After its secession from Yugoslavia, the Bosnian government declared the official language to be called "Bosnian" rather than "Serbo-Croatian." However, "Croatian," "Serbian," and "Bosnian" are considered by linguists and travellers alike to be the same language, with minor idiomatic differences.
Bosnian is a South Slavic language of the Indo-European family. It is closely related to Croatian and Serbian. Nouns have gender and cases, and the past tense is conjugated by gender and person while other tenses are conjugated only by person.
The language itself should not prove difficult to pronounce. Grammatical complexities will, however, present challenges to those unfamiliar with highly inflected languages, such as Latin or Russian. Inflection is the grammatical process of altering the noun to indicate its position and function in the sentence. The noun has a case. Whereas English nouns are defined in the sentence through the use of prepositions, as in the sentence "Mary throws the ball to John," inflected languages alter the form of the noun, so "John" in the example would appear as the indirect object in the sentence in the dative case (indicated by the change in the suffix and less frequently the prefix) and "ball" as the direct object in the accusative case.
The same sentence in Bosnian would have no preposition "to" as in "Mary baca loptu Johnu." Notice that "John" received a "u" as a suffix, which immediately governs the meaning of the word "Johnu" and dictates its function in the sentence. In another similarity with Latin and the other Balto-Slavic languages (except Bulgarian-Macedonian), Serbo-Croatian does not use articles often; there are a few ariticles, but they are rarely used even in literature and formal speech.
Certain idiomatic differences exist in Serbian and Croatian, mostly as a result of regional applications. Some phrases, such as allahimanet and merhaba, are relatively unique in Bosnian usage, as they are a remnant of Islamic (and therefore Turkish) influences. Consulting separate pages on the Croatian and the Serbian phrasebooks may prove beneficial to those interested in better understanding such regional differences.
The Serbo-Croatian pronounciation, like other Slavic languages, is very phonetic. Each letter represents only one sound, and multiple sounds are produced only when several letters are combined.
The letter "A" represents the sound "ah" in Bosnian and represents only that sound.
Speakers of Spanish and Italian will find most sounds in Bosnian/Serbo-Croatian to be similar to the ones in their own languages.
Keep in mind that Serbo-Croatian is the ONLY Slavic language written in both Latin and Cyrillic, the latter with considerable differences from the more popular Russian/East Slavic version.
Although learning the two alphabets will keep out of trouble and endear the locals, the Latin script is more commonly used, even in Belgrade. The particles -ij and -j found in the middle of a number of words may be ommited due to regional applications and would still be correct.
like 'a' in "above"
like 'e' in "enemy"
like 'i' in "sing"
like 'o' in "opera"
like 'u' in "put"
Unfortunately, neither stresses (usually it is the second or third-last one, but never the last) nor vowel lengths are marked in the written language, but the stress is more predictable than it is in Russian or Bulgarian, where it is almost obligatory to put an accent on the stressed syllable.
For example, in the sentence sam sam (I am alone), the first "sam" is long, and the second is short (SAHM sam); in the clause da da (that he/she gives), it is reverse (da DAH). The most notorious example is a pun Gore gore gore gore (Up there, forests are burning worse), but it is not likely that you will use this sentence in everyday speech. Unlike Bulgarian, Russian and other East Slavic languages, however, wrongly pronounced vowel length will seldom cause misunderstandings.
Bosnian/Serbo-Croatian consonants are crisper than their counterparts in the English language. Approximating the corresponding consonants in Italian or Russian is closer to their true pronunciation.
like 'b' in "bed"
like 'ts' at the end of "cats" (never like an "s" or "k")
pronounced like "ch" as in "church", but with the tongue up on the roof of the mouth
like "tch" as in "catch", but softer, with tongue behind top front teeth
like 'd' in "dog"
very close to "j" as in judge, with tongue up on the roof of the mouth; very seldom used
like "j" as in "judge", but softer, with tongue behind top front teeth; hardly used at the beginning of the word
like 'f' in "fish"
like 'g' in "go" (never pronounced like the "g" in "large")
a little more emphasized than the 'h' in "help", somewhat close to the Spanish jota (j), pronounced in the throat. Usually an aspirated sound like the 'ck' in "brick"
like 'y' in "yellow"
like 'k' in "kite"
like 'l' in "love"
like the "li" sound in "million". Combo of the Bosnian/SC "l" "j" sounds together
like 'm' in "mother"
like 'n' in "nice"
like "ny" in "canyon" Like the Spanish " ñ " sound.
