Serbian for Dating
The Top 10 Reasons why everyone who is dating a Serb should learn Serbian Language
When my wife and I started dating I was blown away by how well she spoke English. We could talk about everything under the sun and communication, at least for me, was never an issue. Then one day we met at her place and, over a bottle of wine, began talking about life, love, and dreams. That’s when she told me something I will never forget: She said she wished she could speak her language more and that since she had left Serbia she had minimal opportunities to use it. In fact, the only time she could speak her language was when she spoke with family on the telephone, or in the unlikely event, she met another Serb, which was almost never. It blew my mind.
As an English speaker I became immediately aware of the privilege and luxury I had of being fluent in the most dominant and influential language in world history. But what about her? I couldn’t conceive or imagine what it would be like to leave my country and almost never be able to speak my language and be understood. While this fundamental truth is obvious to so many, it wasn’t immediately obvious to me. After all, I grew up speaking English and though I had traveled plenty I had never experienced being completely removed from the English language. Even in foreign airports there were signs in English and a help desk in case I needed assistance. Hotel check-ins? No problem, the concierge almost always spoke some measure of English. To be completely removed without access of any kind to English was an experience I had yet to encounter, and I was deeply moved by what it must feel like to know that for many people when they leave their country they leave their language behind.
I knew I had to do something. So I asked her if she would be willing to teach me Serbian; then we would be able to talk in Serbian all the time! Fortunately for me, my wife is a Serbian language expert and a trained philologist fully capable of helping me learn Serbian. She is also one of the creators of Serbian Language Podcast. I knew the journey wouldn’t be easy, but I was determined to be a part of the solution to her desire to speak Serbian with greater frequency rather than a passive supporter of the continuation of the status quo…the drab acceptance of an internal secret suffering. She started to teach me, and what followed continues to be one of the great joys of my life….speaking with my wife in Serbian. It’s honestly one of my favorite things to do.
I’m writing this piece to encourage anyone who is dating or married to a Serb to consider learning the Serbian language. I’m one of the fortunate few. I’m married to the woman of my dreams and we get to share a life together and navigate between our two languages, constantly learning from one another, and sharing the beauties of our different cultures. And let me tell you, Serbian language and culture is beautiful!
Are you dating a Serb or married to one? If so, learning the Serbian language should be on your immediate to-do list. Here are the top 10 reasons why:
1. Serbs are connected to their language
There are so many expressions in the Serbian language for which there is no English equivalent. There is a soulfulness to the Serbian language. It has a soul, or as they say in Serbian, “ima duha”. If you ever have the pleasure of traveling to Serbia you will notice that people will be elated to speak with you in Serbian even if you only know ten words and they are completely fluent in English. Imagine that! I can’t tell you how many times I ordered something at a restaurant in my beginner Serbian while the waiter patiently waited for me to try to get the sentence out. It wasn’t until weeks later that, upon returning to the restaurant, I learned that the waiter spoke fluent English. When I asked him why he hadn’t interrupted me and spoken to me in English he replied, “I was so happy to hear you growing in the language and I wanted to help you practice. Let’s only speak in Serbian so you can practice…okay?” Wow! Serbs will show you so much love. It’s something that English speakers, like myself, can learn from. The simple attempt to speak in Serbian will be welcomed with smiles, joy, elation, and encouragement. And don’t worry about making mistakes, that’s a part of learning and Serbians are aware of the challenges of acquiring proficiency in the language. They will just be pleased that you tried. With Serbs, there is no pretense. No one is going to stick their nose up at you because you mispronounced a word or used the incorrect case (referring to declensions) as I have done countless times. Your attempt to connect with the language will be viewed as your attempt to connect with them. So if you speak Serbian, you’re connected.
I was in a hotel in Chicago once (which has the largest population of Serbs in the U.S.) and I walked into my room at the time it was being cleaned by the hotel staff. I heard two women speaking in Serbian. I entered the room and said, “Kako ste, baš mi je drago da čujem srpski jezik!” Translation: “How are you’ll? I’m so happy to hear Serbian language”. They couldn’t believe it. I’m African American so it was quite obvious that I’m not of Serbian descent. The ladies were ecstatic. They ran out of the room and assembled several other Serbian women who also worked in the hotel and we gathered in the hallway and told tales of our beloved Belgrade and embraced as a family. “Ti si kao mi” they stated. Which means, “You are like us”. It was quite a moment and something that never would have been possible had I not spoken Serbian. The language brought us together. Serbian language made that magical moment possible, and I’m thankful for it. If you learn Serbian who knows what magical moments await you? That’s the stuff money can’t buy. Those experiences are the stuff of life.
2. Serbian is a beautiful language
When I think of Serbian language in terms of how it sounds, I think about history. Serbian sounds like its colorful and complex history. You can hear influences from Turkish, German, and other slavic languages (like Russian) and even small dashes of Italian (this is particularly apparent with certain similarities in grammar and even vocabulary). Example: “Biblioteka” means “library” in Serbian. It also means library in Italian and Spanish (though with a different spelling: “Biblioteca”). How cool is that?
