Serbian Language Learning

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.

 

11 thoughts on “Serbian Language Learning

    1. billkralovec

      The first sentence will be my homework tonight. I need to translate…”mozemo da pricama” (we can speak) “malo Srbski” (a little Serbian) vezbamo (?) What the heck does “bicemo zajedno” mean? jedno = one?

      I’ll figure it out.

      Bill

      1. bicemo zajedno = we will be together
        ‘zajedno’ = ‘skupa’ = together, all-together
        ‘bicemo’ = future tens (plural) of Serbian for to be (so: ‘we shall/will’)

        Also, ‘mozemo da pricamo’ (not ‘pricama’ which is a legit word, but used wrongly here)

  1. “Cousin” is translated as “rođak”, but it doen’t mean the same here.

    Rođak is, for example, if your father has a “brother from uncle’s side” (in English – just a cousin), then his son and you are [officially] rođaci (plural of rođak; in English – probably just far relatives). But, since your father would call his cousin – brother (from the uncle’s side), it’s like in English then – he (that cousin) is your uncle (not in direct line, but still an uncle). Because of that, his son, your rođak, [unofficially] is your brother (from uncle’s side) too. Or let me try this way:

    Tom had sons Mark and Frank. (they are brothers – braća)
    Mark had a son Joe. Frank had a son Phil. (Joe and Phil are also brothers [from the uncle’s side] – braća od stričeva)
    Joe had a son Boris. Phil had a son Eli. (Boris and Eli are cousins – rođaci) [but, since their fathers call each other ‘bro’, they can call each other ‘brother from uncle’ too. But they’ll know they’re just cousins]

    – brat/sestra od tetke/strine/ujne also works. People usually call someone brat od tetke, because tetka is from the family. She’s either father’s or mother’s sister and her husband is an alien 😀 (same works for ujna and strina)

    – if uncle is divorced but has a son/daughter, I’d still call uncle’s son’s mother – aunt. Because, since I’m relative with him and she also participated in bringing him on this world, she must be some relative.

    we do it with grandparents too. A granddad’s brother is also a granddad (not a cousin, if that’s the case in English)

    Milan’s link is great. Unfortunatelly, they’ve changed it since I’ve surfed it last time, so many family names are lost and its reorganized now. Check the Serbian version of that text on Wikipedia too.

    1. billkralovec

      Thanks for the information. I reviewed my Serbian this morning and worked out what you wrote. In English we have seldom used terms like “second cousins” and “great uncles” to describe these relationships. Phil is the “great uncle” of Boris and Eli is the “second cousin” of Boris. I like the Serbian because it stresses the importance of family with the more defined and more often used terminology.

      Bill

    1. billkralovec

      Hvala Tina. You have it easier with a Serbian husband. I have to go out of my way to speak Serbian. Good luck with the language adventure!

      Bill

  2. My wife has been slowly teaching me Serbian and she has told me the following;

    Aunt & Uncle on moms side is- ujna & ujgo

    Aunt & Uncle on dads side is- strina & ciko

    Is she wrong?
    Pardon my spelling if its off.

    1. billkralovec

      Promajaneck – Your wife is correct – on the mom’s side it is UJNA and UJAK. On the dad’s side it is STRINA and STRIC. If she is referring to the sisters of your mom or dad, remember that it is TETKA and TECHA.

      Congratulations on marrying a Serb, the women are gorgeous.

      Bill

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