Looking for a nice trip to Serbia and wondering what language do they speak in Serbia?
Countries like Serbia often come to mind when we think of places with many different cultures, beautiful scenery, and long histories. But what language do they speak in Serbia?
You’ll find Serbia in the middle of the Balkans. It has a rich mix of customs, music, and languages.
Any country’s soul can be seen in the language that people speak, but Serbia’s language history is very interesting.
Let’s dive in and find out!
What language is mainly spoken in Serbia?
Serbia is a country with a lot of history, culture, and traditions. It is in the middle of the Balkan Peninsula and language is a big part of its culture. Serbian is the main language and also the only official language of Serbia.
It is not only a way to talk to each other, but also a record of the country’s history and shared memories. Serbian is the language that can be heard everywhere, whether you are walking through the busy streets of Belgrade, listening to traditional music, or watching a local TV show.
Serbian is a very important part of the country’s social and cultural life. It is used in all government meetings, schools, news shows, and everyday conversations between people.
It basically connects all the different parts of Serbia and creates unity.
One of the most interesting things about Serbian is that it can be written in both the Cyrillic and Latin scripts. Just imagine being able to read the same language in two different forms without changing the way the words are spelt.
The Cyrillic script and the Latin script are both used to write the Serbian language. But the Cyrillic script is the standard one and is the one that is used to write the Serbian language.
The language is shown in both types phonetically, which means that words are written the way they sound.
To give you an idea, here’s a quick look at the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet and how it looks in Latin script:
- А а (A a)
- Б б (B b)
- В в (V v)
- Г г (G g)
- Д д (D d)
- Ђ ђ (Đ đ)
- Е е (E e)
- Ж ж (Ž ž)
- З з (Z z)
- И и (I i)
- Ј ј (J j)
- К к (K k)
- Л л (L l)
- Љ љ (Lj lj)
- М м (M m)
- Н н (N n)
- Њ њ (Nj nj)
- О о (O o)
- П п (P p)
- Р р (R r)
- С с (S s)
- Т т (T t)
- Ћ ћ (Ć ć)
- У у (U u)
- Ф ф (F f)
- Х x (H h)
- Ц ц (C c)
- Ч ч (Č č)
- Џ џ (Dž dž)
- Ш ш (Š š)
So luckily, the Serbian alphabet is very phonetic because each letter stands for a certain sound. This is very helpful if you want to learn the language because most words are pronounced the same way they are written.
What language is Serbian closest to?
If you travel through the countries of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, you might hear the related languages.
And yes, Serbian does have a lot in common with both Croatian and Bosnian when it comes to language.
Once thought of as different forms of the Serbo-Croatian language, these languages are now seen as separate, but similar, languages.
What different dialects are spoken in Serbia?
Even though the main language in Serbia is based on the Stokavian dialect, people there also speak other dialects. Most of these dialects are part of the bigger group of South Slavic dialects.
So, here are the main dialects that people in Serbia speak:
1. Stokavian (Štokavski):
This is the most common dialect, and all the normal forms of Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin are all based on it.
But it’s good to know that there are different sub-dialects of Stokavian. The main difference between them is how they say the word for what (što, šta, kaj, ča) and whether or not they have certain phonological changes.
One of the most important differences is:
- Ekavian: Most people in Serbia speak it, and normal Serbian is based on it. It’s named like this because what is said as šta in that language.
- Ijekavian: This is a dialect that is spoken in western and southwestern Serbia, as well as in parts of Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia. It got its name because the word for milk is said mlijeko instead of mleko in Ekavian.
2. Torlakian (Torlački):
This is spoken in the southeast of Serbia, close to the Bulgarian and North Macedonian borders.
It’s a language that’s in between the Bulgarian and Macedonian languages of Stokavian and Shop. Some scholars think that Torlakian is part of the continuum of Bulgarian dialects.
3. Kajkavian (Kajkavski):
Even though Kajkavian is mostly spoken in northern Croatia, you might hear some of this dialect in northern Serbia, especially among the Croat population.
These dialects have been around for hundreds of years and have changed the way of how people speak in Serbia. Stokavian, especially its Ekavian version, was a big part of how the current standard language was developed.
