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Serbian lessons, part 1

Welcome to Serbia… the land of two alphabets

Добро вече/Dobro veče!

Before I came to Duolingo website, I was sure people are not interested in learning my language. After some time I have spent here, I met some wonderful friends who have showed me that I was wrong. They would love to learn it. So, I decided to make lessons for them. Het_aapje, flootzavut and GeniusJack and all others, this is for you. And we all hope that DL will add Serbian to Incubator soon :)

Before I start with a lesson, I would love to tell you more about my country. Serbia is a little country in the central Balkans. It is landlocked and has borders with Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. The capital, Belgrade, is one of the largest cities in southeastern Europe. Serbia has a long history as Serbs came to the Balkans in 6th century, following the Slavic migrations. After the WWII Serbia with other South Slavic people made a big country, called Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which existed until Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. The result of the war was the breakup of Yugoslavia. After that time, Serbia and Montenegro remained together as Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In 2006 Montenegro became an independent country. Serbian currency is Serbian dinar. The best known things about my country are athletes, who have always been showing the world only the bright side of this small and beautiful country. So, probably some of you heard about Novak Đoković (tennis player), Vlade Divac (basketball player), Ana Ivanović (tennis player), Bane Ivanović (football player) and many others.

Now, I think I should start with Serbian alphabet or alphabets. As many of you already know, Serbian is the only language in the world that uses both scripts – Latin and Cyrillic. We have 30 letters. The Cyrillic alphabet is the official script and it was developed in 1818. by the most famous Serbian linguist Vuk Karadžić. The letters Љ, Њ, Џ, Ђ and Ћ were developed uniquely for the Serbian alphabet. The Serbian language is 100% phonetic, with no exceptions and it is the only such language in the world. You will know to write every Serbian word when you hear it. Its principle is ‘’Write as you speak and read as it is written’’ or in Serbian ''Пиши као што говориш, читај како је написано.'' / ''Piši kao što govoriš, čitaj kako je napisano.''

Now we will learn letters...

Cyrillic Latin Example Pronunciation

A A Србија, Srbija like a in father

Б B Србија, Srbija like b in bed

В V велики, veliki like v in very

Г G град, grad like g in good

Д D идеја, ideja like d in day

Ђ Đ ђак, đak like j in juice

Е Е Београд, Beograd like e in men

Ж Ž живот, život like g in rouge

З Z језик, jezik like z in zoo

И I велики, veliki like e in he

Ј Ј Србија, Srbija like y in you

K K велики, veliki like c in cow

Л L велики, veliki like l in look

Љ Lj љубав, ljubav like ll in million (as in BE)

М М мајка, majka like m in mother

Н N не, ne like n in no

Њ Nj коњ, konj like n in new

O O око, око like o in bowl

П P песма, pesma like p in pen

Р R реч, reč like r in room

С S слово, slovo like s in sun

Т T тон, ton like t in top

Ћ Ć ћошак, ćošak like ch in church

У U усне, usne like u in rule

Ф F филм, film like f in film

Х H хаљина, haljina like h in his

Ц C ципела, cipela like ts in lots

Ч Č човек, čovek like ch in chocolate

Џ Dž џак, džak like j in jung or g in George

Ш Š шешир, šešir like sh in shop

The sort order of the ćirilica (ћирилица) alphabet:

• Cyrillic order called Azbuka (азбука): А Б В Г Д Ђ Е Ж З И Ј К Л Љ М Н Њ О П Р С Т Ћ У Ф Х Ц Ч Џ Ш

The sort order of the latinica (латиница) alphabet:

• Latin order called Abeceda (абецеда): A B C Č Ć D Dž Đ E F G H I J K L Lj M N Nj O P R S Š T U V Z Ž

Now that we learnt азбука and abedeca, I will tell you more about Serbian language. It is Slavic language, part of the South Slavic language group (along with Croatian, Slovenian, Bosnian, Montenegrin, Macedonian and Bulgarian). Serbian is a standardized form of Serbo-Croatian, official language in Former Yugoslavia. The other standardized forms of it are Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin. So with learning one of those languages you will be able to understand and communicate in other three. There are around 9 million speakers of Serbian language. Most of Serbian words are of native Slavic lexical stock, tracing back to the Proto-Slavic language. There are many loanwords from different languages, reflecting cultural interaction throughout the history. We have around 3000 words from Turkish language (as we spent around 500 years under their empire). There are plenty of loanwords from German too. Nowadays, as internet is becoming part of everyday life, we are getting more and more English words. In the end of our first lesson, we will learn greetings and how to introduce ourselves.

