Learning Bulgarian in an hour

Just read an interesting post: How to Learn (But Not Master) Any Language in 1 Hour. Let’s see how that works out with Bulgarian.

Introduction

Bulgarian is a slavic language written in a cyrillic alphabet of 30 letters:
alphabet2

pronunciation

For easier reading for us used to roman alphabets, and for Bulgarians with a US keyboard, there is a way to rewrite cyrillic words called “transliteration” or more specific “romanization”. I have -obviously- created one: Bulgarian romanization: cyrillic <> latin.

Difficulty

First estimating the difficulty of learning this language:

  1. Are there new grammatical structures that will postpone fluency? (look at SOV vs. SVO, as well as noun cases)
    Bulgarian seems to be a SVO (Subject-Verb-Object) language, just like Dutch & English.
  2. Are there new sounds that will double or quadruple time to fluency? (especially vowels)
    Not really, you pronounce it like you read it, but there are some peculiar letters like the “ъ” ( “schwa” or “ə” (phonetic) or palatalization).
  3. How similar is it to languages I already understand? What will help and what will interfere? (Will acquisition erase a previous language? Can I borrow structures without fatal interference like Portuguese after Spanish?)
    While Bulgarian adopts new words from English easily (e.g. businessman become “бизнесмен” which is transcribed as “biznеsmеn“), it is at the base a Slavic language with an abundance of words that have nothing to do with the words in Dutch/French/English.
    Let’s take the days of the week: понеделник вторник сряда четвъртък петък съботата неделята – which is transcribed into “pоnеdеlnik vtоrnik sryada chеtvartak pеtak sabоtata nеdеlyata“. Not that obvious, is it?
  4. All of which answer: How difficult will it be, and how long would it take to become functionally fluent?
    God, if I knew the answer to that question.

Language structure

Let’s take his 8 sentences that clarify a lot about how the language works:

The apple is red – Ябълката е червена – Yabalkata е chеrvеna
It is John’s apple – То е ябълката на Джон – То е yabalkata na Dzhоn
I give John the apple – Аз давам на Джон ябълката – Az davam na Dzhоn yabalkata
We give him the apple – Ние му даваме ябълката – Niе mu davamе yabalkata
He gives it to John – Той го дава на Джон – Тоy gо dava na Dzhоn
She gives it to him – Тя го дава на него – Тya gо dava na nеgо

I must give it to him – Аз трябва да го дам на него – Az tryabva da gо dam na nеgо
I want to give it to her – Аз искам да го дам на нея – Az iskam da gо dam na nеya

I would actually add one sentence to that, to see if adjectives come before the noun (like English and Dutch) or behind (like French)

I give John the red apple – Аз давам на Джон червената ябълка – Az davam na Dzhоn chеrvеnata yabalka

Before the noun it is!

Helping verbs

And the verbs for easy auxiliary usage are:

  • I want, you want: Аз искам, Tи искaш – Az iskam, Ti iskash
  • I can, you can: Аз мoгa, Tи мoжeш – Az moga, Ti mozhesh
  • I have to, you have to: Аз трябваше, Tи трябвало – Az tryabvashе, Ti tryabvalо
  • I love to, you love to: Аз обичам, ти обичaш - Az оbicham, Ti obichash

Sounds and scripts

Bulgarian has 6 vowels: A E И O У Ъ, and two that are a combination of a consonant and a vowel: Ю (yu) – Я (ya). The tricky letters, the false friends,  are B (pronounced as V), H (pronounced as N) and P (pronounced as R). The C is pronounced as S but that’s also the case in “police”.

Interesting! Let’s see what his second language learning post will be about …

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3 Responses to Learning Bulgarian in an hour

  1. Great article. Very helpful. Much appreciated.

  2. Very interesting article. Is Bulgarian language common in the Baltics or is spoken only in Bulgary?

  3. Pingback: Phrases you need to learn Bulgarian | IH Sofia blog