Linguists do not agree as to whether Macedonian is a dialect of Bulgarian. Generally Yugoslavs disagree, while Bulgarians say that it is. The spoken languages are mutually intelligible for the most part, but their Cyrillic alphabets have diverged somewhat, with Macedonian's writing system resembling Serbo-Croatian's.
Most Bulgarian verbs carry inflection suffixes while some modal verbs use different words (typical example, the verb "съм" / "to be"). There are fewer verb tenses than in English with present, past, past continuous and future being the most commonly used, but the Slavic imperfective and perfective 'aspects' are present.
Nouns have three genders, and pronouns have genders. Adjectives must agree with the noun they modify and the first adjective takes the definite article if present. Those familiar with other Balto-Slavic languages will be surprised to discover that the noun cases are missing (except for a few vocatives) and replaced by prepositions and definite articles as post-positions like Romanian and Turkish. Unlike other Slavic languages, the infinitive ha fallen out of use (which always ended in -ти). You may say "иcкaм гoвopити" (I want to speak) over "иcкaм дa гoвopя" and be understood, but the locals may think you sound archaic or speak another Slavic language.
There are separate pronouns for "you": singular '"ти'" ("tchee") and the plural "'вие'" (vee-eh). The formal 'you' is the plural form with first letter capitalized ("Вие"). Like all other Slavic languages (as well as the Romance ones), the pronoun is usually ommitted due to context. Many times the 'л' will sound like a 'w' sound.
Bulgarian uses the Cyrillic alphabet, and the language is famous for introducing this writing system which Russian, the other East Slavic languages and Serbo-Croatian (and other non-Slavic languages as well) would adopt later, the latter with considerable differences. The language is usually phonetic though there are few sounds denoted by digraphs and few combinations denoted by a single letter.
Stress is generally unpredictable. Fortunately, most Bulgarian dictionaries and language-books put the accent on the stressed syllable.
Bulgarian Grammar is very challenging and very demanding for an English speaker. Fortunately, speakers of Russian and other Slavic languages will understand the grammar in no time as Bulgarian grammar is almost similar to Russian grammar. For trivia bluffs, 90% of Bulgarian vocabulary is similar to Russian and Ukrainian, giving native speakers of those languages a great advantage into learning Bulgarian or even speaking it.
Bulgarian has three genders: Masculine, Feminine and Neuter. Identifying gender is easier than in Russian or Ukrainian. Masculine nouns end in a consonant, Feminine nouns end in a or я, and neuter nouns end in o or e. There are no soft signs in Bulgarian, so Gender is pretty simple.
Stress in Bulgarian is irregular, just like Russian. The stress can fall anywhere within a word, and all vowels suffer 'vowel reduction'. The best way to learn new words, is to learn them word for word, memorizing the position of the stress. Fortunately, in every dictionary or learning material, the stress is always indicated.
In stark contrast to all other Slavic languages, Bulgarian has practically lost the case system, which is arguably the most challenging aspect of the language family. Instead, there are three noun inflections following three forms: Positive, Comparative, and Superlative, each following the four categories: Indefinite, Subject Definite, Object Definite and the Extended (Vocative).
The verb system is perhaps the most complicated feature in Modern Bulgarian, after the irregular stress, especially compared to other Slavic languages. The verb system contains two lexical aspects (imperfect and perfect), verb inflections for person, number and occasionally gender, nine verb tenses, three moods, four evidential cases, six non-finite verbal forms and an aorist. All these attract the typical language lover, and if you are considering to become fluent in Bulgarian, you have been officially warned about how difficult this beautiful language can be.
Unstressed "а" and "ъ", "о" and "у", "е" and "и" tend to be shorter and weaker compared to their stressed counterparts, approaching each other, though without merging completely, presenting a challenge for Bulgarian learners. You shall hear the 'ти' as a 'tchee' sound. Because the 't' becomes palatal and not said behind the teeth like in "ten"
a ah [a]
like in father or car (when stressed); when at the end of the word sounds like stub. Sounds like "uh" as in the Bulgarian letter 'ъ' when unstressed.
e eh [e]
like in pen or attend (when stressed); Sounds like a weak 'ee' when unstressed.
и ee [i]
like in machine or to be(when stressed); Sounds like a weak 'eh' as in the Bulgarian letter 'e' when unstressed.
o oh [כ]
like in more or score (when stressed); Sounds like a weak 'oo' when unstressed.
у oo [u]
like in rule or moon (when stressed); Sounds like a weak 'oh' when unstressed.
ъ uh [ə]
like in about (unstressed) or stub (when stressed). Sounds like a strong 'ah' when unstressed. This letter never appears at the start of a word, other than for the word "ъгъл", the Bulgarian word for "corner".
Before a vowel (after another vowel or at the beginning of a word) denotes a diphthong like in "crayon" or "yes". After a vowel at the end of the word similar to English 'y' as in "play" or "fly". Can be used only next to vowels and not before or after a consonant.