Hello! - Здраво! Zdravo!

Hi! - Ћао! Ćao!

Good morning! - Добро јутро! Dobro jutro!

Good afternoon! - Добар дан! Dobar dan!

Good evening! - Добро вече! Dobro veče!

Good night! - Лаку ноћ! Laku noć!

Welcome! - Добродошли! Dobrodošli!

How are you? - Како си? Kako si?

I am fine, thank you. - Ја сам добро, хвала. Ja sam dobro, hvala.*

And you? - А ти? A ti?

Not so good. - Не баш најбоље. Ne baš najbolje.

Bad. - Лоше. Loše.

My name is... - Ја се зовем.../Ja se zovem...*

What is your name? - Како се ти зовеш?/Kako se ti zoveš?

Nice to meet you. - Драго ми је./Drago mi je.

  • In Serbian we usually say just ''Zovem se'' instead of ''Ja se zovem'', or ''Dobro sam'' instead of ''Ja sam dobro''. Pronoun JA which means I, can be left out. But, we will learn more about it in future, hopefully :)

NOTE: When people meet with their loved ones in Serbia (especially older people), they kiss three times in both cheeks one by one. In other situations, we usually shake hands or kiss one time in a cheek (mainly younger population).

This will be enough for the first time. I hope you will like it. I am open for any questions and suggestions. And also sorry if I have mistakes, English is not my native language, so I try to improve and practice it every day.

I hope people will be interested in learning more about Serbia and Serbian language. If so, I will make a new post soon :)

Пуно поздрава из Србије!! Puno pozdrava iz Srbije!!

March 2, 2015


[deactivated user]

    Одлично одрађено. Свака част на вољи и стрпљењу да све пишеш на два писма. :)


    Хвала ти! Желим да свима представим оно најбоље што имамо, па зато и имам воље да то одрадим како треба. Можда успемо и курс ускоро да добијемо, ко зна :)


    Hvala vam! Ja učim srpskohrvatski s univerzitetom ali još ne mogu da dobro govorim. Mislim da jedan srpski ili duolingo kurs vrlo bio bi interesan!

    If you were to make a Serbian (or Serbocroatian) course, how would you treat the alphabets? Or the ije vs e variants?


    Ja učim srpskohrvatski na univerzitetu... Bio bi vrlo interesantan! I am not sure about alphabets, as you know we use both of them. It depends of Duolingo team. I would rather choose Cyrillic, if it is up to me. And in Serbian we use only e variant. Making a Serbocroatian course would be much harder because of it. There are so many things which are different in those variants, as you probably already know.


    Hello, MiaComet I have just read your comment and I want to give you a tip. You can say Nash instead of Srbski i hrvatski. Also keep up the great work your Serbo-Croatian is very good! Serbian is my first language even though I live in Australian and have never been to the Balkans my mum is Serbian and tells me to say this if talking infront of people of mixed nationality like Croatia and Serbia. (You do this because someone may feel offended because of the Yugoslav wars)


    This is a very wonderful post! Thank you so much for sharing this! :)


    It is my pleasue. I hope you'll enjoy it :)


    Svaka cast, bilo bi lepo ako nista drugo, makar da ubace nas jezik kao osnovni jezik da mozemo lakse da ucimo neki drugi. A sto se tice kursa Srpskog jezika to bi tek bilo lepo za ljude koji zele da ga nauce.


    Hvala! Ja bih bila srećna kada bi uskoro se pojavio kurs, zato sam i napravila ovo, za ljude koji žele da nauče naš jezik. A znam da ih ima baš puno :)


    "Before I came to Duolingo website, I was sure people are not interested in learning my language."

    I actually chose Serbian to be my South Slavic language of choice, if I ever had the time to learn one (after I gain proficiency in my prioritized languages).

    I hope you continue these posts! I might not be able to give the language the concentrated attention it deserves, but these language sketches do help me appreciate the languages - and the relationship between languages - more than not coming in contact with them at all.


    I must say I am surprised with a number of people who are interested in learning Serbian. It makes me really happy. I will continue with posts and I hope you will all enjoy in reading it.




    I made this for you my friends :) I hope you will enjoy it :) And it is 'hvala moj prijatelju' :D

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