Vowels in Serbian: Phonetics and Pronunciation

Vowels in Serbian: Phonetics and Pronunciation

 

In Serbian language there are only 5 vowels. That’s less then in English, French or German. Learn how to pronounce Serbian vowels properly.

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There are only 5 vowels in the Serbian language, just like in Greek, Italian or Spanish. That’s less than in English, French or German!

Vowels are sounds produced without any barrier in mouth. Air flows freely to create sound. The sound is then modulated by moving tongue up or down, closer to or further from the palate, and by changing the shape of lips.

Serbian vowels are pronounced consistently – always the same way. This is how we write them: A, E, I, O, U.

In this video, you will learn how to pronounce them accurately. You will learn how all five vowels are produced and practice pronouncing them individually and within example words.

It’s a part of the Tako Lako Beginner Serbian Course.

Serbian language has 30 sounds. In this lesson we will analyze and explore these sounds by grouping them according to the way they are produced.

Serbian orthography is phonemic. That means that there is one letter for every one of the 30 sounds and that each sound is always represented by one same letter.

In this course we’re using the Serbian Latin script or latinica.

We will start from the “easy sounds”. These are the sounds that are equal or similar to the sounds of the English phonetic system. We will analyze them in order to get ready to analyze and produce the sounds that are typical for Serbian and non-existent in English.

Serbian Vowels / Vokali ili samoglasnici

Vowels are sounds produced without any barrier in mouth. Air flows freely to create sound, and the sound is modulated by moving tongue up or down, closer to or further from the palate, and by changing the shape of lips.

In Serbian language there are only 5 vowels: i, e, a, o and u. That’s less then in English, and they are pronounced consistently – always the same way.

 

Ilips stretched to a smile,tongue close to palate, jaws together

sin

(son)

Ejaws open a bit, tongue drops a bit down from the palate

ne

(no)

Alips in neutral position, mouth wide open, tongue away from the palate

da

(yes)

Olips form circular shape, lower jaw moves up

mol

(dock)

Ulips still rounded, lower jaw moves  further up

kum

(godfather)

Vowel distribution and consonant clusters

There are 5 vowels in Serbian and they are the same as Italian, Spanish or Greek vowels: a, e, i, o and u.

There are no semivowels or umlauts in Serbian.

However, sometimes the R sound works as a vowel as well. Just like in our country’s name: Srbija (Serbia), or our neighboring countries: Hrvatska (Croatia), Crna Gora (Montenegro) and Grčka (Greece).

This vowel-like R is the reason some people complain about consonant clusters in Serbian. It is the only vowel in the words like:

  • prst finger
  • vrh top, peak
  • smrt death
  • trn thorn
  • and also “tvrđava” fortress, probably the most challenging word for many Serbian learners.

But don’t worry, such words are actually rare in the Serbian language!

 

 

Normal placement of Serbian vowels

 

Usually, we have one of the five vowels between every two consonants (that’s the most common distribution of vowels). Like in these words:

  • kolega colleague
  • televizija television
  • akademija academia
  • tigar tiger
  • banana banana

 

Or we’ll have two or three consonants followed by a vowel:

  • profesorica proffessor
  • student student
  • škola school
  • stvar thing
  • drug friend

 

Sometimes we’ll have two vowels together, and then each vowel is pronounced individually. Like in these words:

  • automobil automobile
  • radio radio
  • avion airplane
  • januar January
  • farmaceut farmacist
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Serbian C Ć Č Sounds Pronunciation: The Best Explanation

Serbian C Ć Č Sounds Pronunciation: The Best Explanation

The trickiest Serbian sounds to pronounce! Even the Serbian children struggle with them! In this post you will learn how to properly articulate the Serbian C Ć Č sounds and learn a few funny tongue twisters.

The Serbian C Ć Č sounds are among the most commonly confused letters and sounds. In this article post you will learn how to differentiate them and how to pronounce them correctly. Also, you will learn how to pronounce “ćevapčići” and a couple of funny tongue twisters.

To learn all the Serbian sounds and letters, enroll in the FREE introductory Serbian course at Serbonika.

/Transcript of the video/

Hello and welcome to the Natural Serbian course! Ja sam Magdalena and today I will teach you how pronouncing the Serbian C Ć Č sounds is actually easy.

