One of Europe’s emerging languages for communication, Bulgarian is quickly becoming a more powerful tongue. In 2007, together with Romanian and Irish, it joined 20 other EU working languages to be accepted by the community formally. Roughly nine million speakers around the world peak Bulgarian language
consider it a native tongue and that number is still on the rise. A member of the Indo-European family, it is a highly used mother tongue by the Balkans and classified under the Eastern South Slavic family. The total number of speakers worldwide is currently about 13 million people.
Outside of the emigrant communities that speak it in countries like Spain, Germany, Canada and the US, the language does not have much of a presence beyond the Balkan States that use it such as Macedonia, Turkey and Albania. Also, because the popularity of English continues to grow in many communities around the capital city, Sofia, most people feel there is not much need to learn the language even when relocating to the country as expats. However, Bulgarian has a close connection to Russian and since most Russian speakers can communicate in it, having it at your disposal could come in handy.
It also shares many similarities with Macedonian, and is considered to have mutual intelligibility to varying degrees with Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian and Slovenian. Many words in the language have been borrowed from Turkish, Greek, French, Latin, Russian, German and Italian among others. Bulgarian is written using the Cyrillic script, which was developed from the Early version created in the First Empire of Bulgaria. Cyrillic is an accepted script for the EU’s procedural use, and is the national script used in different languages across several European countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine.
Bulgarian History and Dialects
Bulgarian has had an extensive development historically, since it was the first from the Slavic languages to develop a writing system that was documented. From the outdated version of the common tongue that was used in the primitive era, it evolved to Old Church Slavonic then in the 12th century, to what came to be known as Middle Bulgarian. Its present-day version that is accepted as the modern form dates back to the 16th century though the written version was standardized around the 19th century.
As far as dialect grouping goes, it is largely split into two main ones: The Eastern dialect group, which is considered a softer speech version, and the Western dialect group, which is considered hard speech. In literature (books and newspapers inclusive), most of the writing is based on Eastern dialects but both are understood by most as few variations exist in meanings or construction.
At a glance here are some other interesting facts about this language and those who speak it:
- When visiting Bulgaria or conversing in Bulgarian, gestures could be confusing to those who are unfamiliar. Shaking your head is used to signal “yes” and nodding typically means “no”. This is the reverse of the common use of these body motions.
- Famous native speakers include actress and model, Nina Dobrev, late poet Ivan Vazov and novelist, Michael Arlen.