1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: Duolingo
  4. >
  5. Intro to Bulgarian, Part 1 - …


Intro to Bulgarian, Part 1 - What is it? Why would I want to study it?

"Wait, is that even a language?"

That's a question I got once as I was telling someone a bit about where I was from. The question made me laugh more than anything else - yeah, it's a bit silly, but it's true that most people who live outside of my corner of the world don't have a reason to use the word "Bulgaria" and "Bulgarian" on a daily basis. It's not a common topic of conversation. It's super important to me (obviously) but, like everyone else, I often stay in my own bubble and forget that the rest of the world has its own concerns.

So what is it, anyway? It is the official language of Bulgaria - a country bordered by Greece and Turkey to the south, Macedonia and Serbia to the west, Romania to the north, and the Black Sea to the east. It is spoken by about 9 million people worldwide, most of whom live in Bulgaria, but also by a large number of expats all over the world.

Bulgarian is the oldest written Slavic language - the Cyrillic alphabet was invented in Bulgaria in the 9th century AD, and was later popularized in other lands. Old Church Slavic, which is nearly identical to Old Bulgarian, was for a period of time a lingua franca for medieval Slavic peoples, and exerted an influence on modern Slavic literary languages, including Russian. Old Church Slavic is still being used for liturgical purposes in Eastern Orthodox churches. After Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007, Bulgarian also became one of the official languages of the EU, and with it the Cyrillic alphabet became the third official EU alphabet after Latin and Greek. I guess we are destined to re-introduce that alphabet to Europe, every thousand years or so.

So, you ask, why should I care?

I can think of several reasons. First, if you are reading this, then you probably are a language lover, and for you studying a new language has its inherent rewards. You probably also crave novelty and a challenge, and Bulgarian is hipster and indie and oh-so-not-mainstream. Check this out - unlike Russian, Polish, and literally every other modern Slavic language (except Macedonian), we don't have grammatical cases! No tricky sets of word endings for you to learn! How rad is that? Bulgarian is quirky in other ways too, due to its long period of contact with neighboring language families like Greek, Romance (via Romanian) and Altaic (via Turkish). These quirks make it possible to express things in Bulgarian directly that are typically clumsy and roundabout to say in other languages like English. Another reason to learn the language is to peek at Bulgarian culture. Some of our folklore and traditions go back over 1000 years, and there are tons of wonderful music, literature and cinema for you to savor. And, of course, there is the reason why a lot of us learn languages - to try our luck in dating someone who speaks it! In fact, most of the times I hear about other Bulgarians here in the States, it has to do with them being someone's boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse. It sounds like we are very dateable, which is both good and bad news... but more on that later!

In the coming weeks, I'm going to expand on the "Intro to Bulgarian" series in order to give you an overview of the language, answer questions, and gauge whether anyone out there is as excited about learning some Bulgarian as I am about teaching it! If all goes well, I'm going to start posting short lessons - I've applied for a Bulgarian course on Duolingo Incubator, but in the meantime, I'd like to whet your appetite.

Coming up next: how different is Bulgarian from my language? How different is Cyrillic from the Latin script? We answer these questions and more, starting with Part 2 - Brothers, sisters, and your distant Bulgarian cousin. Happy learning!

September 13, 2015




Here is an episode about Bulgaria for those who are interested. I want to visit this country because I have a lot of bulgarian friends


I liked that :) The guy is hilarious. A lot of the cool places in the video are on my bucket list - I wish I'd done more traveling before moving to the US :/ But since I'm from Varna, I can at least confirm that the beaches are great :)


I´ve never thought about it...but your grammar section is making me want to reconsider that......Plus, I know the cyrillic alphabet, and....yeah, it sounds cool....I´m in! (to learn, I know nothing, can´t contribute.)


I'm happy to hear that! I think Bulgarian is exactly one of those rare regional desserts someone has to tell you about, but once you try it you kind of want another serving :)


Excellent metaphor.


