Why is Serbian so hard to learn?

By Danica Gómez Marković

Is Serbian Language hard to learn

Or is it?

The Serbian language is so difficult. I hear this a lot. Students enroll in a course and the Serbian language becomes a nightmare for them. Let me give you some advice on how to approach learning Serbian from my 5-year experience teaching it. 

Languages are complicated in different ways

It is important you know that people worldwide have similar necessities, and therefore, want to express similar things. In different languages, you will find different ways to express the same thing. For example, in Serbian we say “I’m hungry” – gladan sam (masculine) or gladna sam (feminine), but in Spanish, you would say “I have hunger” – tengo hambre. I call that linguistic wealth, but for some people, it might be a pain in the neck.  

When you start learning a new language, you need to take some things into consideration:

  • your mother tongue
  • other languages you speak
  • languages you hear in your surroundings.

Depending on these learning a new language can be more difficult or easier.

Avoid Getting Frustrated

Easier said than done, right?

I communicated with most of my beginner students in English, a language with no cases or gender. For most of them, it was very difficult to understand why there were so many changes in Serbian. Especially if we talk about nouns, adjectives, and pronouns. Let’s look at this example:

(in English) Last year I went to Prague.

(in Serbian) Prošle godine sam išla u Prag.

Let’s focus on “last year”. If you look at your dictionary to see what is the term in Serbian, you would find this: prošla godina. But then why is it different in the sentence we used?

Stop right here! Unless you are one of those people who are truly interested in the why (as in why does this change this way) because it helps them learn, understand, and connect the dots.

learn Serbian language

Most of my students were not in this group. If you’re anything like them, the best thing you can do is to say to yourself: it’s just like that. Remember that one. It’s just like that. It’s just different. And all I need to do is to accept it and move on.

It can be a waste of your time and nerves to wonder about these differences and you run a risk of demotivating yourself. 

What else can you do? If you’re having trouble memorizing something, search for a bunch of examples, make your own, and do anything that would make things stop seeming weird and become just a regular thing in your life. Give it time and “your ear” will get used to it.

What if Nothing Helps?

If you feel you’re getting nowhere with Serbian, before you give up, ask yourself these questions and be honest: 

  • Do you study or use Serbian on a daily basis (outside of your language course)?
  • Are you doing your homework?
  • Have you sent all the writing tasks to your teacher? 
  • Overall, are you using all the opportunities to actually get out there and practice the language?
  • Did you make it a part of your life?

If you have at least 3 answers ‘yes‘, you’re on the right track. Maybe you’re just not noticing your progress. But it’s there. Sooner or later you’ll surprise yourself.

If most of your answers are ‘no‘, think about your motivation and what made you want to learn Serbian in the first place. Try focusing your studying and activities on the outcome you want to get. Maybe it’s just to speak Serbian with your friends. Or to be able to buy something in a shop. If that’s the case, it might not be necessary for you to know all the rules in Serbian.

A Recipe for Success

Most language experts agree that, when learning a language, consistency is the key. You need to have some kind of contact with the language every day. If 15 minutes per day is all you have, that’s great. This amount of time will not represent a burden on your daily schedule and you can easily make it a part of your routine.

You only need to take it bit by bit. To really learn a language you need to go slow and dedicate a lot of time to reviewing and repeating. After you feel like you’ve mastered something, only then should you introduce new stuff. Most people are not fans of repetition and always want to experience some new content. 

That’s also fine. You can work with different kinds of content on the same level. Introduce new activities and materials. Interact with people, that’s never boring. Make speeches or writings on topics of your interest. The results will come with time.

My message to you

After reading this, you need to take your learning path into your hands. Find your motivation and language activities you like doing. Use the people and resources you have at your hand. It might be difficult in the beginning, but after a while, you’ll definitely see progress. 

And remember: the only person responsible for your language learning is you. No matter how slow your language learning is going, the most important thing is that you are making progress. Congrats!

Want to learn more?

Were you ever confused in Serbian when you need to ask for "more"? Read more and get a clear image on when to use 'još' and 'više'.

What are the steps anyone can take to learn Serbian? Check out our 3-step guide and start learning Serbian right now.

Is there a way to learn Serbian that is less painfull?Maybe something more similiar to learning a mother tounge? Let's find out.

Zdravo, zdravo!

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