A Beginner’s Guide to Bulgarian

Bulgaria (IPA: b‘lga‘iy), officially the Republic of Bulgaria, is located in Southeastern Europe and borders the Black Sea to the east, Greece to the south, Turkey to the west and Serbia and Romania to the north, along the Danube River. The country has a unique and strategically important geographic location, being a major crossroad between Europe, Asia and Africa, with five of the ten Transeuropean corridors passing through its territory.

The majority of Bulgarians are Eastern Orthodox Christians (82.6%), with Islam (12.2%) and various other religions making up a small proportion of the population, while atheists constitute 4.1%. The country has one of the slowest population growth rates in the world, due to the economic crisis and high emigration rate.

A relatively close-knit family structure prevails in Bulgaria, and the language provides an extensive vocabulary for describing the relationships between relatives. For example, words for family members such as chicho (your father’s brother), vuicho (your mother’s brother), and svako (your aunt’s husband) are common; the range also includes synonyms like lelincho and batko. Bulgarian also has a large vocabulary of expressions for referring to sisters and brothers, as well as the relationship between husbands and wives (e.g. kaka – sister, kaa – wife).

The verb system of Bulgarian is fairly complex and features both tense and aspect marking. The tense system is primarily represented by prepositions, while aspect is conveyed through the use of moods. Bulgarian has a preference for subject-verb-object word order in neutral pronunciations of sentences, but there are many permutations of this arrangement. Bulgarian adjectives agree in gender, number and definiteness with the noun they describe and are usually appended to it, while demonstratives and numerals are placed before the noun.

In addition to a standard Latin alphabet, Bulgarian uses the Cyrillic script. A complete Bulgarian course is necessary to learn how to read the Cyrillic letters, and 17 Minute Languages offers a free online Bulgarian language course, including audio recordings of a native speaker pronouncing each new word.

Bulgarian is an Indo-European language of the Slavic branch. It is closely related to Russian and other Slavic languages, and shares some sounds, grammatical structures and lexicon with them. Bulgarian, however, is characterized by a more marked difference in tone between masculine and feminine speech, a distinctive case system, and a relatively weaker declension system.

In order to make the process of learning Bulgarian easier, it is useful to be familiar with the rules governing the alphabet and pronunciation in other Slavic languages. It is also helpful to know the Latin alphabet, especially since many of the signs and symbols in Bulgarian are based on letters from the Roman alphabet. Bulgarian is a member of the Council of Europe, NATO, and the European Union. Its capital is Sofia, and the ten largest cities are Plovdiv, Varna, Burgas, Ruse, Stara Zagora, Pleven, Dobrich, and Shumen. The country’s GDP per capita is among the lowest in the EU.