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Is English Widely Spoken In Bulgaria?

Is English widely spoken in Bulgaria?

Recently, I have noticed more and more people in Bulgarian cities and towns speaking English to me and it made me wonder if English is now more widely spoken as a second language compared to when I first came to live here. I remember back to when I first came to live in Bulgaria and obviously didn't know much of the language apart from the alphabet!


I had in fact tried to learn some language basics before coming to Bulgaria however, at the time it was very difficult to find any books or resources in shops or on the net on learning Bulgarian. I had heard that Russian is practically the same, so I decided to start learning basic Russian greetings, only to then discover they are two different languages!

So, when I first arrived in Bulgaria, communication was quite difficult. At the time I would have really appreciated it if there was more English speakers, as it would have made some things a lot easier. Instead, I would have to mime and say the odd Bulgarian word to make myself understood. Throughout the time I have lived here, I have tried to learn the language and always try to first speak in Bulgarian with shop assistants, bankers and whenever I am out and about. However, now whenever I go and ask for help in a shop, the shop assistant will often reply in English. After asking a Bulgarian friend whether or not more people know English now compared to before, they told me that many school students already learn and understand English but choose not to speak. In fact, the majority of people under thirty years old are very likely to have learned English at school and are likely to understand.

Generally in Bulgarian schools, the students learn two foreign languages. English is usually a priority and other languages may vary from French, German, Spanish and Russian.

It is difficult to say whether English is widely spoken in Bulgaria, as many people are too shy to practice what they know. I think it also depends on the school and the student. I have taught English in a few Bulgarian schools for two years and have noticed that some of the students have a better knowledge of English than the teachers, which means that not all of the teachers have enough knowledge of English to able them to teach it. As a result of this, students may have studied English for several years throughout their compulsory education and graduate with a very basic knowledge of the language.

I do in fact know that in most of the major cities and towns, most people under thirty or forty years old do understand English. Often whenever I have asked "Говорите ли английски?"/ "Do you speak English?" The answer is more often than not "Малко" / "a little"! However, they then start talking to me in English and are very helpful, proving that they do in fact know more than they let on.

From what I have seen, I don't think that there has been a sudden increase in the number of people who can speak English. I think that the popularity and sudden interest in the English language has increased instead. Western music is becoming increasingly popular and some Bulgarian songs may include the odd word or sentence in English too. I also know that many jobs require you to have some knowledge of English and it is often a university requirement to know a second language too.

English is more widely spoken in towns and cities and many restaurants and bars will also offer an English menu. However, rural areas and small towns don't have so many English speakers, as very few people speak English in these quiter areas.