Additionally, Serbian language likes to string consonants together. Example: “Prst”. This means “Finger”. Or “Trg”, which means “Square” (as in “a town square”). While learning how to pronounce these words can be a little challenging at first, it will come with practice and you will be blown away by the sounds Serbian language will teach you how to make. You will also be pleased to know that Serbian may be the most phonetic language out there…meaning you pronounce things exactly as they are written. Take that English and French!
3. Learn more about your partner and speak the language they dream in
What better a reason to learn a language than to be able to communicate with your partner in the language they dream in? Your partner formed their very first thoughts, their sense of self and the world around them, and their deepest sentiments and personal philosophies in Serbian language. You can’t access any of that if you don’t learn Serbian which means you are missing out on more than a language, you’re missing out on a deeper understanding of your loved one. Now that I have acquired proficiency in Serbian (though I too am still learning and will forever be a student) I see my wife in a whole new way. As my Serbian improves I learn new things about her, her sense of humor, and get to experience the joy of watching her completely release herself in her language. It’s quite an experience to hear her deepest thoughts in HER language and it encourages me to want to learn more. I find that my fascination in her is what drives my fascination in the language. Serbian language acts as a key to so many doors that I can now unlock and enter into. It’s profound.
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4. You can speak with “in-laws”
My wife and I moved to Serbia to help her mom, my mother-in-law, as she battled cancer. Sadly, we lost her after a nearly year-long battle. But what my wife and I remember is the time we all got to spend together and the fact that I was able to speak to her in Serbian. My Serbian wasn’t as good then as it is now (and I still have a LOT to learn) but it was sufficient to interact with her, and most importantly to tell her I love her in Serbian as she looked up at me from the hospital bed. She smiled and squeezed my hand. It’s one of my favorite heartfelt memories, and learning the Serbian language made that possible.
What’s more, my father-in-law is like the father I never had. He doesn’t speak any English, and that’s okay because it just means I can practice and improve my Serbian. I recall how he and I sat out over the Danube river at Kalemegdan (the Belgrade Fortress) smoking a cigar talking about the importance of family and him welcoming me into the family as we drank rakija (Serbian brandy) as we watched the clouds roll in like waves. If I didn’t speak any Serbian I would have missed those moments too and the building of a relationship between he and I that continues to this day.
5. Personal growth
In an age of instant gratification there is nothing like learning a language. Proficiency doesn’t happen overnight, and that’s the best part. Learning Serbian will help you grow as a person. It will transform how you think, help you connect to people and places you never knew existed, and challenge your determination, resilience, as well as build new faculties you didn’t even know are inside you. And with time you will start to hear the language in your dreams. Your mind will constantly search for meaning, understanding, and clarity and you will become a different person, a better person for having pushed yourself to acquire a language you can share with your loved ones. You will stumble, you will bend, but what you will find is that you won’t break. You will get stronger, become more determined, and then you will start to see slow but steady progress. Then a day will come when you will start making sentences and speaking with proficiency, or you will hear someone joke in Serbian and find yourself laughing only to pause and question, “How is this happening?” It was always happening, but all of the work you are putting into your language study isn’t visible…its internal…until it spills out of you having now become a part of who you are. Learning Serbian will transform you for the good and provide you with infinite opportunities to grow as a person.
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6. You can more comfortably travel to the region
Serbian language is the language of the former Yugoslavia (which means “The land of the Southern Slavs”). This means that if you speak Serbian you will be able to communicate with Croatians, Bosnians, and Montenegrins. The Balkan region (as it’s called) is stunningly beautiful with dramatic landscapes that will take your breath away. While neighboring countries like Slovenia, Macedonia, and Bulgaria speak their own distinctive languages you will be able to understand quite a bit, as well as be understood (for basic communication).
Traveling through the Balkans will enable you to experience the hospitality of its inhabitants, and the richly diverse cultures that abound. With nearly 22 million speakers in the region, learning Serbian will provide you access to a fascinating and kind people.
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7. You can enjoy music, film, and literature together
Learning Serbian will enable you to read the work of writers like Branislav Nušić, as well as enjoy Serbian folk music and films like “Ivkova Slava” or “Tito i ja”…absolute classics!
8. It shows commitment
When you learn the language of your loved one it shows an unwavering commitment to that person. After all, you are learning Serbian so you can speak to them and their family. What greater a gift can one give than to demonstrate a commitment to learning the language of your loved ones?
9. It’s cool
Let’s face it, speaking Serbian sounds cool and looks cool because it IS cool! Furthermore, I love the fact that when my wife and I go out and we want to have a private conversation away from the prying ears of others we can switch to Serbian language and instantly we have privacy. No one can eavesdrop on our conversation. All they can do is marvel at what they are witnessing…two souls bonded together and connected through language. Eavesdrop on that!
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10. It’s fun
Learning Serbian really is a good time. It’s not without challenge, but challenges are opportunities and as long as you have a positive attitude, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, get consistent, and enjoy the journey you will have an absolute blast! It’s so rewarding learning new vocabulary and grammatical structures knowing that I will get to use them with the woman I love and have chosen to spend the rest of my life with.
Give yourself the gift of learning Serbian and stay encouraged on your journey. And when you need help, reach out to us. We are here to be your coach, resource, and cheerleader as you take a bold step towards something bigger than you could ever imagine.
Sve najbolje! (All the best!)
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