So, you’re new to learning Serbian and want to learn what the meaning of hvala is in this beautiful language. So here it is: hvala means thank you.
Saying thank you is a nice thing to do. But if you want to say it to locals in their own language, that is one of the biggest gestures you can make. It's also incredibly friendly and a way of saying you want to be part of the Serbian conversation.
I hear you, my friend. And I take my hat off to you.
Lucky for you, hvala is a pretty easy Serbian word, compared to the rest of the Serbian language. I need to tell you that most foreigners get their tongue and mind twisted while learning Serbian. ?
Everything that derives from this basic Serbian language is a minefield. So, the weird phrases I am about to teach you can't easily translate from Serbian to English.
They are part of our everyday folklore which has strange and unique gratitude customs. There are many things to teach you - who thanks whom and for what, for example, or when thanks should be given or withheld... There is a large number of combinations and some of them are pretty colorful.
Let’s start with the simplest ones.
Most foreigners have problems with the pronunciation of Serbian words that begin with "hv". It's because they concentrate too hard on the "h", so it gets stuck in their throat. They need to be in the flow and let the "h" quickly roll into a chunky "v" on your lips.
But you shouldn't waste your life trying to do it. Just skip the "h" and just say "fala". This version of thank you comes from a local dialect so you’ll sound even more like a Serbian.
If you want to say "thank you very much", the translation from English to Serbian isn't literal. So, you can say "hvala puno" (thanks a lot), but you should also learn hvala lepo. This means a pretty thank you. Weird, isn’t it?
Now imagine how many thanks to getting said over the course of a lifetime. One is surely prettier than the other. Then there is even the prettiest of them all. So, to give the biggest thank you ever, you say hvala najljepša [the prettiest thank you].
You probably already know that Serbian family ties are very tight and extremely important. Indeed, when we say family, we also count siblings with their spouses and children to that congregation. So, brothers and sisters keep helping each other out no matter how grown up they are.
For that reason, when someone does something very big for you, you should thank them by saying "hvala ti ko bratu" (I thank you like a brother). By saying that, you are basically recognizing that a person did you a favor that only a family member has the right to expect.
Imagine being in big trouble without close friends to help you out. A stranger jumps from nowhere and helps you - lending you the money to avoid losing your home or hooking you up with the best pediatric heart surgeon which actually saves your child's life.
You probably won't socialize with this person after that but will cherish what they did for the rest of your life. In that situation, the right thing to do is to say "hvala ti do groba" (I thank you to my grave).
Remember when I told you about pretty colorful and juicy opportunities to use the word hvala? Well, this is one of those. The best example of one's appreciation is when that person says "hvala kurcu" (thanks to the cock). Pardon my French! ?
Let me elaborate on this one. For example, you’re expecting to get paid for a job you did months ago. But your employer keeps promising the money will be very soon in your account. And you are waiting for a week, a month, a year. When the payment finally clears, you say hvala kurcu!
Remember the saying: "A road to hell is paved with good intentions"? Serbians have a special thank you for that occasion as well.
Imagine the situation where you are single for a long time and your best friend worries about you. They decide to set you up with a promising candidate. You warm up to the idea and go out on a blind date. And everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. The guy slurps his soup, the girl won’t stop talking about her knitting projects…
So, the next time you meet your conniving friend, you have the right to tell them "ma baš ti hvala" (thank you really). As you can see, it’s ironic!
Serbian people value solidarity, but they still need to eat. The problem is that Serbians find it very difficult to charge family or friends for their services. This is when closeness backfires them.
Imagine this: Your friend is the dentist and they have been fixing your teeth for free. You take care to always say thank you. But there comes the moment when they may think: Od hvala se može napuniti stomak (You can not fill your stomach with thank you).
Of course, they will never say it to your face.
If you keep mistreating your friend’s soft side, you probably would get the substandard service. Not a good plan if they’re indeed a dentist. We have to agree on this one.
This often happens because when we know in advance we won’t get paid, we think to ourselves "ako je za hvalu, dosta je" (if it’s only for a thank you, it’s enough). In other words, we won’t go overboard to deliver the results.
The question about the meaning of hvala and whether you should always pay a friend is a difficult one. Sometimes a friend may get offended if you offer them money. For that reason, I warned you that our culture of gratitude is a minefield.
Yet, you can never be bored while communicating with Serbian people. If you want to work more on your vocabulary, you can use Ling App and learn more cool Serbian words and phrases.