The word “ Balkan” is used to define both the geographical region, culture, and languages that the Balkan countries and territories belong to. There are many Balkan languages that share certain similarities, some of which have been attributed to a common linguistic ancestor and some to regular historic contact between the peoples and their languages. The relative mutual intelligibility of the Balkan languages often makes the various languages understandable to other Balkan language speakers, even if they have never studied them.
This article is a guide to the diversity of Balkan languages and the best way to learn them!
There are various Balkan languages spoken on the peninsula with unique variations and dialects for each one, but here are some of the main languages spoken.
Albanian is a distinct branch of an Indo-European language which is seemingly totally unrelated to other European languages. Spoken by 7.6 million people, Albanian has 2 different dialects which are mutually intelligible: Tosk and Gheg. While the Tosk dialect is widely spoken as the official language of Southern Albania, Gheg is preferred in other parts of Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Bulgaria.
Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, and Montenegrin are all regarded as one “macro-language” called Serbo-Croatian. However, there is a slight difference in the way they are written. The experts of this Serbian language page explain that while Croatian adopts the standard Latin alphabet, Serbian and Bosin also use the Cyrillic alphabet to some degree. Particularly, since Montenegro has been separated from Serbia in the 2000s, their language is still in development but the Latin alphabet is more widely used in the country. As these various languages are mutually intelligible, a Serbian native speaker, for example, is often capable of communicating with a Croatian without much effort. Serbo-Croatian is spoken by 15 million people across the globe.
Bulgarian, a language very similar to Serbian, is another typical Balkan language spoken by 7 million people in Balkan countries and 2 million people more around the world. Unlike other Slavic languages, Bulgarian has neither a case system nor infinitive forms of verbs in its structure.
Since the border of Macedonia has been clearly defined recently from Bulgaria and Serbia, while Macedonian shares so many things in common with Bulgarian, it’s hard to say whether Macedonian is a dialect of Bulgarian or a distinct language. Like Bulgarian, Macedonian does not include a case system or infinitive verb form but has South Slavic vocabulary based on the Cyrillic alphabet. That makes it become attractive to foreign language learners.
While other countries share a few things in common with their languages, Romanians declare their own language through a long and self-declared unique history. It is not a Slavic but a distinct Romanian language based on the Latin alphabet. While most people living on the Balkan Peninsula can somehow communicate with each other to some degree, the majority of Romanians can neither understand nor communicate properly with other Slavic-speaking individuals.
Moreover, there are modern Greek, Turkish, Hungarian, Romani, Judezmo, Slovene, etc. are some more languages and dialects that are spoken across the Balkan peninsula.
Guide to Learning Balkan Languages
Because of their mutual intelligibility, Balkan languages are one of the most appealing languages in the eyes of language enthusiasts. Because of the similarities between the languages, learners are able to embark on one single language first and quickly master the rest later or even gain fluency in all of them simultaneously.
Everybody has different reasons to learn a new language. Some may be settling down in a new country, while others are just fans of the culture and people there and so wish to be able to communicate and immerse themselves in the Balkans.. No matter what your reasons, you need to choose the best resources for learning as possible.
We are blessed with language learning apps and software these days which have hundreds of different language options. You can also take an actual class in one of the Balkan languages or, better still, do a language exchange program. If you are living in an English speaking country, you will meet many people from the Balkans who have moved to your country and will be looking to improve their English. Why not exchange languages and make a new friend?
Learning a new language is so rewarding and a lot of fun whether you are doing it as a hobby, because you have moved to a new country or because you need to for work. Each of the Balkan languages has its unique charms to foreign language learners and will open up so many avenues of opportunity.