Montenegro flag in Kotor

Montenegrin Language: What do they speak in Montenegro?

Are you curious about the beautiful country of Montenegro and the Montenegrin language?

Am I correct that when you think of Montenegro, you might picture beautiful mountains, charming little towns and coastlines? I get that, but there’s something else special about this place. It’s the Montenegrin language!

In this post, I would like to take you on a journey to explore what language people speak in Montenegro, how it sounds, and other interesting facts from a linguistic point of view.

Let’s dive in and find out more about the local language of this beautiful country!

What language is spoken in Montenegro?

To me, Montenegro is a beautiful country with a long and fascinating history. The people here speak Montenegrin, which is the official language! This language originates from old tribes that lived in the area for a long time.

Over time, as kings, battles, and neighbors coming and going, the language evolved. Even though Montenegrin sounds a bit like the languages of neighboring countries, it has its own history and culture.

People in Montenegro use this language every day to talk, laugh, and talk about the past. They remember stories in Montenegrin about brave warriors, beautiful places, and old customs.

Montenegrin language - Church in Perast
Church in Perast

The Montenegrin language is special to the locals. Why? Well, it helps keeping old stories alive and gives people ideas for new ones. When people in Montenegro speak Montenegrin, it’s also a way for Montenegrins to stay united and feel connected.

Montenegro definitely wants to emphasize that it has its own character, especially since the constitution of 2007 which made this very clear.

If you want to find out for yourself how the Montenegrin language is connected with history and traditions, I would really recommend the History Meets Tradition Tour:

Book your History Meets Tradition Tour to explore beautiful Montenegro!

Montenegrin Alphabet

The Montenegrin language can be written in both the Latin script and the Cyrillic script. In the past, both scripts were used to write the South Slavic languages, which include Montenegrin.

The Latin alphabet, which is similar to the English alphabet, is used more often in daily life in Montenegro, especially in official papers and schools. However, the Cyrillic alphabet is still important for cultural and historical reasons!

It’s good to know that the Cyrillic alphabet used in Montenegro is different from the Cyrillic alphabets used in Serbian, Bulgarian, and Russian. Both scripts are legal in Montenegro, but the Latin script is used more often in everyday life.

There is a different set of letters for the Montenegrin alphabet. Each one sounds different. Here is a overview of the alphabeta and how the letters sound:

  1. A – like ‘a’ in “car”
  2. B – like ‘b’ in “bed”
  3. C – like ‘ts’ in “cats”
  4. Č – like ‘ch’ in “chat”
  5. Ć – softer than Č, a bit like ‘chee’ but quicker
  6. D – like ‘d’ in “dog”
  7. – like ‘j’ in “jam”
  8. Đ – softer than Dž, somewhat like ‘dge’ in “fudge”
  9. E – like ‘e’ in “led”
  10. F – like ‘f’ in “film”
  11. G – like ‘g’ in “go”
  12. H – like ‘h’ in “ham”
  13. I – like ‘ee’ in “see”
  14. J – like ‘y’ in “yes”
  15. K – like ‘k’ in “kiss”
  16. L – like ‘l’ in “lamb”
  17. Lj – somewhat like ‘ly’ in “billion”, but said quickly
  18. M – like ‘m’ in “map”
  19. N – like ‘n’ in “nose”
  20. Nj – a bit like ‘ny’ in “canyon”, but said quickly
  21. O – like ‘o’ in “pot”
  22. P – like ‘p’ in “pet”
  23. R – rolled, like the Spanish ‘r’
  24. S – like ‘s’ in “see”
  25. Š – like ‘sh’ in “shop”
  26. T – like ‘t’ in “top”
  27. U – like ‘oo’ in “boot”
  28. V – like ‘v’ in “van”
  29. Z – like ‘z’ in “zero”
  30. Ž – like ‘s’ in “treasure”

People in Montenegro use these letters while writing or with everything they want to say. Some may sound familiar to you, while others may be new and interesting!

As mentioned, you might come across Cyrillic letters in Montenegro. They look more like this: Ш, Ћ, Ж, Ч, Ђ, Љ, Њ, Џ.

Montenegrin phrases

It’s fun to learn languages for multiple reasons! It’s a great way to challenge yourself, to connect with locals, and to understand the culture.

Here are some basic phrases that might help if you ever go to Montenegro or meet someone from there:

  1. Dobar dan (DOH-bar dahn) – Good day
  2. Hvala (HVAA-lah) – Thank you
  3. Molim (MOH-leem) – Please/You’re welcome
  4. Kako se zovete? (KAH-ko se zoh-VEH-teh?) – What is your name?
  5. Ja se zovem… (YAH se zoh-VEHM…) – My name is…
  6. Da (DAH) – Yes
  7. Ne (NEH) – No
  8. Izvinite (eez-VEE-nee-teh) – Excuse me/Sorry
  9. Gdje je WC? (GDYE yeh VEH-tseh?) – Where is the restroom?
  10. Koliko košta? (KOH-lee-ko KOSH-tah?) – How much does it cost?
  11. Govorite li engleski? (GOH-voh-ree-teh lee ENG-less-kee?) – Do you speak English?
  12. Ne razumijem (neh rah-ZOO-myem) – I don’t understand
  13. Jedno pivo, molim (YED-noh PEE-voh, MOH-leem) – One beer, please
  14. Doviđenja (doh-VEE-jen-ya) – Goodbye
  15. Noć (NOTCH) – Night

It might be hard at first as an English, French or Spanish speaker as Montenegrin is part of the Slavic language family. You need to get some feeling for the sounds of the language and the pronunciation of letters.