Дано скоро да се инкубира българския


За жалост, една година по късно след твоят коментар още чакаме...


I would love a Bulgarian course!! I've been wanting to learn a Slavic language and learning that Bulgarian has no cases would be a nice into to the language family I think. Is there any chance of one coming soon??


I just applied to contribute to the Bulgarian add-on of Duolingo. I think it's quite important that a decision is being made because of the historical importance of the Bulgarian language. I hope they make the right choice...it would be a shame if the world misses out on the opportunity to learn our beautiful, rich and colourful language!


After Russian I would do Bulgarian, Ukrainian, or Polish as my next Slavic language :P


And with Bulgarian, all your hard work in learning the Cyrillic alphabet would pay off ;)


Is the vocabulary very similar to Russian? Or do the loanwords from Turkish, Greek, etc. kind of cut a lot of them out?


There is a lot of vocabulary overlap, for two reasons - Russian was heavily influenced by Old Church Slavic, which was very minimally different from Old Bulgarian. In much later times, around the late 19th century, Bulgarian saw an influx of Russian vocabulary due to the role Russia played in the Bulgarian independence movement. So the two languages have influenced each other at different stages of their development, and it has resulted in a lot of shared word roots. Of course, there is a lot of indigenous Bulgarian word stock, but you will be able to recognize a lot of written Bulgarian if you know Russian well.


One good thing about Slavic languages that I've found is that even if your vocabulary from one is not present in the next one you come across, it'll probably be present in the one after ;) and a lot of words are work-out-able from roots. Such as ум in Russian refers to - it's either your brain or your mind, and clearly neither of mine are working today because I can't remember if it's specific to one or the other or means both! In Russian I understand is я понимаю, and if you then go to the Croatian razumijem (I think it's the same or very similar in Polish) you might think, well cheers, Russian, that was not at all helpful... but hey, spot the 'um' in there which clearly harks back to the same root as ум, which makes sense when you're talking about understanding, which you do with your brain/mind.

There's lots of stuff like that, little clues where even if the word isn't directly related, there might still be a crossover, and if you go on to try a third or fourth Slavic language, you'll come across more and more of these little signposts.

There will of course be lots of words unique to a given language, because something has totally fallen out of use in all but one, or because of borrowings unique to the milieu of that language, etc, but in my experience, having a reasonable handle on one Slavic language is an excellent help when learning the next.


Right on. And guess what, Bulgarian has "ум" (mind, intellect, wit), "разум" (mind, reason), "разумен" (prudent, wise, reasonable) and "понятен" (understandable, intelligible)! :) We have roots from both South and Eastern Slavic.


Hi, these lessons are great! Please keep pushing for Bulgarian on incubator, I'm sure they can see from what you've already put into these that you have the dedication and skills to get the thing up and running. :)


for me the reason to learn Bulgarian would be your amazing folk music and kaba gaidas in combination with great voices of bulgarian men, I will never forget about Rozhen festival :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRaJlF67jQE


Ive travelled to bulgaria many times as my mother in law owns a holiday house there. She has stated before she would be interested in learning the language and we have checked duo a few times over the years to see if bulgarian had been added to the list. It would be rather benificial and fun for me if i could speak bulgarian. Very interesting post RhydianDavies. Thanks :)


Yeah, I myself check periodically to see if Bulgarian has made it to the incubator, but it seems that even fictional languages like Klingon and High Valyrian have a better chance of being picked up than Bulgarian :) I think more people need to tell Duolingo they want a Bulgarian course - it doesn't feel like the demand is strong enough for them to consider it.


Just to know that there are still people applying for contributors, hope for course is still alive. Not sure if it is helping but I am also putting my lingots in this post https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/5115906. It was presented as the main post to upvote so that Duolingo notice us. I really love Bulgarian not only because it is my native :).


You might want to link to the other threads you create so it's easier to navigate :)

Besides that - Благодаря! Bulgarian would be a very cool addition.


