Bulgarian is a South Slavic language, thus closer to Serbo-Croatian and Slovenian than to Russian or Polish but still retaining similarities to all. Spoken by over 9.5 million people, it is the national language of Republic of Bulgaria. It is also spoken by Bulgarian minorities in Yugoslavia and the Western Balkans, and Moldova, and language still in use by many immigrants of Bulgarian origin in Argentina, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and U.S.A. 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, although their Cyrillic alphabets have diverged somewhat, with Macedonian's writing system resembling that of Serbo-Croatian.
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 vocative to a slight degree) 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're sounding archaic or speaking 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. In general the language is phonetic though there are few sounds denoted by digraphs and few combinations denoted by a single letter.
А Б В Г Д Е Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Ъ Ь Ю Я
а б в г д е ж з и й к л м н о п р с т у ф х ц ч ш щ ъ ь ю я
Stress is generally unpredictable. Fortunately, most Bulgarian dictionaries and language-books put the accent on the stressed syllable.
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. 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 at the end of the word sounds like stub
e eh [e]
like in pen or attend; it is shorter than in most other Slavic languages, especially Russian.
и ee [i]
like in machine or to be
o oh [כ]
like in more or score; the unstressed "o" is less reduced than it is in Russian.
у oo [u]
like in full or book
ъ uh [ə]
like in about (unstressed) or stub (when stressed). Sounds just like the unstressed 'o' in Russian.
й y (i-kratko/short i)
like in yes or play
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.
Middle or end of words they are: я-ia, йе-ie, йо/ьo-io and ю-iu
like in yacht or German Ja
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 has been very rarely used since 1945.
ОТВОРЕНО (oht-VOH-reh-noh) [כt´vכrenכ]
ЗАТВОРЕНО (zaht-VOH-reh-noh) [zat´vכrenכ]
ВХОД (vkhohd) [´vhכd]
ИЗХОД (EEZ-khohd) [´izhכd]
БУТНИ (boot-NEE) [but´ni]
ДРЪПНИ (drup-NEE) [drəp´ni]
ТОАЛЕТНА (toh-ah-LEHT-nuh) [tכa´letna]
МЪЖЕ (muh-ZHEH) [mə´ζe]
ЖЕНИ (zheh-NEE) [ζe´ni]
ЗАБРАНЕНО (zah-brah-NEH-noh) [zabra´nenכ]
Здравейте. (zdrah-VEY-teh) [zdra´veite]
Hello. (informal, to close friend)
Здравей. (zdrah-VEY) [zdra´vei]
Hi. (informal, to close friend)
Здрасти. (ZDRAHS-tee) [´zdrasti]
How are you?
Как сте? (KAHK steh?)
How are you? (informal)
Как си? (KAHK see?)
Fine, thank you.
Добре, благодаря. (doh-BREH, blah-goh-dah-RYUH)
How do they call you? (informal)
Как се казваш? (kahk seh KAHZ-vash?)
My name is ______ .
Казвам се ______ . (kahz-VUHM seh _____ .)
Nice to meet you.
Приятно ми е да се запознаем. (pryaht-NOH mee eh dah seh zah-POHZ-naem)
Excuse me. (getting attention)
Excuse me. (begging pardon or formal)
Моля да ме извините. (MOH-lyah dah meh eez-vee-NEE-teh)
Чао / Ciao (Italian). (chao)
I can't speak Bulgarian [well].
Аз не говоря български [добре]. (az ne govorya balgarski [dobre])
Do you speak English? (polite)
Говорите ли английски? (govorite li angliiski?)
Do you speak English? (informal)
Говориш ли английски? (govorish li angliiski?)
Is there someone here who speaks English?
Има ли някой, който говори английски? (ima li niakoi, koyto govori angliiski?)
Пази се! (pazi se!)
Добро утро. (dobro utro or dobroutro)
Добър вечер. (dobar vecher)
Good night (to sleep)
Лека нощ. (leka nosh)
I don't understand.
Не разбирам. (ne razbiram)
Where is the toilet?
Къде е тоалетната? (kade e toaletnatuh?)
Махай се! (makhay se!). Remember the 'kh' in Bulgarian is not rough, more like English 'ck' in 'brick'.
Don't touch me!
Не ме пипай! (ne me pipay)
I'll call the police.
