Things you should know about the Serbian language before you start your learning journey

Written by Danica Gómez Marković

crossword serbian cyrillic

When you stumble upon this page, it means you want to learn Serbian. Or at least know more about the language. If you’re a beginner in this area, you need to find out what you’re dealing with. This post is going to help you understand where the Serbian language comes from and what you should know before you start studying it.

Why is the Serbian language important?

There are roughly 8.5 million speakers of Serbian as a native language. While being the official language of the Republic of Serbia, it is also spoken in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro as a co-official language. In other countries with a Serbian minority, you can also find a lot of people speaking or understanding Serbian. 

Where does the Serbian language come from?

The Serbian language is a Slavic language from the Indo-European family of languages. Within the Slavic languages there are three branches:

  • West Slavic
  • East Slavic
  • South Slavic languages

The Serbian language belongs to South Slavic languages. There is a lot of dispute about which South Slavic languages are actually languages and which are just dialects of varieties of the same language. I am going to tell you about that some other time.

Important facts about Serbian (especially if you plan on learning it)

Two alphabets in use

Serbian is the only language in Europe with two alphabets. Serbian native speakers are fully diagraphic. It means they use two alphabest, in this case Cyrillic and Latin alphabets. Isn’t that cool? Of course, it will probably give you a headache in the beginning. 

The good news is that once you learn the letters and the sounds, reading is a piece of cake. There are thirty (30) sounds in the Serbian language, each represented by one letter (in the Latin version sometimes it’s two).

Words tend to change how they end

We don’t want to overwhelm you with a lot of linguistic terms, but sometimes it’s inevitable. Some parts of speech (nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and some numbers) change how they end depending on what you use them for. Better said, depending on what their function is in a sentence. 

Just so you know, before you dive into Serbian, you’re going to see a lot of words that look the same in the beginning but end differently.

kneza milosa
Would you say these are related?

Just a few tenses are enough

Good news at last. Once you learn the present and the past tense you are more-less equipped to go to the moon and back. Within the Balkans. 

On a daily basis people use:

  • the present tense
  • the past tense
  • the future tense


Not a lot of tenses as in English, for example.

The Serbian language is direct

There’s no beating around the bush in Serbian. Besides the tenses mentioned above, the imperative would be of a great add-on to your Serbian. People use it a lot.

There are not a lot of “pleases” and “pardons”. You’ll think: That’s so impolite. But it is a cultural thing. Each language has different rules and boundaries. People definitely don´t see each other as being impolite. Of course, there are situations where you should use a less direct approach. 

In different parts of the country, the accent is quite different

It may come as a shock because Serbia is a fairly small country, but there are quite a few different accents in Serbian. There is a standard, of course, but the accent you will acquire depends mostly on where you come from (your native language), and where you live (if you live in Serbia). Even if you don’t live in Serbia, it all has to do with what accent you hear the most while studying or interacting with others.
These are just some of the things you need to know about Serbian before you start your learning journey. There will be no big surprises for you know. If this language still seems very unfamiliar to you, check out other posts on the blog. They will definitely bring Serbian closer to you.
What does Serbian sound like? Check out our YouTube channel and find out.

Want to know more about the Serbian language?

Check out other posts.