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, there is no infinitive in either Bulgarian or Macedonian; for that, most dictionaries put the first-person singular of the verb.
There are separate pronouns for "you": singular '"ти'" ("tee") 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.
Bulgarian uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Bulgarian is famous for introducing this writing system which Russian, the other East Slavic languages and Serbo-Croatian 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.
like in father or car
like in pen or attend; it is shorter than in most other Slavic languages, especially Russian. Also pronounced like a ye after another vowel to ease pronunciation.
like in machine or to be
like in more or score; the unstressed "o" is less reduced than it is in Russian.
like in moon or fool
like in about (unstressed) or bulk (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
like in feed or left
like in hotel or coherent (not as 'rough' as in Russian)
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
like in yacht or German Ja
like in yes or yellow
like in yogurt or coyote
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' in the middle of the world.
Hello. (informal, to close friend)
How are you?
Как сте? (KAHK steh?)
How are you? (informal)
Как си? (KAHK see?)
Fine, thank you.
Добре, благодаря. (dob-REH, blah-goh-dah-RYUH)
How do they call you? (informal)
Как се казваш? (KAHK seh KAHZ-vahsh?)
My name is ______ .
Казвам се ______ . (KAHZ-vahm seh _____ .)
Nice to meet you.
Приятно ми е да се запознаем. (pree-YAHT-noh mee eh dah seh zah-pohz-NAH-ehm)
Excuse me. (getting attention)
Excuse me. (begging pardon or formal)
Моля да ме извините. (moh-lyuh dah meh eez-vee-NEE-teh)
Чао / Ciao (Italian). (chow)
I can't speak Bulgarian [well].
Аз не говоря български [добре]. (ahs neh goh-VOHR-yuh BUHL-gahr-skee [doh-BREH])
Do you speak English? (polite)
Говорите ли английски? (goh-VOH-ree-teh lee ahn-GLEEY-skee?)
Do you speak English? (informal)
Говориш ли английски? (goh-VOH-reesh lee ahn-GLEEY-skee?)
Is there someone here who speaks English?
Има ли някой, който говори английски? (EE-ma lee NYAH-koy KOY-toh goh-VOH-ree ahn-GLEEY-skee?)
Пази се! (pah-ZEE seh!)
Добро утро. (doh-BROH OO-troh or doh-BROO-troh)
Добър вечер. (DOH-buhr VEH-chehr)
Good night (to sleep)
Лека нощ. (LEH-kah nohsht)
I don't understand.
Не разбирам. (neh rahz-BEE-rahm)
Where is the toilet?
Къде е тоалетната? (kuh-DEH eh toh-ah-LEHT-nah-tah?)
Махай се! (MAH-khigh seh!). Remember the 'kh' in Bulgarian is not rough, more like English 'h' as in 'hotel'.
Don't touch me!
Не ме пипай! (neh MEH PEE-pigh) [last syllable pronounced like the word 'pie']
I'll call the police.
Ще извикам полиция. (shteh eez-VEE-kahm poh-LEE-tsee-yah)
Спри! Крадец! (SPREE! krah-DEHTS!)
I need your help.
Имам нужда от помощ. (EE-mahm NOOZH-dah oht POH-mohsht)
It's an emergency!
Спешен случай! (SPEH-shehn SLOO-chigh!)
Загубих се. (zah-GOO-beekh seh)
I lost my bag.
Изгубих си чантата. (eez-GOO-beekh see CHAHN-tah-tah)
I lost my wallet.
Изгубих си портафела. (eez-GOO-beekh see pohr-tah-FEH-luh)
Аз съм болен/болна. (AHS suhm BOH-lehn/BOHL-nah) [male/female speaker]
I've been injured. [bleeding or other externally visible]
Ранен/а съм. (rah-NEHN/ah suhm) [male/female]
I've been injured. [broken bone or less visible, internal]
Имам нужда от лекар. (EE-mahm NOOZH-dah oht LEH-kahr)
Can I use your phone, please?
Извинете, мога ли да ползвам телефона? (eez-vee-NEH-teh, MOH-guh lee dah POHLZ-vahm teh-leh-FOH-nuh?)
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 'tisic'.
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)
cpядa (SRYAH-dah or you can say it like SReeYAH-dah)
Writing time and date
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 (slehd-O-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).
As all adjectives in Bulgarian do, colors come in three varieties, masculine, feminine and neuter to agree with the noun they are modifying. This will be shown (example 'black') as follows: черен/черна/о meaning черен/черна/черно (CHEH-rehn/CHEHR-nah/CHEHR-noh).
Bus and train
Where's the bus/trolley stop?
Къде e cпиpкaта на aвтoбyca/трамвая? (kuh-DEH eh SPEER-kah-tah nah ahf-toh-BOOS-uh/trahm-VIGH-uh?)
Which bus/trolley goes to ...?
Кoй aвтoбyc/трамвай oтивa до ...? (KOY ahf-toh-BOOS/trahm-VIGH oh-TEE-vah doh ...?)
Does this bus/trolley go to ...?
Toзи aвтoбyc/трамвай oтивa ли дo ...? (TO-zi ahf-toh-BOOS/trahm-VIGH oh-TEE-vah lee doh ...?)
Which line takes me to ...?
C кoя линия щe cтигнa дo ...? (skoh-YAH LEE-nee-yah shteh STEEG-nuh doh ...?)
What's the next station?
Кoя e cлeдвaщaтa cтaнция (koh-YAH eh SLEHD-vah-shtah-tah STAHN-tsee-yah?)
Is this the right platform for ...?
Toва ли e пepoнът зa ...? (toh-VAH lee eh peh-ROH-nuh zah ...?)
How do I/we get to _____ by bus/subway/train?
Как да стигна/стигнем до _____ с автобус/метро/влак? (kahk da STEEG-nuh/STEEG-nehm doh _____ sahf-toh-BOOS/smeh-TROH/zvlahk?)
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?)
Asking about language
How do you say _____ in Bulgarian?
Как се казва _____ на български? (KAHK seh KAHZ-vah _____ nah BUHL-gahr-skee?)