like 'p' in "pappy"
rolled slightly, like the Spanish r in "pero"
like 's' in "sun"
like "sh" in "sheep", with tongue raised toward roof of mouth
like 't' in "top"
like 'v' in "victory"
like 'z' in "haze"
like the "s" in "measure", with tongue raised toward roof of mouth
(ie) like the Spanish word "miedo"
(lyeh) like the Italian word "moglie"
(nyeh) like the Spanish word "muñeco"
(ia) like the Spanish word "mia"
(vyeh) like the Spanish word "viento"
Ulazak (OO-lah-zahk), Uzlaz (OOZ-lahz)
Dobar dan (DOH-bahr dahn)
Zdravo. (ZDRAH-voh) or Merhaba (MEHR-hah bah)
How are you?
Kako ste? (formal), (KAH-koh steh) Kako si? (informal) (KAH-koh see)
Fine, thank you.
Dobro sam, hvala. (DOH-broh sahm, HVAH-lah)
What is your name?
Kako se zovete? (formal) (KAH-koh seh zoh-VEH-teh)
What is your name?
Kako se zoveš? (informal) (KAH-koh seh ZOH-vehsh)
My name is ______ .
Zovem se ______ . (ZOH-vehm seh____.)
I am _____. : Ja sam ______. (yah sahm)
Nice to meet you.
Drago mi je. (DRAH-goh mee yeh)
Thank you very much
Hvala lijepo (HVAH-lah LYEH-poh)
Nema na čemu. (NEH-mah nah CHEH-moo)
Excuse me. (getting attention)
Excuse me. (begging pardon)
I'm sorry. ("expressing condolence"): Žao mi je. (zhao mee yeh)
do viđenja (doh vee-jeh-nyah) or ćao (chaoo) or Zdravo. (ZDRAH-voh)
I can't speak Bosnian/Serbo-Croatian [well].
Ne govorim dobro bosanski/srpskohrvatski. (neh goh-VOH-reem DOH-broh boh-SAHNS-kee/ sehrps-koh-hehr-VAHTS-kee)
Do you speak English?
Da li govorite engleski? (dah lee goh-VOH-ree-teh ehn-GLEHS-kee)
Is there someone here who speaks English?
Da li iko ovdje govori engleski? (dah lee EE-koh OHV-dyeh goo-VOH-ree ehn-GLEHS-kee)
Dobro jutro. (DOH-broh YOO-troh)
Dobro većer. (DOH-broh VEH-chehr)
Laku noć. (LAH-koo nohtch)
Good night (to sleep)
Laku noć. (LAH-koo nohtch)
I don't understand.
Ne razumijem. (neh rah-ZOO-myehm)
Where is the toilet?
Gdje je WC? (gdyeh yeh VEH TSEH?)
Leave me alone.
Pusti me na miru. (POOS-tee meh nah MEE-roo)
Don't touch me!
Ne diraj me! (neh DEE-rah-ee meh!)
I'll call the police.
Zvaću policiju. (ZVAH-tchoo poh-LEE-tsee-oo)
Stanite! Lopov! (STAH-nee-teh! LOH-pohv!)
I need your help.
Treba mi vaša pomoć. (TREH-bah mee VAH-shah POH-mohch)
It's an emergency.
Hitno je. (HEET-noh yeh)
Izgubio [m] (EEZ-goo-byoh) izgubila [f] (EEZ-goo-bee-lah) sam se. (sahm seh)
I lost my bag.
Izgubio [m] (EEZ-goo-byoh) izgubila [f] (EEZ-goo-bee-lah) sam torbu. (sahm TOHR-boo)
I lost my wallet.
Izgubio [m] (EEZ-goo-byoh) izgubila [f] (EEZ-goo-bee-lah) sam novčanik. (sahm NOHV-chah-neek)