After 2 and ½ years of living in Serbia, I am finally getting decent with my Serbian. I’ve made a commitment to myself to complete my studies in Serbian and to be as fluent as possible. I know I will never be totally fluent because most of my day is in English at work and at home it is Spanish and English. My opportunities to speak Serbian are few. I am speaking with Serbian colleagues in Serbian now and going to the super market , gas station, etc. trying to do the transactions in Serbians.
I am devoting time to the study of Serbian because I like the intellectual challenge, it gives me more understanding of my surroundings and makes my experience here in Serbia richer. I am in unit 10 of the Teach Yourself Serbian by Vladislava Ribnikar and David Norris. It is published in the USA by Contemporary Books, a division of the educational giant McGraw-Hill. I’ll be reinforcing my learning by blogging from time to time in a humorous manner.
Uncle / Aunt – In English this concept is quite easy. There are only two words for the siblings of your parents, and you call them either your aunt or uncle depending on their sex. But in Serbian, the title changes depending on what side of the family the sibling is on, as well as a different name for the spouse of the sibling. I guess the title give more information to everyone in the room, but I am not sure why that is important, because in most families, everyone knows what the exact relationship an aunt or uncle has within the family. It does complicate it for the foreigner trying to learn the language.
Let me see if I got this straight. On your father’s side of the family, the “uncle” can either be a stric or a teča, depending on if it is the father’s brother, or brother-in-law. On the mother’s side, the “uncle” can either be an ujak or once again teča. In summary, the stric & ujak are the brothers of your parents, while teča is the brother-in-law of one of your parents.
On the father’s side of the family, the “aunt” is known as a tetka if she is the sister of your father, and if she is the brother-in-law of your father, then she is known as the strina. On the mother’s side of the family, the sister is known once again as the tetka and her husband, or your mother’s brother-in-law, is known as the teča again. The sister-in-law of the mother is known as the ujna, who is married to the ujak.
The Serbs also take this differentiation as step further with the next generation; the cousins. There is not a separate word for „cousin“ in Serbian. They are known as brat od …strica/teča/ujaka. The term brat od means „brother from…” Could they also be referred to the brat od…tetka/strina/ujna also? Especially is the uncle is divorced or deceased? Why do they do this only with uncles and aunts and not grandparents who are known as deda or baba, regardless of what side of the family they are on?
Now, what do you call brother-in-law and sister-in-law? I know that the godparents are known as kum or kuma.
I went through my family tree and attached titles to the various to our children’s uncles and aunts to help me learn the various new terms.