Voiced consonants at the end of a word are pronounced as voiceless.
like in boy or rubbish, on the end of a word pronounced "p"
like in ever or vineyard, on the end of a word pronounced "f"
like in gull or legacy, on the end of a word pronounced "k"
like in deal or madness, on the end of a word pronounced "t"
like in pleasure or conclusion, on the end of a word pronounced "sh"
like in zoo or freezing, on the end of a word pronounced "s"
like in kite or rock
like in leak or look. Becoming (younger generations in some areas) closer to weak "w" as in saw (cf. Polish ł).
like in mine or ham
like in note or monkey
like in pork or comply
slightly to moderately rolled "r" as in Spanish, etc. Like in Spanish pero or otro
like in spit or cast
like in time or lightning [ at times becoming palatal with 'ти' and 'тя' ]
like in feed or left
like in hotel or coherent [ usually aspirated similar to 'ck' in "lick"]
like in tsunami
like in cheap or kitchen
like in sheep or mishap
"Sht", as in German "Still" or "Stettin" NOT shch like in Russian.
not a sound itself, denotes softening (palatization) of preceding consonant; unlike Russian and other Slavic languages, this is very rarely used and the softening is less dramatic in Bulgarian than in other Slavic languages;
like in join or edge. Mainly used for foreign loan words.
In the middle or end of words, they are я-ia, йе-ie, йо/ьo-io and ю-iu
like in yacht or German Ja (when stressed); Sounds like 'yuh' when unstressed.
like in yes or yellow
like in yogurt or coyote. The latter is usually stressed
like in you or cute
Note that 'ю' and 'я' denote diphthongs [yoo] and [yah] after a vowel and at the beginning of a word, and tend to be pronounced 'ia' or 'io' in the middle or end of the word. The soft sign will not be included here as it is very rarely used since 1945.
There are longer 'formal' versions of the numbers after 10, but they are not normally used in spoken Bulgarian, even on television or by highly educated people such as university professors and literary people. Interestingly, 'thousand' is imported from Greek 'hilyades', not the Slavic 'tisushta' (Russian tysyacha).
The 'people' versions of numbers are used for instance in a restaurant. How many people? Three. Колко души ще бъде? Трима. (KOHL-koh DOO-shee shteh BUH-de? TREE-mah)
един (eh-DEEN) [m.] една/едно [fem./neut.] (ehd-NAH/ehd-NOH)
два (dvah) [m.] две (dveh) [fem. & neut.]. Referring to people: двама (DVAH-mah)
три (“tree”) (but remember to roll the "r"!) [m./f./n. all same]. Referring to people: трима (TREE-mah)
четири (CHEH-tee-ree) Referring to people: четирима (cheh-TEE-ree-mah)
Bulgarian uses 'military' time, as is standard in European countries, often with a period instead of colon and with 'ч.' [for 'chahSUH', 'hour'] following (i.e. 1:00 p.m. is 13.00 ч., 9:47 a.m. is 09.47 ч.) In writing or when speaking of official times, such as concerts, plays or transportation, the 24-hour clock is always used, in speech the 12-hour clock is sometimes used when there is little possibility for misunderstanding.
Clock time is a bit beyond the scope of a phrasebook in complexity for most languages, but in Bulgarian, the minutes can be referred to in half-hours or specific minutes. In addition, constructions such as "a quarter to six" are used (literally "6 bez 15").
The 'T' in 'chah-SUHT' (o'clock часът) may only be pronounced if it is the beginning of the sentence, and usually not then unless the speaker is trying to be especially official. The 'V' meaning 'in [time]' or 'at [o'clock]' is usually pronounced 'F' before vowels and if there is difficulty or confusion is pronounced with an extra syllable like 'vuhf' or 'vuv' (depending on the following letter). This is displayed in the examples below.
време (VREH-meh) [n.b. also means 'weather']
a.m./in the morning
обед (OH-beht) more vague than in English; approximately 12:00 to 2:00 p.m.
следобед (sleh-DOH-beht) after 2:00 p.m.
вечер (VEH-chehr) starting around 5:00 p.m.
p.m./in the evening
нощ (nohsht) after 10:00 p.m. but going until around 2:00 a.m. (literally 2 in the morning is expressed '2 in the night')
Dates are spoken using ordinal numbers, i.e. January first, 2008 is literally 'First January, 2008'. The order is European: Day, Month, Year. The month is sometimes expressed in Roman numerals. Names of days and months are not capitalized (unless at the beginning of a sentence).
In Bulgaria, the customer is not always right. At a taxi stand, you must first ask the driver if he/she will take you where you want to go. If the window is closed, open the front passenger door to ask. You also do not need to take the first taxi in the stand. If there is a company you prefer, walk to that taxi or check the prices on the windows. If there is no one in any of the taxis but you see people standing (talking, waiting, smoking) nearby, you can ask them to be taken the same way (second phrase) and one will accept.
Can you take me/us to _____?
Ще може ли до _____? (shte MOH-zhe lee doh _____?)
How much does it cost to get to _____?
Колко струва до _____? (KOHL-koh STROO-vah doh _____?)
Is there a driver here?
Има ли някой да кара такси? (EE-mah lee NYAH-koy dah KAH-rah tahk-SEE?)