NOTES: All Croatian spoken in this fic is accurate. Yes, we really do swear like that. It’s a Balkan thing.
“You are Croatian, correct?” Loki asked suddenly.
I looked up at him, taking a small sip of my coffee before replying: “Yes, that’s correct.”
We were seated on the living room couch, his arm hanging loosely around my shoulder. It was an early, boring Autumn morning; heavy raindrops pounded at the windows like tiny pebbles, carried by wild, unpredictable gusts of wind. I was fond of storms, almost as much as Loki despised them because they reminded him of Thor.
speaking, Slavic languages can be divided into those using the Cyrillic
alphabet and those using the Latin alphabet, but in truth each language
has developed its own modified alphabet. These language-specific
letters and diacritic signs can serve as surefire clues, but
unfortunately the task is much harder with speech, since accents and
dialects tend to confuse even the most skilled listeners.
So how do you tell Slavic languages apart?
The Cyrillic alphabet:
BELARUSIAN – ў
Belarusian is the only language which uses the letter ў. It sounds
similar to an English ‘w’, and the Latin transcription is ‘ŭ’. It is
most often encountered in word endings equivalent to the Russian -ov or
–ev suffixes, e.g., last names like Быкаў (Bykaŭ) or Някляеў
UKRAINIAN – ї and є
ıf you see an ï amidst Cyrillic letters, you’re most likely reading
Ukrainian. This letter is pronounced /ji/, and should not be confused
with ‘i’ (/i/), or with ‘й’ (/j/) and ‘и’ (/ɪ/), which all look and
sound slightly different.
Ukrainian is also the only language with the letter є ‒ in Russian the corresponding ‘э’ character faces the other way…
BULGARIAN – ъ
Ъ is a solid hint that you’re looking at Bulgarian ‒ it even pops up
in the name of the country: България. Though this letter (called ‘yer
golyam’/‘ер голям’) also appears in Russian and other Slavic languages,
it is not used frequently, whereas it appears regularly in Bulgarian.
This is perhaps because it is silent in other Slavic languages, but in
Bulgarian it symbolises a schwa sound (like the ‘u’ in ‘turn’). Make
sure you don’t confuse it with the soft sign, ‘ь’.
Additional hint: ата is a frequent grammatical ending in Bulgarian.
SERBIAN – ђ and ћ
The similar ђ (dzhe) and ћ (tshe) are evidence you’re dealing with
Serbian. Serbian Cyrillic doesn’t have many of the letters used in
Russian Cyrillic; forget about ‘ё’, ‘й’, ‘щ’, ‘ъ’, ‘ы’, ‘ь’, ‘э’, ‘ю’,
and ‘я’. If you want to tell Serbian apart from Russian, you can also
look for љ (ly’) њ (ny’) and џ (dʒ), but these are also present in
MACEDONIAN – Ѓ and Ќ
Macedonian is the only language with the letters Ѓ and Ќ. The little
accents over these Cyrillic letters are a surefire way to tell
Macedonian apart from Serbian. The letters stand for sounds similar to
the English [dʒ] and [t͡ʃ] – the latter sounding really Chinese.
Additionally, Macedonian features the letter ‘s’ [d͡z], which otherwise does not occur in the Cyrillic alphabet.
Famous for its inverted letters, Russian is probably the most
recognizable Slavic language out there. On the other hand it is quite
easy to confuse it with Ukrainian, Bulgarian or Serbian, so if you have a
full sentence on your hands, it’s best to proceed by elimination using
all the tips mentioned above.
The Latin alphabet:
POLISH – ł
If you see the letter ł with the characteristic slash through it,
you’re looking at Polish. Ą and ę (which are nasal consonants) are also
giveaways but be careful, both letters are also in the Lithuanian
alphabet (which is not a Slavic language). Digraphs like ‘sz’, ‘cz’, and
‘dz’, sometimes combined into consonant clusters like ‘prz’, ‘trz’, and
‘szcz’, are clues, but watch out for Hungarian, which has similar
SLOVAK – ä
Slovak is the only Slavic language to use ä, or ‘a s dvoma bodkami’
as the Slovaks call it. It comes up in words like ‘mäso’, ‘sôvä’, ‘rýbä’
(meat, owl, fish) and is pronounced like the English ‘a’ sound in
‘bad’. The same goes for ŕ, which is not used in any other Slavic
CZECH – ů
The Czech and Slovak alphabets are really similar. To tell them
apart, look for the tiny difference in the diacritic sign over the
letter r – where Slovak uses ‘ŕ’, the Czech letter has a tiny hook: ř.
Also, if you see the letter ů, it’s Czech.
CROATIAN – đ
Written Croatian can appear hardly discernible from Slovenian, Czech
or Slovak, with which it shares the letters as ‘č’, ‘š’, and ‘ž’, it has
an easy distinctive feature ‒ the so-called crossed đ. [dʑ]
The Bosnian alphabet is indistinguishable from Croatian. To identify
the language you would have to dig much deeper and look for differences
in vocabulary since Bosnian has some unique words, mostly of Persian and
Slovenian, which is the westernmost Slavic language, is also the most
discrete in terms of alphabet. In fact, it has only three special
characters, ‘č’, ‘š’, and ‘ž’, which also appear in Czech, Slovak and
Croatian. Again, your best bet is to proceed by elimination. (culture.pl)