A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO SERBIAN

 

Written for Expat.rs by Nick Gilbert
Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of the Serbian language. During your time in Serbia you will find there are many people who speak English, however, it is nonetheless essential to try to get to grips with a few basics of the language to make your everyday life that much easier. I would be very happy to tell you that Serbian is an easy language, but sadly, that would not be true. For example, there are seven cases to get your head around, as well as both nouns and some verb forms being gendered as masculine, feminine or neuter. It can be baffling at times, but if you apply yourself you too can find the method in the madness. Even the most cack-handed attempts at Serbian will be very much appreciated by the locals.

Thanks to the much celebrated Vuk Karadži? (as any Serbian will be happy to explain) Serbian is a wholly phonetic language, so things are written and spelt exactly as they sound. Each of the letters has its own phonetic identity. The Serbian alphabet, in both Latin and Cyrillic forms and with basic pronunciation hints when different from their English equivalent, is as follows:

 

The combinations of letters with their own sound are:

Aj          Like the ‘I’ in Kite or Fight
Ej          Like the ‘AY’ in Play
Oj         Like the ‘OY’ in Boy

ESSENTIAL VOCABULARY

Before we continue, it is important to know that as in French and German, for example, when addressing people politely you address them in the PLURAL, so, instead of calling them
Ti (you singular) you would call them Vi (you plural).

 


Now for some vocabulary which will be useful in a few everyday situations.

For example, in the supermarket
(Samoposluga) or local shop (Prodavnica):

U PRODAVNICI – In the shop

Normally when entering a smaller shop you will be welcomed by the staff, it is polite to reply appropriately – be it with,
‘dobro jutro’, ‘dobar dan’, or ‘dobro ve?e’.

In most shops someone will come and stand annoyingly close to you and then ask:

 


Once you get that over with, you may be able to use some of the following phrases:

 


Ordinarily the shop keeper will ask
“Još nešto?”  (“Anything else?”).
If you want to say “Nothing else” then reply
“Nište više”.
It is also common courtesy to say goodbye or
“Prijatno” before leaving.

Now some basic foods, and a few other things, you are likely to need.  

 


Please note:  The Serbian language does NOT use articles (‘A’ or ‘THE’).

U RESTORANU – In the restaurant

 


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