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Learning the basics of Bulgarian

Not only is Bulgarian a new language to learn for foreigners but for most it is a new alphabet too! Strange symbols appear before your eyes and to add to the confusion, shops and road signs use a mix of Latin and Cyrillic alphabet. You could be forgiven for wondering if you will ever master the Bulgarian language!

Here we give you an introduction to the basics ... learning the alphabet, reading and understanding some basic words and some simple everyday phrases.


The Cyrillic Alphabet

If anyone intends to learn the Bulgarian language, then our best advice would be to first learn the Cyrillic alphabet. This alphabet is also used in Belaruse, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine.

It is widely believed that the alphabet was 'invented' by the brothers Saint Cyril and Saint Methodius (pictured right) in the early part of the 9th century - however, much controversy still exists with regards the exact origins. It is more likely that it was developed in northeastern Bulgaria, where the oldest Cyrillic inscriptions have been found, some dating back to the 940's.

Please take time to study the alphabet and sounds ... it will make every trip to Bulgaria so much easier! After some practice you may be surprised to learn that you can now read, write and speak your first 12 bulgarian words ... try it out in the exercises on the next page ... good luck!

The Cyrillic Alphabet:

Bulgarian is a phonetic language. The sounds of the letters are at the same time the names of the letters. Do not try and 'remember' letters as "the backwards R", or "the weird P" as this will cause great confusion later! Unlike English, the sounds of "yu" and "ya" are represented by a single letter each. The same applies for "sh" and "sht".

The Bulgarian "E" is always pronounced as in "Elephant", never be tempted to pronounce it like an English "e" as in "eel".

The "R" sound is a rolling "R" and distinctly pronounced.

Don't be intimidated by this strange looking alphabet! Once you get over this barrier, you'll discover you can read signs, menus and understand some words (see next page).