The Serbian Language

I have really enjoyed learning Serbian during my time here. I wish I had more time to study and use the language. My work at an English language international school and a family with young children limit my time practicing Serbian. I am making a commitment to study and use more. Some expats come and learn very little Serbian because many Serbs speak good enough English. They also feel that with being posted here for such a short time, and little chance of using the language later in future postings, some people do not devote time to learning it. I feel that it has enhanced by experience here and I’ve learned a bit more about the culture. It has also been great to learn a Slavic language and getting back to my family’s ancestral tongue.

It is cool that I now understand the Cyrillic script. My favorite Cyrillic letter is ж or ž in the latin version. It is the most “exotic” of the letters. The grammatical cases in Serbian are frustrating, but with my usual flair, I add endings to the words based on how I feel. The Serbs get a kick out of my take on the langauge and they really appreciate a foreigner’s efforts in trying. Below is a sampling of my latest learning.

  • Moze da ti jede tortu sa glave. (She can eat cake off the top of his head.) – Serbian saying when the woman is much taller than her partner. This happens often in Serbia due to the height of women here. Although my wife is not Serbian, when she wears heels, she could eat cake off my head.
  • sikter kafa or sikterša This term is used when the host wants a guest to leave. They offer them a sikter (I think this is a Turkish word) kafa which is an “indirecta” to announce it is time to go.
  • puza mene – When Serbian children play tag, žmurke in Serbian, they spit to indicate  they made it safely to goal. The phrase is also used to say that an employee showed up for a mandatory function they really didn’t want to go to but had to. The verb, to spit is pljunuti, or ja pljujem (I spit).


2 thoughts on “The Serbian Language

  • Hey, first of all, cool blog! I totally support your views on learning Serbian, and I feel the same in whatever country I’m visiting. Most foreigners find Đ the most exotic letter, though (especially the Cyrillic variant, no one else has that letter!). Good job on your Serbian, too; a small addendum:

    * sikter is a Turkish word, meaning “go away” or somesuch; I’ve also heard people use it to drive away dogs (instead of the more popular “marš” or “mrš” — good question, does English have different words for different animals? because we do), too. The coffee is then “sikteruša”, and there’s a memorable scene in the movie “Ivkova slava” (which is a.. decent enough movie) where they talk about “sikter kafence” (kafence — small coffee). Still, it’s really cool that a foreigner would pick up such an obscure idiom.

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