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8 Tips To Become Fluent in Serbian
An 8-Step Guide To Fluency
If you have ever studied a foreign language you have probably been asked this question: “Are you fluent?” But what does “fluency” actually mean? For the purposes of this piece I describe fluency as the ability to comfortably navigate through critical aspects of a language with an emphasis on comfort, accuracy, and the ability to be creative within the spoken language…in speech and comprehension (oral and written).
In short, becoming fluent in a language is more about developing and enhancing familiarity and comfort with a language (and its structure) than it is knowing every word in the dictionary. In fact, learning words by themselves absent a thorough understanding of the language’s structure will be more frustrating than helpful since the words will exist as desolate islands suspended in a great expanse. Learning the systems and structures of a language transforms those islands into archipelagos…connected interdependent units that compliment each other and create the possibility of cohesion and comprehension.
From the standpoint of language acquisition, it is the possession of a deep understanding of a language’s structure that leads to the internalization of the various “parts” that form a language. In mathematics we call this “numeracy”. In language-learning we of think of this as “fluency”.
Like any language, Serbian has its fair amount of grammatical components. But don’t despair, this only means learning is required. And with the right strategy the learning journey will be as fun as it is informative, and useful in helping you achieve your dream of speaking the Serbian language. But there are some things you should know and strategies you should employ if you want to develop fluency. With this in mind, here are 8 tips you should know and do to become fluent in the Serbian language:
1. Serbian gets easier with time
For those of you who have learned some Spanish, learning Serbian is nothing like learning Spanish. What do I mean? With Spanish, the beginning is not terribly difficult. It’s a phonetic language and the present tense verb conjugations and structure of the language is fairly intuitive. The difficulty with Spanish increases the more proficient you become. Mastering the Spanish Subjunctive Tenses across 14 verb tenses is a tall order. In essence, Spanish is simpler in the beginning. Now you might be thinking, “But isn’t that true for every language?” The answer is simple: No! Serbian is the complete opposite of Spanish because Serbian is very complex from the very beginning but gets significantly easier over time. The key to becoming a dynamic speaker of Serbian is to survive the beginning phases of learning. Stay relaxed and encouraged and know that Serbian will only get easier by the day.
2. Keep Serbian in your ear
Go to the Serbian Language Podcast Website and click on our “Audio Stories”, “Video Podcasts”, “Lesson Videos”, and “Vlogs”. Your goal should be to listen to Serbian for 10-20 minutes every day. That might sound like a lot at first, but that’s the equivalent of 5 songs on the radio. If you can make time to listen to 5 songs on the radio you can make time to listen to Serbian for 20 minutes. It can even be somewhat passive listening. You don’t have to hang on every word. You DO need to keep the language in your ear as much as possible though and let your brain do the heavy lifting for you. Join the Serbian Language Podcast and get a Free Lifetime Membership to access these resources.
3. Learn key phrases and get familiar with the phonetics
Since Serbian grammar, even on day one, does require the application of effort it’s important to build your curiosity about the language before you take a deeper plunge. Learn some key phrases and build some very basic communication skills in advance of learning the language structure, verb conjugations etc. In short, make sure you are having fun right away. All of the materials you need are on our website (available to you with a Free and Premium Membership) so don’t hesitate to get started. In fact, watch one of our vlogs in Serbian with subtitles in both English and Serbian! After several weeks you can sneak in a few lesson videos to educate yourself on phonics and the structure of the language which will help you make sense of the key Serbian phrases you are learning.
4. Internalize the purpose and structure of declensions
In brief, the Serbian declension system exists to express different meanings. This means words (except verbs and adverbs) change (*referred to as “declined”) in accordance with their usage and the meaning their usage carries. Let me explain this by way of example. Let’s take the noun-adjective pair “red apple” (*crvena jabuka). I can say, “The red apple is delicious”- “Crvena jubuka je ukusna”. Notice how “crvena jabuka” doesn’t change. This is known as the first case (also known as “Nominative”) which can be used as a subject in a sentence. But what if I wanted to say, “I want a little bit of red apple”? In Serbian that would be, “Ja hoću malo crvene jabuke”. Notice here how in this sentence “crvena jabuka” becomes “crvene jabuke”. Notice the “e” endings in “crvene jabuke”. The “e” endings are the result of “crvena jabuka” being declined as a singular feminine adjective-noun pair in 2nd case, known as “Genitive”. In order to say “I would like a little bit of red apple” we must use 2nd case since 2nd case can be used to express quantity. Also notice how the adjective “red” “crvena” must be declined in the same case as the noun it describes, which is “apple” “jabuka”. This makes sense because in Serbian the adjectives must always match the nouns in gender and quantity. I could go on to explain all of the 7 cases of the Serbian declension system, but we cover all of this in our Lesson Video Series and I don’t want to overwhelm you here. In short, head over to our lesson videos, and internalize the purpose and structure of the 7 cases of the Serbian declension system.
5. Acquire vocabulary and learn how to decline the words you are learning
As stated above, make sure that you are not learning vocabulary words in isolation. Ensure that you are learning how to decline adjectives and nouns across the 7 cases of the Serbian declension system in accordance with gender (i.e. masculine, feminine, neuter) and quantity (singular and plural). Learning the Serbian declension system is very similar to learning your times tables in mathematics. There are patterns. Once you learn these patterns you will unlock the secret to speaking the Serbian language with fluency, accuracy, and style.
6. Learn Present Tense conjugations of the various verb types
Serbian language builds off of itself. To form certain verb conjugations a knowledge of present tense conjugations is required. This means that if you learn the present tense you are learning the foundation upon which other tenses are influenced (Past Tense, Imperative etc.). This is what I mean when I say Serbian only gets easier. Your hardest day learning Serbian will be your first day. “Vremenom postaje lakše”. This means “With time it gets easier”.
7. Start applying Serbian grammatical concepts to your sentences
Once you are able to conjugate verbs in the Present Tense, and make complete sentences with nouns and adjectives using the declension system, you are now dangerously close to becoming fluent. Allow me to explain further. In order to make a sentence like “I want to watch a movie” in Serbian numerous grammatical concepts need to be understood. Again, this is not “hard”, there is just learning required. To say, “I want to watch a movie” we would say, “Ja hoću da gledam film”. Seems simple enough right…and it is, permitted you can conjugate verbs and decline the word “film” in its proper case. In this case the word “film” which is the same in both English and Serbian is declined in the 4th case since 4th case can be used to express a direct object (required by the verb “gledati” which means “to watch”). Word “film” is the same in 1st case singualr and the 4th case singular. “What do you want to watch?” “A film”. Film is the direct object, thus necessitating 4th case.
8. Transfer prior knowledge across the tenses
Once you acquire mastery speaking in the Present Tense all there is left to do is learn new verb conjugation patterns for Past Tense, Future Tense etc. and continue to build your vocabulary, remembering to practice declining new words as you learn them. In essence, once you master speaking in the Present Tense you are on the fast track to fluency.
Above all, don’t put too much pressure on yourself, have a great time, relax, be merry, and pat yourself on the back for being willing to learn about a language and culture different from your own.