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What foreign language is the most common in Serbia? In which language have I the most chances to communicate with locals (in shops, railway stations, hostels etc.) if I don't know Serbian?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

From Wikitravel:

Language: Serbian 90.1% (official), Hungarian 3.8%, Romany (Gypsy) 1.1%, other 4.1%, unknown 0.9% (2002 census)

So in that respect, Hungarian is the next best bet. However, that's 'official' languages and was a 2002 Census - if you keep on top of world affairs, things have changed a lot in that area since then.

So reading further down the same page:

Serbs are warm people, especially towards tourists. They are very welcoming towards tourists, of which there are not many as the country's full potential has yet to be reached! Most Serbs speak some English and are eager to speak it (seniors, however, are more likely to speak German and/or French), so you will be able to find your way around by asking directions. Most tourists come to Serbia in the summer and you can often hear German, Italian, French and English in the streets of Belgrade, while Slovenian tourists pour for New Year holidays.

So based on that - English is a pretty good bet, if you speak that (which it seems you do) - ask the young people questions for a better success rate. If you speak German or French, I'd be asking older people for directions etc.

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Hungarian doesn't resemble any language I know ;) –  Danubian Sailor Jun 11 '12 at 20:38
I'd stick with English in this case, then :) –  Mark Mayo Jun 11 '12 at 20:46
In my experience it's much easier to pick up bits of Serbian while you're travelling than bits of Hungarian. It's easier if you've travelled to other Slavic-speaking countries because the languages are so similar (but enough common words are still totally different). Hungarian is only very distantly related to Finnish and Estonian. I found it easy to travel in Serbia with just English and mixed bits of Slavic languages from other countries. –  hippietrail Jun 12 '12 at 6:40
I would guess that Hungarian is a pretty lousy bet: it's probably worse than English, French and German, unless you are in an area with lots of ethnic Hungarians (near the border). Almost all Hungarian speakers in Serbia live in Vojvodina province, and even there they only make up 13%. –  Max Oct 16 '14 at 6:25
Yes, @Max is right - Hungarian is a pretty lousy bet - you need to find a Hungarian (and most Hungarians in Serbia live in North, there aren't many in Belgrade) to speak Hungarian, as most of Serbian people don't know Hungarian. English is much better bet - almost all people that I know and are under 30 years old can speak some amount of English. –  Nemanja Boric Apr 29 at 12:32

A lot of people in Serbia, especially younger, understand English and speak English at least basically, and a visitor who doesn't know Serbian at all will certainly have not any problems to, at least, basically communicate with people on the street, shops, bus stations, hostels etc. People are familiar with English language maybe not so much because of learning it in school (although it is a factor) but from movies and computers and Internet.

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English is really widespread, so that would be your best bet. They might have trouble understanding, and you will probably have a lot of trouble understanding (since they have thickish accents). Unless of course you spoke another Yugo language, but I am assuming you don't since most people who do know that there is basically no difference.

As for whether Russian is common,it was in older generations but now English is more commonly taught as a second language.

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Any language of the Serbo-Croatian family. This group includes besides Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin. These languages are pretty close to each other. They only started to really move apart when Yugoslavia broke up.

It also depends on the place where you go. If you go to a colorful place like the Vojvodina, the choice becomes larger. This province has six official languages: Serbian, Hungarian, Slovak, Croatian, Romanian, and Ruthenian. In Central Serbia you will also find places where people speak Albanian or Bulgarian.

As in many other countries too, English is becoming more and more popular. This is especially true for a more younger population, but not only.

Apart from that, use the international master language, and communicate with hands and feet. Learn some basic phrases in Serbian. Knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet could be useful too, it is still widespread in Serbia. The Serbian language uses both Cyrillic and Latin alphabets.

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Just wondering, is it common that people understand/speak Russian in Serbia? –  Jonik Dec 14 '12 at 1:38

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