By the end of this video you will be able to pronounce „ćevapčići“ and hopefully with some practice „Četiri čavčića na čunčiću čučeći cijuču“. (Good luck with that!)

 

Learn how to pronounce the Serbian C Ć Č sounds: they are not the same!

I know that a lot of you are wondering what is with all the C’s with the signs (some of you call them „accents“) above it. Well, first of all, these are not accents. These are called diacritical signs.

If you compare Latin (C Č Ć) with the Cyrillic letters (Ц Ч Ћ) you will see that these are completely different letters and completely different sounds to our ears.

 

Serbian C is the “pizza sound”

Let’s first make sure that you know the C sound. This is the „pizza“ sound. It’s never a „k“ sound, this letter K is for the „k“ sound.

And there is a serious reason why we in Serbia tend to write the Italian word pizza italian way – even though we spell everything Serbian, like „ćao“ (ciao). We spell pizza the Italian way because if we spell it the Serbian way, that’s the word we use for female genitals. One of the words for that.

So make sure to spell pizza the Italian way, and that this little letter „C“ is used for the pizza sound.  

 

Serbian C with V above: Č

What happens if we put V above this letter? That’s how we get the „č“ sound – the same sound that you have in English: Chuck, Charlie, Chick Corea. We say Čikago, even though you say Chicago, you use a different sound for it in English. The English sound is very very similar. How we produce this sound? What we do with our lips and teeth and tongue more than anything else?

What  we do is that we put the tip of our tongue behind our upper teeth, on the small part of palate right behind your upper front teeth. It’s very similar to the position of your tongue when you say T.

Let’s try: tak – čak.  

Now, that was easy. You know this sound because you have it in your repertoire of sounds.  

 

J, the yo-yo sound 

Now, I’ll have to add another sound. Do you know in English, when you say „yo“? Like „yo-yo“ (jo-jo), you know the little toy for children. Yo-yo is the sound that we need. It’s the „j“ sound. It’s a very important sound that has influenced many sounds in the Serbian language. Today I’m going to explain only one of these, but make sure to remember this J sound.

J is actually a little „i“. It’s very close to the vowel „i“.  

 

Serbian C with a slash above: Ć, a typically Serbian sound

Now, this very position of the tongue is the one that we need to produce Ć, this specifically Serbian sound ć. So, what happens?

The tip of your tongue is actually behind your lower front teeth, and the middle part of your tongue is up and almost stuck to your palate. The air is flowing between your tongue and palate.

But the tip of your tongue, that’s the key, is behind your lower front teeth.

Practice time!

You can start by practicing T – J. Or even better, L – J.

When saying L or T, our tongue touches the palate right before our upper front teeth, and when we say J our tongue is behind our lower front teeth.

The very same thing happens with Č and Ć.

Can you do that now?

All right? I think we’re there somewhere. If you need, stop the video for a moment and practice a little bit by yourself: č ć, č ć

And then come back, and start saying: ćevapčići.

And now I want you to practice saying this tongue twister: „Četiri čavčića na čunčiću čučeći cijuču.“

These are the weird Serbian C Ć Č sounds and letters that freak you all out before you learn them and actually know them. Now you can see it’s very easy to pronounce the Serbian C sounds!  

Now I dare you to make a video of your own saying the tongue twister!

Sometimes the Serbian C Ć Č sounds are tricky even for the Serbs! Especially for the children. That’s why we have the tongue twisters in the first place, to teach children how to pronounce these funny sounds.

“Čokanjčićem ću te, čokanjčićem ćeš me!”

One final tip about pronouncing the Serbian C Ć Č sounds

I hope that you’ve had fun and learned how to pronounce the Serbian C Ć Č sounds. Now I have a confession to make: make sure to distinguish C from Č and Ć. And the last two you can pronounce the same way you pronounce English or Spanish ch. Nobody will misunderstand you.

There’s a very small number of word pairs where this distinction in the sounds actually can make a difference in the meaning.

The truth is that many people from Croatia and Bosnia actually pronounce these two sounds (Č and Ć) exactly the same way, some even confuse them in writing.

There, I’ve said it.

Now if you’re learning to pronounce Serbian, focus more on getting right the vowel sounds. They can sure cause many misunderstandings. And to learn all the Serbian sounds and letters, enroll in the FREE introductory Serbian course at Serbonika.

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