Balkan Languages - Flags

Balkan Languages - Flags

My relationship with The Balkans started almost a decade ago.  Like the language obsessed person that I am, I had grand plans to learn all of the languages spoken in the region.  I’m big into learning the languages spoken around me.  I simply need that connection to motivate me to learn a language to a decent level.  So, on a peninsular where the neighbours constantly disagree, I stick my fingers in my ears to the politics and carry on with my little Balkan language “hit list”.  After all there is good and bad in every country and every language is worth learning.

The dreaded list…

I’ve yet to meet a language freak, like me, without a “hit list” of languages to learn.  There will be those of you thinking “hit list”?  Yes, hit list is the best way to describe it.  It’s a list of languages the language enthusiast wants to study.  It usually is a huge, and often ever-growing, list of an almost impossible combination of world languages – a veritable Wikipedia list of the world’s tongues.

Keeping it real…

Some content themselves with a basic grasp of a number of languages, whilst others aim to reach a more advanced level.  Whatever you goal, whatever you reasons, staying focused and keeping it real is the key.  Luca is a shining example of a focused polyglot with realistic goals.  He picks his languages and puts in two years of study to reach a decent, working level before taking on a new one.

The key things to keep in mind:

  • Choose a language you feel passionate about learning
  • Choose a language you can use
  • Choose a language that has resources available to aid your learning

What about the small/minority/unusual languages? 

They are worth studying.  They do also require a lot more effort on your part to pick up and maintain as resources and opportunities to use them are often scarce.

The Languages of The Balkans

I can hold my own in the Slavic languages (Macedonian, Bulgarian, Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian) spoken in this region and I can get a point across in Greek, Albanian and Romanian too.  But what are the other languages spoken in my part of the world?

  • Roma
  • Turkish (and Gagauz)
  • Vlah (or Aromanian)

When I think about which language I would like to tackle I analyse the languages like this:


Pros: Indo-European and interesting.  I like the sound of it.

Cons: Would be difficult for me to use with Roma people – it would probably freak them out.  There are not many resources to really learn it – no courses at all on offer.  No media available to me in the language.  No work opportunities from learning it.


Pros: Indo-European and like Romanian, so shouldn’t be a big problem to pick up.  Can already communicate with Vlah if I speak Romanian and I can already read it.  There is a Vlah centre and they offer courses.  The community is open, so I could use it.

Cons:  Risk converting Romanian to Vlah and just have one language that’s less well understood.  No media available to me in the language.  Hard to spot a Vlah unless you know him/her and not all Vlah speak the language anyway.    No work opportunities from learning it.


Pros:  Have studied some Turkish before.  It is a beautiful language.  Turkish is widely spoken.  Many other Turkic languages are opened up to me too.  Excellent centre to study the language.  I have access to TV and newspapers in Turkish.  There are plenty of people to speak to in the city.    Macedonian and Albanian borrow a lot from Turkish vocabulary.  The language is always handy for work.

Cons:  Not Indo-European, so there is a bigger hill to climb to acquire a solid vocabulary.  The grammar is quite different to the Indo-European languages, so learning it will be a bigger mental adjustment.

Based on this type of rational evaluation, I decide which language to learn and to what level I need it.

Turkish it is then…

In my next post I will write about the steps I am taking to deepen my knowledge of the Turkish language over the coming months.  I hope you will enjoy following me on my journey. :)