How do you say hello in Serbia?
To say Hello in Serbia, you say Zdravo. But there are different ways to say hello based on the time of day and the level of formality:
- Dobar dan – Good day
- Dobro jutro – Good morning
- Dobro veče – Good evening
Here are some more simple words and sentences in Serbian:
- Hvala – I’m grateful
- Molim – Please / Thanks a lot
- Da – Yes
- Ne: No Izvinite: Pardon me/I’m sorry
- Kako se zovete? – What are you called?
- Drago mi je – Hello, how are you?
- Gde je WC? – Where’s the toilet?
- Koliko košta? – How much is it?
- Govorite li engleski? – Can you talk English?
These words can help you if you’re going to Serbia and want to communicate in simple ways. If you’re planning to go to the capital city of Serbia, check out my post about 2 days in Belgrade!
What language do they speak in Serbia: FAQs
The information below is related to the Serbian language and will give you some more interesting insights!
Is it difficult to learn Serbian?
Well, it’s a bit of a yes and no. I mean, there are ups and downs in every language. If you’re used to speaking English or a Roman language, Serbian may be hard to learn because of its Cyrillic writing and different sounds.
But the fact that it is phonetic makes it all a little bit easier! The words sound the way they look.
I studied Bosnian for a year and I personally found the 7 cases the most difficult part of mastering the language.
But with patience, consistent practice, and maybe a Serbian friend to talk to, you can learn the language and enjoy the trip.
Is Serbia similar to Russian?
Serbian and Russian are both from the Slavic family tree, so they share some family traits. You might think they are connected because of the Cyrillic alphabet and a few similar words.
Still, think of them more as cousins than as brothers and sisters. Even though they come from the same place, each has its own grammar, vocabulary, and intonation.
Can you live in Serbia without speaking Serbian?
Yes, you can live in Serbia even if you don’t know the language well, but I will say that your experience will be different depending on:
- Location: Many young people and professionals in cities like Belgrade, Novi Sad, and Niš speak English or another foreign language. Especially in places where you’ll find a lot of expats or tourists.
In smaller towns and villages, on the other hand, not as many people might understand English, making it more useful to know a bit of Serbian!
- Daily Life: If you want to shop, eat out or use public transport, it can be very handy to know some basic Serbian.
Even though many signs in cities may be written in both Serbian and English, and many service workers may know at least some English, it can be helpful to know some Serbian.
- Integration: I always believe from my own experience that learning Serbian is a must if you want to become a full part of Serbian society, to make friends with locals, or really understand the culture and traditions.
The language is the key to understanding a culture’s subtleties, sense of humor, and expressions.
- Job: If you work for an international company or in the tech industry, you may find that a lot of your coworkers know English.
But if you want to work in more traditional fields or in jobs that involve interacting with the public or local groups, you will probably need to know Serbian.
- Legal and Official Work: Most of the time, you need to know Serbian or have a translator to deal with bureaucracy, legal papers, or official business. I know this very well from my time in Bosnia.
- Appreciating culture: While you can of course enjoy Serbian music, films, and books in other languages, knowing Serbian gives you a clear link to them in their original form.
- Community Support: In bigger cities, you can find expatriate communities that can help you if you don’t know Serbian. They can give you advice, help you translate, or just make you feel at home.
So yes, you can live in Serbia even if you don’t speak Serbian, especially in the larger towns or certain expat-friendly sectors.
However, I would say that learning the language will make your life much easier to engage with locals, and to make everyday tasks easier.
The Wrap-Up: What language do they speak in Serbia?
So, what language do they speak in Serbia? The answer is Serbian! You’ll hear a lot of different languages, but Serbian is the official one. It has a unique dual-script system, close ties to Croatian and Bosnian, and has many different dialects.
In my opinion, learning this language can give you access to a world of Balkan wonders, whether you’re a traveler, a language lover, or just someone with Serbian friends.
And who knows, a simple Zdravo could lead to some great stories over a cup of traditional Serbian coffee! Or in some local restaurant when you’re enjoying the national dish of Serbia.
And if you’re interested in the Serbian language because you’re thinking about moving, check out my post about best places to live in Serbia!
Your restless voyager,