I was wondering about the amount of interest there is in the languages of the countries of the former Yugoslav republics. If you had to learn one, which would it be and why? If you had to make a case for one to go into the incubator, which one would you make a case for?

April 10, 2017


I know Serbian & Croatian so if I were to make a course for one of the two, I would do Croatian (cause it's slightly easier than Serbian... especially with the alphabet... and also Croatia (I think) gets a lot more tourism than Serbia so it would be useful for tourists visiting Croatia...However one could argue that there are more people who speak Serbian than Croatian so it could be useful to learn Serbian). XD

Nice! What are your thoughts on Slovenian? I hear it's the most "soft-sounding" of the south Slavic languages. Would you agree? Also, weren't Croatian and Serbian used to be called dialects of Serbo-Croat? What are your thoughts on that?

(Same Person...Different account XD).. I have heard Slovenian a few times, and yeah it's much more soft sounding than the two (Serbian and Croatian). It is very similar to Croatian/Serbian but sometimes I can't understand them. Yeh Croatian and Serbian used to be called dialects of Serbo-Croat (or something like that... I came across that phrase recently). It doesn't bother me much... I guess I am young (and don't live in either of the two countries) and so I don't know much about the tension between the two countries or I wouldn't understand if someone took it in offence in "Serbo-Croat". XD

Thanks for explaining!

Oh, do make us a course or two, please!

(Same Person...Different account from IAmBrave15 XD) I did try applying to do Croatian on Dulingo... But I was told recently by a moderator that Duolingo finds very hard to keep replying to everyone's applications as they get so many from all languages XD

Aren't Serbian and Croatian almost the same language? How would one be much harder?

The alphabet (for a person who knows how to speak & read English) in Serbian is much harder as it's letters are much different to recognise (here's what Serbian looks like: Добродошли) and (this is the same thing in Croatian: Dobrodošli)...(this means welcome btw)... As an English speaker, it would be easier to recognise the letters in Croatian than Serbian.... When you read out the two words they sound the same in both Croatian and Serbian (the only difference is the alphabet/how you write the words) XD Hope that helped!

It takes less than an hour to learn Cyrillic, especially if you already know how to read Latin and Greek.

Is Serbo-Croatian very difficult to learn?

I was brought up with people who spoke Serbian/Croatian so I can't really answer that (I just picked it I guess it was easy). People who know a Slavic language (e.g. Polish, Russian, Ukrainian) would find the two languages quite easy to learn (Croatian and Serbian)... For those who don't know any Slavic languages, I personally think that it's not too bad... (just learning the conjugations is a pain, for me). As long as you know words and can recognise the tenses, reading and writing are not too bad... I guess from my experience! XD

As a native speaker of one of those languages I don't think it is hard to learn them, so people could understand you, but I believe it is hard to become fluent, especially because of the tricky grammar. And good luck if you choose to learn any of these languages :-)

Q. What is the Duolingo incubator status of the languages of the former Juguslavian republic?


Thank you for posting that.

We should note that one such language -- Hungarian (spoken in the Vojvodina region of Serbia) -- is already offered.

My understanding is that Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin are all the same language (albeit sometimes written with the Latin script, sometimes with the Cyrillic). What people call the langauge depends on his or her views of the local political situation. In any event, this language (whatever it is called) is an offiicial or major language of some half-dozen countries in the region and one of the most important Slavic languages. It would be the most logical first choice for Duolingo to add; the more thorny questions will be how Duolingo should describe it and what flag/symbols it should use to represent it.

As for other options:

Slovenian is potentially interesting as one of the few modern European languages with a fully-functioning dual.

Albanian would be interesting -- and something very different (Indo-European, but not Slavic). I have a Kosovar buddy who posts on Facebook in Albanian; the language looks fascinating.

Macedonian is, I understand, a dialect of Bulgarian. I suspect that Duolingo would go with Bulgarian before Macedonian.

Duo's history with pluri-centric languages would seem to make it adept at sidestepping any problems. One national standard will be picked. It'll be called whatever that nation calls it; that country's flag will be used. There could potentially be issues about which varieties to accept as translations of English sentences. They could well follow the example of the Dutch course where explicitly Flemish forms are rejected, especially where it would cause confusion.

I appreciate the optimism, but I am not sure you can analogise the Netherlands-Belgium situation with the Serbia-Croatia-Bosnia-Montenegro situation. The Dutch and Flemish acknowledge that they speak the same language and they have a common word for it: "nederlands". There is an international organisation of Dutch-speaking countries to regulate the language. The Netherlands is by far the largest Dutch-speaking country and thus it is natural that its flag represent the language -- I have certainly never heard of Flemish people complaining about the Netherlands flag being used to represent their language (and more than we, in Canada, complain about the use of the British, French or American flags to represent our languages internationally).

