent words that you hear nowadays is ćao, meaning both hi and bye, which made its way into the language from Italy.

The Serbian language has 31 letters, and every word is pronounced phonetically, that is exactly the way it's written, making it relatively easy to learn. As long as you grasp the pronunciation of the individual letters, you should be able to pronounce every word, without exceptions, which is pretty cool. But the grammar, oh the grammar. With a total of seven cases, many people who pursue Serbian as a second language still struggle with these after many years of speaking the language.

Now, the fun part! Here are a few phrases that you might find useful to use during your visit:

Ćao / Zdravo / Dobar dan - all of these mean hello, the difference being formality. Ćao would be used among friends and Dobar dan is more like Good day

Kako si? / Kako ste? - How are you? Similarly to French, Serbian uses the formal plural “you”, so the latter is more formal

Hvala  - Thank you

Zovem se... - My name is…

Ja sam iz… - Im from…

Da - yes

Ne - no

Izvini - sorry

Molim vas - please

Drago mi je - Nice to meet you

Živeli! - Cheers!

Prijatno! - Bon appétit / Have a nice meal

Ne razumem - I don't understand

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