A good lingua franca for the Balkans
Replies: 6 - Last Post: Dec 7, 2012 10:56 AM Last Post By: iviehoff
Dec 6, 2012 8:59 AM
A good lingua franca for the BalkansHey everyone. I'm an American and I speak English with a pretty good grasp on the French language. I'm planning on visiting the Balkans within the next decade and I was wondering if there wa a lingua franca I could pick up and use that would be good for the Balkans especially in places such as Greece, Sarajevo, Serbia, and Bulgaria. If you guys have any knowledge of what a good language would be to get around all of those areas well I would really appreciate it! I am a linguaphile and I would see learning a language other than English as something enjoyable and as a chance for growth as opposed to like a needless activity for facilitating travel, so don't worry about giving me a really foreign language or two or three languages. Thanks guys!
Dec 6, 2012 11:45 AM
1English, by far.
Serbo-Croatian will do for two of the places you mention, and also for Croatia and Montenegro. But it won't get you anywhere in Greece and will only help a little, with recognizing cognates, in Bulgaria.
You should at least learn the Greek and Cyrillic alphabets. After that maybe the language of the country where you plan to spend the most time.
Dec 6, 2012 2:31 PM
2Yes, English. You may also find that learning a few small phrases in the partucular language may encourage the local person to try and reply in English. You state that you are planning on visiting the Balkans in the next decade. That gives you ample time as suggested by @#1 to learn either the Greek or Cyrillic alphabets. With that duration you should be able to learn much of the languages too.
Dec 7, 2012 12:54 AM
3Another useful language in this region is German, because German tourists outnumber the rest quite substantially, and you will sometimes encounter locals who can speak some German but no English, though this is less common than it was 20 years ago. The exceptions to this are Albania and Romania, where Italian is more useful, because both of these countries, especially Albania, have strong links to Italy.
I don't claim to speak German, but on quite a few occasions just knowing a few basic phrases of tourist German, which is about my limit, have enabled communication when the English wasn't working. The trouble with languages like Serbo-Croat is that, unlike English or German or Spanish, a little bit of it doesn't get you very far at all. Also, the locals are not used to communicating with people who have just a little Serbo-Croat, so showing any facility at all is at risk of getting you a long flow of unsimplified fast native speech. Greek isn't quite so tricky, but it will still take more effort than Spanish/French/German to get much useful facility. Though clearly in each country a bit of vocab to understand menus, and please and thank you, will be useful on occasion.
The Greek and Cyrillic writing systems are closely related, so once you have one you'll discover you have a lot of the other.
Dec 7, 2012 3:36 AM
Dec 7, 2012 3:58 AM
Dec 7, 2012 10:56 AM
Whereas a brief encounter with Serbo-Croat or Greek, you'd only really be at the single word rather than phrase level.
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