Serbia… Land of two alphabets…

23 Jan




One very unique thing about Serbia is their use of two alphabets. They have the Latin alphabet and Cyrillic alphabet. Walking around the city and looking at all the Cyrillic signs was one of my most memorable experiences. It is great to walk around and look at a sign and have absolutely ZERO idea what it says. Let me rephrase that..It was fun for the first few months, now its just a hassle for me! I have attempted to sit and learn Cyrillic but have not had much luck! 🙂 I have Googled and read many thoughts on the Serbian language. Many sites consider it one of the top 5 most difficult languages on the planet. Vuk Karadzic , the 19th century reformer of the Serbian language came up with the concept of “write as you speak and read as its written”. The Serbian alphabet is very consistent and precise: one letter per sound, with very few exceptions. They Cyrillic alphabet has 30 letters in it. The letter “C” always messes me up. It is pronounced with “ts” sound. They also have Lj, Nj, Dz sounds that are sure to tie your tongue in knots the first few times you speak! There are also three letter C in their alphabet. The C pronounced TS, Č pronounced like the CH in Chocolate and Ć that is VERY hard for me to tell apart from the other.. Its similar to a TY sound in TUne… The majority of Serbian lastnames end in IĆ or OV. They also have two letter S in their alphabet. S pronounced like the S in Sun and Š that is pronounced like the SH in SHop.    Here is a chart showing the entire alphabet.

Cyrillic alphabet Latin alphabet IPA value
А а A a /a/
Б б B b /b/
В в V v /ʋ/
Г г G g /ɡ/
Д д D d /d/
Ђ ђ Đ đ /dʑ/
Е е E e /ɛ/
Ж ж Ž ž /ʒ/
З з Z z /z/
И и I i /i/
Ј ј J j /j/
К к K k /k/
Л л L l /l/
Љ љ Lj lj /ʎ/
М м M m /m/
Н н N n /n/
Њ њ Nj nj /ɲ/
О о O o /ɔ/
П п P p /p/
Р р R r /r/
С с S s /s/
Т т T t /t/
Ћ ћ Ć ć /tɕ/
У у U u /u/
Ф ф F f /f/
Х х H h /x/
Ц ц C c /ts/
Ч ч Č č /tʃ/
Џ џ Dž dž /dʒ/
Ш ш Š š /ʃ/

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10 responses to “Serbia… Land of two alphabets…

  1. zr

    January 23, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    If you wanna learn Serbian you should start from alphabet because of one letter per sound, memorise all pronounces and then just try to read something, maybe you won’t know what that mean but you will be able to read, at least… 😀

  2. Ana

    February 9, 2012 at 12:02 am

    She/He is right.
    Vuk Karadžić said: ”Write as you speak, read as its written.” In English language for one letter you say 2 or 3 voices/tones:
    In English – a, In Serbian – ej.
    English – b, Serbian – bi… That is how we read your letters.
    We have just one voice/tone for one letter.
    So learn how to read Serbian alphabet letters, than some easy words like: baba (grandmother), pop (priest), som (catfish)… You will learn to understand our language in no time. But speaking will be ”a bit” harder. 🙂

    • cather76

      February 9, 2012 at 4:02 pm

      thanks for reading… yeah.. i have heard its easy once you can pronounce the alphabet.. the C always throws me off. ahahahaha

  3. Nemanja

    March 8, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    It is not so hard as you think. But if you wanna learn Serbian you must stop thinking as American, no offence 🙂 . When you pronounce chocolate, if you fallow phrase ”WRITE AS YOU SPEAK”, in Serbian it would be written as ČOKLIT. Of course, čoklit, as word, in Serbian means nothing, it doesn’t exist, but I just want to give you example. Just remember ONE LETTER = ONE SOUND.

    • LetsSayFerenc

      May 25, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      Pozdrav, znam da je tema “malo” zastarela (bar 4 godine), ali možda nekome ovaj post pomogne u učenju slovenskih jezika… Ne slažem se da je baš “čitaj kako je napisano”… Poenta: “dobar dan”. Ako neko pročita kako je napisano, izgovoriće sa kratkim “a” u “dan”. Niko tako ne priča u Srbiji. U srpskom pisanom jeziku je problem u naglasku, pošto se u pisanom tekstu ne vidi razlika između kratkih i dugih samoglasnika – ja sam slovak/čeh koji živi u Banatu od rođenja, tako da vidim razliku između pisma i izgovora na tri slovenska jezika. Recimo na slovačkom jeziku bi se Srpsko “dobar dan” pisalo kao “dobar dán”, i to kada bi slovak procitao, zvučalo bi kako treba ovde u Srbiji – tačno se vidi da je a dugačko. Eto toliko od mene (nisam mislio da uvredim bilo koga). Evo jedan link koji možda pomogne nekome ko prvi put pokušava da nauči srpski jezik ili azbuku/abecedu:
      Greetings, I know this topic is “a bit” outdated (at least 4 years), but maybe this post can help someone wishing to learn slavic (any slavic) language. I don’t agree with “read as it is written”… My point is: “dobar dan”. – If someone reads it as it is written, he will pronounce it with short “a” in “dan”. Noone talks like that in Serbia. In the Serbian written language, there is a problem in the accent, since in the written text you don’t see the difference between short and long wowels – I am slovak/czech living in Banat since my birth, so I see the difference between pronunciation of writen and spoken language in three slavic languages. Let’s say, in the slovakian language, the Serbian “dobar dan” would be written as “dobar dán”, and if the slovak guy reads it, he would pronounce it correctly in Serbian language – you can see exactly which wowel pronounces long, and which will be pronounced as short. That’s it from me, (i did not want to offend anyone). Here’s one link that I found that may help someone who is trying to learn serbian language:


      btw sorry about my english, I never had the chance to use it actively…

  4. MrsVujic

    October 15, 2012 at 8:40 am

    Thanks for the post! After all these times, I thought Srpski was way easier to learn than French, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese and Korean. When I started meeting my husband, I thought it was going to be hard to understand his language. It rook me 4 yrookrs to perfect Spanish and took me half a year to get an intermediate level with Srpski. Wth?! Lol It’s supposed to be the other way around lol

  5. serbianteacher

    February 7, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    “Many sites consider it one of the top 5 most difficult languages on the planet.”
    This can’t possibly be true! Where did you find this info??

  6. serbianteacher

    February 7, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    “They also have two letter S in their alphabet.”
    There is only one letter and one sound S in Serbian (sun). Š is a different sound and it is represented by a different letter. Š is not accented S. A mark on Š is not an accent.

  7. Srdjan

    June 8, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    If you learn to speak Serbian language,you will automatically be able to understand and speak Croatian, Montenegrin and Bosnian.These four languages ​​are practically one.The differences are minimal(for example,as between American English and British English).

  8. Branko

    January 29, 2014 at 10:30 am

    If you learn to speak Serbian language you automatically know how you write.It is the simplicity and beauty of our language…Using this opportunity to commend your effort to come near our two countries, and I hope there will be more people like you, not only in the United States and Serbia, but also around the world.


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