Will do! I'm glad you think so, now all we have to do is convince Duolingo :)


I will vote for any Slavic language <3 I think it would be great to have Bulgarian, with articles and no cases and quite different pronouns from other Slavic languages, it'd be great to have a resource like this! A good friend of mine is Bulgarian, I didn't realise till talking to her about it how different it is to other Slavic languages I've had exposure to (Russian, Croatian, a little Polish, Ukrainian here on Duolingo), I'd love to learn more!


Wow, you really like your Slavic languages, that's awesome! And yes, due to Bulgaria's location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, its long history, and the proximity of other non-Slavic language families, Bulgarian has developed features that are rare for Slavic languages in general. And yet, vocabulary-wise, Bulgarian is much closer to Old Church Slavic, so what's archaic in other languages (e.g. "oko" in Russian vs "glaz") is still modern Bulgarian. This gives us some reading comprehension of most Slavic languages, and it's definitely asymmetric. When I was in Ukraine a long time ago, I could understand what my host family was telling me, but they had zero clue what I was saying back :)


I love Slavic languages 3

Yes, it's really fun comparing the various languages; I speak Russian (somewhat rustily, but I used to be fluent), and when I hear or read Bulgarian I understand some but I feel like I should understand more! My friend translated a story I wrote into Bulgarian (and used colloquial language, her words not mine), and between my exposure to Slavic languages and knowing the story, I could follow it, but it was really, really weird to read. Kinda headache inducing but in a good way! Same thing when I tried to read The Little Prince in Bulgarian - I was surprised how much I could follow it, but it hurt my brain 8-o LOL. I know that sounds weird, but I don't know how else to put it. I didn't get very far, I really should try again. Even with stories I know, it's... interesting to try and follow...


Here is a fun coincidence between Bulgarian and the Scandinavian languages (I see you've done some Norwegian) - the definite article comes at the end of the word! In Norwegian, you have mann (man) - mannen (the man). In Bulgarian you have жена (woman) - жената (the woman). I've been told that's one of the things that trips Russian speakers trying to read Bulgarian.


I noticed that! I saw the те ending on a word and asked my friend about it, and when she explained I realised it was like Norwegian :D (to put it mildly, I haven't got v far down the Norwegian tree... like 3-4 skills, I think, but I did get to that.)

When I first saw it, I thought it was making vegetables into a verb or something, because the те ending is 2nd person plural in Russian. I was most confused ;D I didn't know there was even a single Slavic language with articles.

It's exciting to see so much interest in Slavic languages here on Duolingo. Can't wait for the Russian tree to come out for some much needed practice; all my language textbooks seem to have disappeared 8-o


I would love that ending rule, because I am taking Swedish and German, and it frustrates me why the German can't do that because it is much easier than the millions of words for "the" that they have now. That would be awesome.


I've now added links in each lesson to the previous one and the next one. Should I instead have a header (or footer) that links to all lessons from each one? Or is this good enough for navigation?


I think flootzavut was thinking of something like this page that links to all of the lessons, and is kind of like a homepage. If there ends up being a Memrise course, you could put a link there too. :)


Wow, that page is kind of amazing. I wonder who FinnishMetalhead got permission from? Have I forgotten to inform the Duolingo powers that be?


Nah, all of this is free, you don't need permission! You only need their clearance to start something in the incubator. Here in the wild forums, you're free to do as you please.

Edit: Wait, I just saw your post to FinnishMetalhead and I think I can clear it up. The person who made that list page was someone else, and they got permission from FinnishMetalhead to put their lessons on that directory. So FMh granted permission rather than receiving it.


Ahh gotcha, thanks for checking!


Please do make a course in Bulgarian! I sing and perform in a wide variety of languages and I need help with pronunciation. In the meantime, do you have any favorite resources for diction and phonetic sounds? Thank you!


Not of the top of my head, but I hear that people have been putting content on Memrise for Bulgarian. I'd check there; otherwise I've seen some intro pronunciation videos on YouTube that seemed pretty legit :)

Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.