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Serbian translations: What to look out for and their importance in Switzerland

Did you know that Serbs are the 9th biggest population in Switzerland?

Yes, that’s right! If you live in Switzerland, you probably cross paths with Serbian people sooner or later. And that’s exactly what makes the Serbian culture and language an integral part of Switzerland.

If you’re curious about the Serbian language and culture, then this blog is for you.

We’ll take a closer look at the Serbian community in Switzerland, their language, some basic Serbian phrases that could come in handy, and what to look out for in case you need Serbian translations.

How did Serbs come to Switzerland?

According to recent statistics, the number of Serbian people in Switzerland is 61,933.

The first Serbian migrants arrived in Switzerland at the beginning of the 20th century. The cause was the conclusion of a consular agreement between Switzerland and the Kingdom of Serbia. During the 1960s to 1970s, immigration increased noticeably with the demand for migrant workers in Switzerland.

Another significant wave of immigration from former Yugoslavia to Switzerland occurred during the 1990s and 2000s. This resulted from the Yugoslav Wars and family reunions of those who had immigrated during this period.

Is it Serbian, Bosnian or Montenegrin?

Serbian belongs to the South Slavic group of the Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family. Serbs speak essentially the same language as their neighbors, Croats, Bosnians, and Montenegrins, with slight differences in pronunciation and vocabulary.

This language is commonly called Serbo-Croatian. Today, depending on the speaker’s ethnicity, we can identify it as either Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, or Montenegrin.

But did you know that the differences between these languages do not affect their mutual comprehensibility? The dialectal differences within the languages themselves are what make things complicated.

What you should know about Serbian

There are around 6 million speakers of Serbian in Serbia. It’s one of the many languages spoken in Switzerland and contributes to the country’s multilingualism and multiculturalism. Besides Serbia and Switzerland, there are many Serbian speakers in Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Albania, and other countries. Around 7.4 million people worldwide use Serbian as their mother tongue.

Besides the Latin alphabet, Serbian also uses the Cyrillic alphabet. The orthodox missionary brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodius, developed the original version of the Cyrillic alphabet in the 9th century. Linguists such as Vuk Karadžić later reformed it in the 19th century. This reformation is why Serbian today has one of the most straightforward spelling systems in the world, where each sound has its own letter.

Serbian grammar, although similar to the grammar of other Slavic languages, might be confusing for speakers of other language groups. All Serbian nouns have a gender and a number. However, they also have 7 cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, vocative, instrumental and locative.

Below are some common phrases in Serbian:

Thank youHvala/Хвала
Excuse meIzvinite/Извините
You’re welcomeNema na čemu/Нема на чему

What makes Serbian so complicated?

One of the most complex aspects of the Serbian language is its dialects. There are three main ones, which are shared across Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian:

-the Shtokavian dialect

-the Chakavian dialect

-the Kajkavian dialect

These dialects got their names from the pronunciation of the word “what”.

Pronunciation of “what”shtochakaj

Although these dialects unite the three languages, they are also what distinguishes them from one another. The migration of different Slavic groups is the main reason for the vast array of different sub-dialects. This can sometimes complicate communication between the other language groups, but they’re usually mutually intelligible. The main differences between dialects are how things are called or described and, of course, the classic goodie: slurring or swallowing syllables or skipping entire middle words.

In turn, Shtokavian has three variants. The differences between these variants are not as significant as those between the three dialects. They are based on three different pronunciations of the letters that, over time, replaced the old Common Slavic long vowel [æ], also known as ‘jat’.

Common Slavic: dæca (children)

The basis
for standard Serbian
The dialect spoken
across the Serbo-Croatian language area
The basis
for standard Croatian,
but not common in Serbia

So, if you ever wondered why Serbians, Bosnians, and Croatians may not always understand one another perfectly, you now know why!

Choose your Serbian translations wisely

Serbian is a complex language. The diversity of its dialects, seven noun cases, and its usage of two alphabets are some of the things that set it apart from other languages.

Its complexity is what makes it challenging to translate. Here is where native translators can be of great help because they pay attention to accuracy, do their research, know their spelling, and can adapt the format to Serbian standards.

SwissGlobal is an ISO-certified LSP that works with native Serbian-speaking translators who are experts in their respective fields of translation. Our team also includes Serbian-speaking project managers who will help to ensure the highest quality standards for your Serbian translations.

Get in touch with us now for your Serbian translation needs.