The situation with "the major Slavic language spoken in most of former Yugoslavia" is much more nuanced. While linguists may consider it single language, many of its speakers don't agree. There is a mode of thinking in Europe to the effect that "language identity" depends on more than just linguistics. An extreme example is the so-called "Valencian" language of Spain, which is exactly the same as Catalan, but which is given its own identity and status since it is the language "of Valencia" and not "of Catalonia". We see similar debates over the "Moldovan" language (which is basically the same as Romanian), or (arguably) the "Macedonian" language (which I understand to be a dialect of Bulgarian).

I don't doubt Duolingo's ability to pick a standard and apply it; my concern is that if Duolingo offers (for example) a course described as "Serbian" represented by the Serbian flag, it will cause offence towards Croatians, Bosnians, Montenegrins who don't identify their language as "Serbian" and don't identify themselves with "Serbia". Perhaps Duolingo could call the language "Serbo-Croatian", with the flag as Montenegro as its logo and the Ali Pacha Mosque (in Sarajevo) as its icon?

Hmm, but if the people of Croatia, say, believe they don't speak the same language as the people of Serbia, what would be the plausible objection on their part to Duolingo offering a course in Serbian, using Serbian pronunciations, maybe a couple skills focusing on Serbian-specific terms, and the Serbian flag, not to mention a Cyrillic alphabet option.

As I understand it, there are differences between these "languages"; they're just not big ones. Stories about the difficulties of the poor Croatian recuits being forced to speak "standard" Serbo-Croatian in the Yugoslav army seem to come up repeatedly. From Wiki: "From the very beginning, there were slightly different literary Serbian and Croatian standards..." If (enough of) something is written in Serbian, I don't think there could be much dispute about its being written in Serbian.

OK, Croatians could object Croatian wasn't picked first, but that's a different matter, and they would still have leave to hope for its introduction sometime in the future. Duo has both Swedish and Norwegian after all. And there's obviously no technical reason it couldn't have both Latin American and peninsular Spanish, British and American English, etc.

As I read more, it seems some Serbians are quite attached on quasi-nationalistic grounds to the idea that all these "languages" are actually just one language. Sensible enough position linguistically. So the issue from Duo's standpoint then would be upon introduction of the 2nd tree into a different national variety of BCS. I guess I don't think that would be high on Duo's agenda to begin with. Don't think there are too many folks out there expecting a Flemish or a Valencian tree to be forthcoming. And if Duo ever changed its mind on this point, certainly British English and peninsular Spanish are going to beat Croatian out the gate, at which point I don't think there'd be much basis left for controversy.

Of the tumultuous BCS pluricentric language, I suppose I'd advocate for Serbian since it would be the variety where it would be most sensible to have both alphabets, which I think would be a valuable feature for learners.,_Croatian,_Montenegrin_and_Serbian

Putting this all together, probably concentrating on Croat (only) (uses the Latin characters, not Cyrillic, so simpler for most), Slovenian and Albanian would be enough to get around there.

From this page it follows that you might write Serbian in Latin characters, but nowadays officially one has to use Cyrillic:

"Contemporary Serbia - Under the Constitution of Serbia of 2006, Cyrillic script is the only one in official use."

It is further assumed that in general usage, pronunciation and recognition of sentences in Cyrillic will be more difficult if one is used to Latin characters.

So if one minimally learns this 3 (or 4) languages:

  • Albanian
  • Slovenian
  • Croatian (simplest as it uses by default only the Latin characters, no Cyrillic)
  • Maybe Macedonian

one would thus be able to communicate within most, if not all, former Yugoslavia countries and cover with it (about) (all) the spoken (main) (official) languages there.

So more or less covering e.g. Albanian, Bosnian, Croat, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Serbian, Slovenian.,_Croatian,_Montenegrin_and_Serbian

I think "official use" here means for the publication of laws, etc. I think much of the Serbian media and internet uses Latin script.

Yes, that might be, the page does not indicate exactly what 'official' means. But what I have seen of Serbian use on e.g. Facebook by at least one Serbian was actually written in Cyrillic.

"Serbian is currently written with both the Cyrillic and Latin alphabets, which are both officially recognised, although Cyrillic was made the official script of Serbia's government in 2006."

But thus if having to chose between 'quickly' learning the 'simplest' of that languages, a good choice would thus be Croat, as that is (about) the same as Serbian, but it uses only Latin characters by default.

I would like to learn either Croatian or Serbian

You could go on Memrise (as it has both courses for Serbian & Croatian)... Here's the web page XD

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