Ще извикам полиция. (shte izvikam politsia)
Спри! Крадец! (spri kradets!)
I need your help.
Имам нужда от помощ. (imam nuzhda ot pomosh)
It's an emergency!
Спешен случай! (speshen sluchay!)
Загубих се. (zagubikh se)
I lost my bag.
Изгубих си чантата. (izgubikh si chantata)
I lost my wallet.
Изгубих си портфейла. (izgubikh si portfeyla)
Аз съм болен/болна. (az some bolen/ bolna) [male/female speaker]
I've been injured. [bleeding or other externally visible]
Ранен/а съм. (ranen/ a some) [male/female]
I've been injured. [broken bone or less visible, internal]
Контузен/а съм (kotuzen/ a some) [male/female]
I need a doctor.
Имам нужда от лекар. (imam nuzhda ot lekar)
Can I use your phone, please?
Извинете, мога ли да ползвам телефона ви? (izvinete, moga li da polzvam telefona vi?/). alternate: Мога ли да ползвам вaшия телефон? (Moga li da polzvam vashiya telefon?).
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 minus 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')
00 a.m. [in the morning] : В 08.00 ч. [сутринта] (FOH-sehm chah-SUH [soo-treen-TAH])
45 p.m. [in the afternoon] : В 17.45 ч./В 05:45 следобед (vuhf seh-dem-NIGH-seh ee cheh-tee-rees ee peht chah-SUH or vuhf PEHT/FPEHT ee cheh-TEE-rees ee peht sled-OH-beht)
At a quarter to 8 p.m.
В осем без петнайсет вечерта(FOH-sehm behz peht-NIGH-seht veh-chehr-TAH)
At a 7
45 p.m. : В седем и четирисет и пет без четвърт вечерта (vuf SEH-dehm ee cheh-tee-rees ee peht veh-chehr-TAH)
At a quarter past 09
00 [a.m.] : В 09.15 ч./В девет и четвърт (vuhv DEH-veht ee cheht-VUHRT)
30 [1:30 p.m.] : В 13.30/В тринайсет и половина (ftree-NIGH-seht ee poh-loh-VEE-nah)
The train departs at 11
17 [a.m.] : Влакът заминава в 11.17 [единайсет и седемнайсет (минути)] (VLAH-kuht zah-mee-NAH-vah feh-dee-NIGH-seht ee seh-dehm-NIGH-set [mee-NOO-tee])
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?)
Къде има_____? (KUH-deh EE-mah)
евтин хотел (EHF-teen KHOH-tehl)
хубав хотел (KHOO-bahf KHOH-tehl)
хотел наблизо (KHOH-tehl nah-BLEE-zoh)
чист хотел (cheest KHOH-tehl)
Do you have any rooms available?
Имате ли свободни стаи? (EE-mah-teh lee svoh-BOHD-nee STAI)
How much is a room for one person/two people?
Колко струва една стая за един човек/двама души? (KOHL-koh STROO-vah EHD-nah STAH-ya zah EH-deen CHOH-vehk/DVAH-mah DOO-shih?)
Does the room come with...
Има ли в стаята дойде с ... (ee-MAH lee vuh STAH-ia-tuh DOY-deh suh...)
May I see the room first?
Мога ли да видя първата стая? (MOH-guh lee duh bee-DYAH puhr-vah-TUH staia?)
Do you have anything quieter?
Имате ли нещо по-тихи? (EE-mah-teh lee NEHSH-toh poh-TEE-khee?)
OK, I'll take it.
Добре, аз ще го взема. (doh-BROH, ahz shteh goh VZEH-mah)
I will stay for _____ night(s).
Аз ще остана за _____ нощ/нощувки (ahz shteh ohs-tah-NAH zah...nohsht/noh-SHOOF-kee)
Can you suggest another hotel?
Можете ли да предложите друг хотел? (moh-ZHEH-teh lee duh prehd-LOH-zhite droog khoh-TEHL?)
Do you have a safe?
Имате ли сейф? (EE-mah-teh lee safe)
Is breakfast/supper included?
Има закуска/вечеря включена? (ee-MAH zah-KOOS-kuh/veh-CHEH-ryah vklyoo-CHEH-nah?)
What time is breakfast/supper?
По кое време е закуската/вечерята? (poh koh-EH vreh-MEH eh zah-KOOS-kuh-tah/veh-CHEH-ryah-tah?)