Dear ex-Yugoslavs,

without any intention of being disrespectful to your dramatic break-up, I am not going to have time to learn Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin separately.

No, I am going to stick with good old Serbo-Croatian.

At a used-book shop, I even found a book about it.


But then I had to discover that life in 1973 was apparently quite different from now, because the sentences included such useful phrases as “Where can I send a wireless telegram?”, “I was a prisoner of war” and “Želite li da vam sobarica donese tople vode za brijanje?”

I am afraid that the most important sentence for me will be “Ne razumijem” (“I don’t understand”), because I don’t have the same easy access to Slavic languages as to Romance ones. What a pity that not all of the Balkans are Romanian, at least linguistically.


In the end, the Cold War didactics was not plausible enough for me, and I bought a current book from Assimil. I find their books the best, but then I have only used them for easier languages thus far.

By the way, the trick with old books works with guide books, too. Instead of buying and carrying with you seven books for Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro, you can get the whole information in one compact volume.

(Zur deutschen Fassung dieses Artikels.)

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Books, Language, Travel and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Serbo-Croatian

  1. Pingback: Serbokroatisch | Der reisende Reporter

  2. inavukic says:

    Oh dear, Serbo-Croatian was outlawed as official language way back in early 70’s during the life of former Yugoslavia wen Serbian or Croatian became the order of the day, one could choose which they would use. But anything that gets you through travels is what travelers want.

    • I think it was still the Croatian, Serbian- Bosnian-Hercegovinan and Montenegrinan version or Serbo-Croatian or Croato-Serbian even after 1974. This sounds more like varieties of one language than distinct languages.

  3. It wasn’t long ago that you were complaining about not being able to practice your Romanian while you were living here, because most people spoke English and/or German plus 2-3 others. My, my, Mr. Moser, your name really suits you!
    Thanks to your article, now I’ve learnt an important phrase as well. You could learn “I don’t understand” in all the ex-Yugoslavian languages. This way, you can see the similarities or differences between the languages more clearly.

    • Actually, so far in Montenegro, most people also speak 3 or 4 languages (usually English, Russian, Italian, sometimes German) in addition to Serbo-Croatian-Bosnian-Montenegrin, so there is also not that much pressure to study with discipline.

  4. Roman languages stem from Latin, Latin had 6 cases, and “Serbo-Croatian” has 7, so if you liked Latin at school, good luck with learning SC :)
    When you grasp the core of it, I am sure you will like it more than any other language exept your own mother tongue 😎✌😉😉

    • I actually didn’t have Latin, so anything beyond 4 cases is confusing to me. When I was first confronted with additional cases (in Lithuanian), I just couldn’t understand why one would need them.

    • I am not so sure I will ever really like Serbo-Croatian very much, because I find the pronunciation and understanding it too hard. But my mother tongue is not necessarily my favorite language either. I guess that would be Spanish, which I find beautiful and relatively easy to learn and with which I have no problems pronouncing it.

    • That’ the Tower of Babylon – the variety of languages and their beauty

    • With Serbo-Croatian, I forget two words for each one I learn, so I am already in negative vocabulary.

    • Please find me a person that doesn’t think that the most beautiful languages on Earth are Spanish and Italian!

    • Don’t be so pessimistic…and find yourself a good teacher. It would be much easier for you at this point.

  5. Pingback: Vrmac – where you get drunk from hiking | The Happy Hermit

  6. Nina says:

    If you go for Serbian with Latin alphabet, you’ll have some Slovenian covered. ;-))

    • Oh yes, of course with Latin alphabet. I am not suicidal. ;-)
      And that’s good to know because I am toying with the idea of a long walk up the Eastern Adriatic coast, from Greece to Trieste. So by the time I reach Slovenia, I would finally speak a little bit of Serbo-Croatian – and I could at least talk to older people.
      But then, I remember from previous visits that everyone is Slovenia is suspiciously fluent in English, French, German and Spanish anyway (except Melania Trump).

  7. Pingback: Random Thoughts (20) | The Happy Hermit

  8. Pingback: Film review: “Balkanski špijun” (“Balkan Spy”) | The Happy Hermit

  9. Pingback: The Millionaire Translators of Montenegro | The Happy Hermit

  10. Julia says:

    Ugh, the first few sentences would have my ex-boyfriend tearing out his hair- he’s Croatian. Once he wanted me to call my mother’s health insurance company to complain that they had translated services in Serbo-Croatian.

Please leave your comments, questions, suggestions:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s