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Serbian: The language with two writing systems

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9 facts about the Serbian language

01

Serbian is the only European language that uses two writing systems: the Serbian Cyrillic script and the Serbian Latin script.

02

The Cyrillic alphabet is used more often for official documents or in schools, but now many Serbs are opting to use the Latin alphabet.

03

The Serbian language shares a foundation with Serbo-Croatian, the official language of former Yugoslavia.

04

Serbian consists of Bosnian-Croatian-Montenegrin-Serbian roots.

05

It is estimated that the total number of Serbian speakers in the world is more than 12 million.

06

A polite phrase to remember when walking down Serbian streets is prijatno (pree-at-no), which translates to “bon appetit.”

07

Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian are so linguistically similar that sometimes people may confuse them as the same language.

08

Serbian is the standardized version of the Serbo-Croatian language primarily spoken and written by Serbs.

09

Written Serbian is considered a synchronic digraphia, meaning it can be written in the Latin script or Cyrillic.

Serbia

Origin of the language

Serbian emerged in the Proto-Slavic region which is now known as Serbia.

Serbia

History of the language

It is believed that the Serbian language originated in the 9th century.

Serbia

Learning the language

It takes about 1100 hours to learn Serbian as an English speaker.

Serbian language for beginners

Ten basic words to start learning in Serbian:

Brother: brate
Cheers: Živeli
Hello: Zdravo
Thank you: Hvala
Goodbye: Doviđenja
Good: dobro
Bad: loše
Please: molim
Morning: jutro
Beautiful: Lepa

Quotes

Time is an illusion. Time only exists when we think about the past and the future. Time doesn't exist in the present here and now.

Marina Abramovic

Performance artist

Imagine a part of the USA, from which the USA started - where is the cradle of your history? This is Kosovo for Serbia.

Novak Djokovic

Tennis Player

Let us turn to the future and not deal with the past.

Ivica Dacic

President of the National Assembly of Serbia

Fun facts about the Serbian language

Calling each other turtles

An amusing catchphrase in the Serbian language is ti si kornjaca (Korn-ya-cha) which means “You are a turtle!”

The word “vampire”

The word “vampire” originally comes from the Serbian language.

Latin vs. Cyrillic script

According to a 2014 survey, 47% of Serbian speakers use the Latin script and 36% prefer the Cyrillic script.

Serbian and Christianity

Serbian was originally developed by St. Cyril and St. Melodius for the Christianization of the Slavs. Centuries later, as distinct dialects emerged, the Shtokavian dialect, which was the prestige dialect of Serbo-Croatian, became dominant in Serbia.

The Charter of Ban Kulin

If the Shtokavian dialect is considered the official Serbian language, then the first work was a governmental text which was the Charter of Ban Kulin of 1189.

Complete language makeover

Serbian was completely re-structured in the mid-1800s by Serbian linguist Vuk Karadžić when “Old Serbian” was modernized.

Learning Serbian

A tried and tested, basic principle for learning the Serbian language to keep in mind is “Write as you speak and read as it is written.”

Serbian Word for German

The word for Germany in Serbian is Nemačka, which means “can’t speak” or “can’t understand.”

Three Serbian dialects

The language has three variants, but, on Serbian territory, only two are found which are known as Ekavian and Ijekavian (the third variant, Ikavian, is only found in Croatia).

Unified with Croatian as one language

In the 19th century, Serbian and Croatian were once unified into one language primarily to secure the basis for an independent South Slavic state.

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