What language is Montenegro similar to?

The main language in Montenegro is called Montenegrin. But it’s very similar to the languages spoken in Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia, which are all close by.

Once upon a time, Montenegrin, Serbian, Bosnian, and Croatian were all thought to be different ways of saying the same thing. Over time, each country made its own version that was a little different from each other.

View on Kotor
View on Kotor

But even with these changes, most people from these countries can still talk to each other. This is because the words and phrase structures of the two languages are very similar.

You’ll hear a lot of Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian in Montenegro. You might even hear quite a lot of Albanian here.

What does Montenegrin sound like?

It can be hard to describe how a language sounds, and the best way to understand it is to hear it for yourself.

But Montenegrin is a South Slavic language, so it sounds a bit like Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian. To me, these languages have a very fluid beat and melody.

There are both soft and sharp sounds in the language. For example, the R sounds are rolled, like in Spanish. There are also sounds that don’t have exact matches in English, like lj (as in milje) and nj (as in njen), which might remind you of the Spanish ll and the French gn.

As you know now, Montenegrin uses both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. Each letter makes a certain sound, so once you learn the alphabet, you can sort of guess how to say words.

If you really want to know how Montenegrin sounds, I would say the best way is to listen to music, news, or films from that country. This would let you hear the sounds and tunes of the language for yourself.

Is Montenegrin a hard language to learn?

How hard it is to learn Montenegrin varies a lot on your background and how well you know other languages.

If you already know a South Slavic language like Serbian, Croatian, or Bosnian, it would be very easy for you to learn Montenegrin. The reason for this is that these languages are very close.

Montenegrin language - Old plaque in Kotor
Old plaque in Kotor

If you speak English or a language from a totally different family, you might find it hard to learn Montenegrin at first. It has letters, sounds, and patterns that you might not be used to.

But, like any language, you can learn Montenegrin if you practise a lot, use it often, and maybe even spend some time there. Montenegrin is just like any other language in that it takes time and work to learn. Anyone can learn it if they try hard!

Montenegrin language: FAQs

The information below is related to Montenegrin language and will give you some more great insights from a linguistic point of view!

Do Montenegrins understand Russian?

Like many other Balkan people, Montenegrins might know a little bit of Russian. This is because both languages are from the Slavic language family, so their words and structures are pretty similar.

And during the time of the former Yugoslavia, some schools taught Russian because of the country’s political and cultural ties to the Soviet Union.

But this doesn’t mean that everyone in Montenegro can talk or understand Russian well. Some older people may have a basic idea because of what they learned in school or because they have historical ties.

Unless they learned Russian in school, younger people might only know a few words or phrases.

So, if you go to Montenegro and speak Russian, some people might understand a few words, but the language isn’t as widely spoken or understood as English or other European languages.

How do you say cheers in Montenegrin?

Would you like to impress the locals? Well, živjeli! is what you would say if you were in Montenegro and wanted to raise a glass to celebrate. This is how people in Montenegro say cheers and wish everyone good health.

Local wine in a local shop in Kotor
Local wine in a local shop in Kotor

So, the next time you’re in Montenegro and clinking your glasses with locals, make sure to set up a big smile and say živjeli to fit right in!

What are Montenegrin people called?

Montenegrins are the name for the people of Montenegro. You might find it interesting to know that they call themselves Crnogorci in their own language, which is pronounced like Tsrno-gortsy.

The name Crnogorci comes from Crna Gora, which means Black Mountain in Montenegrin.

Crna Gora is also the local name for Montenegro. So, when Montenegrins talk about themselves in their own language, they use the word Crnogorci to describe themselves.

Is English understood in Montenegro?

Yes, a lot of people in Montenegro can speak English. Especially the younger generation and in the crowdy tourist places.

Due to the growth of tourism and the impact of Western media, many Montenegrins have been exposed to English and have learned it in school or through private courses.

In places like Kotor and Budva that are extremely popular with tourists, hotel staff, restaurant workers, and shopkeepers often speak basic to excellent English. But in places that are more rural or far away, there may be fewer people who know English.

As in most countries, making an effort to learn a few basic phrases in the local language is always welcomed, but you shouldn’t have much trouble communicating in English in Montenegro (coming from my personal experiences).

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    The Wrap-up: Montenegrin language

    To sum up, the Montenegrin language is the official language in Montenegro. You could say that it’s a part of the heart and soul of Montenegro.

    Even though it’s extremely close to Croatian, Serbian, or Bosnian, the Montenegrin language definitelty has its own character.

    So, the next time you think of Montenegro, you’ll know that it’s not just about the impressive mountains and amazing beaches, but also about the beautiful language they speak!

    Do you want to know more about Montenegro? Check out my other posts about safety in the capital city of Podgorica as well as things to see in Montenegro and how to get to Kotor from Dubrovnik.

    Your restless voyager,


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