Serbian Alphabet Pronunciation

August 25, 2020

Serbian Alphabet Pronunciation is one of the hardest things to learn when it comes to this amazing language. So let's start with a simple, yet interesting story about the Serbian alphabets.

Serbia is a land of two alphabets, Cyrillic and Latin. However, Cyrillic is in official use in Serbia. In Serbia, both scripts, the "azbuka" (Cyrillic script) and the Latin alphabet "abeceda" are in use and most people know both of them. People can freely decide which letters to use.

The Latin alphabet dominates, meaning you can have a great time in Serbia without learning the classic Slavic alphabet (Cyrillic script). But where is the real fun in that though? Your time in Belgrade, Novi Sad, or another city will be greatly improved if you go out of your comfort zone and learn a little bit of Cyrillic. Trust me, it isn’t that difficult. Let me be your guide through the turns and roundabouts of the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet.



Basic Information About The Cyrillic Script

Cyrillic definitely represents an important symbol of Serbian identity. The funny thing here is that all official documents in Serbia are printed only in Cyrillic despite the fact that, according to many surveys, a much higher number of the Serbian population write in the Latin alphabet. So, it's all about tradition.

Vuk Karadzić, the 19th-century reformer of the Serbian language came up with the concept of “ "Piši kao što govoriš i čitaj kako je napisano" (Write as you speak and read as it is written). Serbian alphabet is very consistent and precise: one letter per sound – and that is the whole philosophy. The main reason why Cyrillic was invented was to help all people (primarily poor people) to learn to read and write.


Who Else Uses The Cyrillic Alphabet?

Even though we are talking about Serbian Alphabet Pronunciation and Cyrillic is the Serbian alphabet, it's also used in Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although the Bosnian language "officially accepts both alphabets", the Latin script is almost always used in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, whereas Cyrillic is in everyday use in Republika Srpska. Even though the Serbian language is officially recognized as a minority language in Croatia, the use of Cyrillic in bilingual signs often results in some kind of protest by the locals.


Serbian Alphabet Pronunciation

If you follow everything provided in this blog post, you will be able to read, pronounce, and write the Serbian Cyrillic letters quickly and easily.

The Cyrillic alphabet has 30 letters: 25 consonants and 5 vowels.

Let's take a look at the table, which shows the Serbian Cyrillic and Latin versions, how they are pronounced, and some examples of how those letters would sound if you place them in a word.

Cyrillic Latin IPA Example (Cyrillic) Example (Latin) Pronunciation
А а A a /a/ авион avion like a in car
Б б B b /b/ брат brat like b in bed
В в V v /ʋ/ војник vojnik like v in victory
Г г G g /ɡ/ град grad like g in good
Д д D d /d/ дрво drvo like d in day
ђ ђ Đ đ /dʑ/ ђак đak like j in juice
Е е E e /e/ ексер ekser like e in men
Ж ж Ž ž /ʒ/ жаба žaba like su in leisure
З з Z z /z/ змија zmija like z in zoo
И и I i /i/ ирвас irvas like e in east
Ј ј J j /j/ јаје jaje like y in you
К к K k /k/ краба kraba like k in king
Л л L l /l/ лето leto like l in love
Љ љ Lj lj /ʎ/ љубав ljubav like li in million
М м M m /m/ мајка majka like m in man
Н н N n /n/ нос nos like n in nice
Њ њ Nj nj /ɲ/ њива njiva like ni in onion
О о O o /o/ оловка olovka like o in door
П п P p /p/ прстен prsten like p in pen
Р р R r /r/ рак rak like r in room
С с S s /s/ стена stena like s in son
Т т T t /t/ тата tata like t in time
Ћ ћ Ć ć /tɕ/ ћуп ćup like ch in church, but softer
У у U u /u/ уво uvo like u in put
Ф ф F f /f/ францу francuz like f in french
Х х H h /x/ хлеб hleb like h in hot
Ц ц C c /ts/ црв crv like ts in cats
Ч ч Č č /tʃ/ човек čovek like ch in chocolate
Џ џ Dž dž /dʒ/ џин džin like j in joy
Ш ш Š š /ʃ/ шешир šešir like sh in she


Order Of The Latin Alphabet

A B C Č Ć D Dž Đ E F
G H I J K L Lj M N Nj


Familiar letters

You are probably coming from a Latin alphabet country and saying ‘I really don’t know any Serbian Cyrillic’. Well, you are quite mistaken. Six letters are the same in both Latin and Cyrillic, and I call those characters ‘Familiar Friends’. These are А, Е, К, М, О, and Т. As you can see, those are not only the same character, but they also sound the same.


False friends

As every person in this world has 'Familiar Friends', but they also have to deal with 'False friends' as well. I have talked about five characters that look familiar, but you shouldn’t let them fool you. These five letters look the same, but they represent different letters in the Cyrillic alphabet. There is a universal quality to the letters B (V), X (H), P (R), C (S), and У (U), but it is these that can often trip even experienced Cyrillic speakers up. They are all frequently used too, in words like Ресторан / restoran (Restaurant), Пиво / pivo (beer), Уво / uvo (ear), Хвала / hvala (Thank you) and Ускоро / uskoro (soon).


I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post and learning this lesson about Serbian Alphabet Pronunciation. If you are visiting Serbia, you should learn how to say "Živeli" (cheers) and act like a pro in the "Kafana" (Serbian Bar). If you enjoy using language learning apps, Ling App offers some great stuff to use while learning basic phrases and words in Serbian.

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