You have just landed in Bulgaria for a few months or for life and you have challenged yourself : to learn Bulgarian. Bravo ! We give you some tips not to jump from your balcony after a week of learning.
Bravo ! Leaving home always brings a lot of good things. So, first of all, flatter yourself, you are a conqueror by deciding to leave your country to settle in Bulgaria (« the poorest country of E.U » for all the Medias of this planet…). Moreover, you have decided to learn Bulgarian, one of the most complex languages in the world while almost all Bulgarians speak English or even your mother tongue. Big challenge. For us, Bulgaria is an interesting country but also a real promising one, full of potential. Learn Bulgarian can be a good thing. Here are some ideas and tips if you do not want to do the classic formula, ie take traditional classes.
1. Keep in Mind that Bulgarian is one of the most difficult languages in the World
Of course, it depends of people, but keep in mind that it can take some years to be perfectly fluent in Bulgarian. Bulgarian is known as one of the most difficult languages in the World (category 4), knowing that Japanese is in the most complex category (5). Learning Bulgarian is estimated to 44 weeks (1100 hours). So do not be frustrated if after a few months only, your family asks you, as if it is obvious : « Do you speak Bulgarian now ? » because probably you won’t speak, or not as well as you want. It will take time but the main is to start and to be regular.
2. Start to learn Bulgarian Cyrillic Alphabet and basic polite expressions
Before leaving or once in Bulgaria, start by learning perfectly the Bulgarian Cyrillic alphabet available on internet. Courage, there are only 30 characters. But when the B is pronounced V or the H, N… at the beginning, it’s a bit of Chinese. Settle in a quiet place, breathe once, and stay relaxed and focused. Repeated the cyrillic alphabet in loop for 2 hours. Then, train yourself to read sentences in Bulgarian. It is the easiest part of the process. This will at least allow you to order a menu in a restaurant or read the names of the streets and it’s already cool. More about the History of the Bulgarian Cyrillic Alphabet.
Then, to learn the basic words will be a good start : « Hello » (Здравей), « Have a nice day » (Добър ден), « How are you ? » (как си), « Thank you » (благодаря), « Please » (моля те), « I do not speak Bulgarian » (Не говоря български)….
3. Fall in love with a Bulgarian (only if you can)
It can help a lot. And it’s proven, Love is the driving force of any action. Most foreigners living in Bulgaria perfectly fluent in Bulgarian are(were) often in a relationship with a Bulgarian. If it is your case, force yourself not to speak English or even your mother tongue with him(her). Good at first, to get to know each other, English may be more effective. But gradually, start speaking Bulgarian together every day. You will progress 10 times faster. If you already are in couple with a non-Bulgarian, just take a « любовник » or a « любовница ». Just kidding !
4. Watch – listen and read daily news in Bulgarian
With a dictionary, by writing down some words to start learning them. Give yourself one hour every day and be regular – the key to success. In addition, it will allow you to follow Bulgarian news, very trendy right now.
5. Follow a suggestopedia session
Learn Bulgarian is not easy. It is our experience, we did not want to follow traditional classes. So, in November 2016 and during 6 weeks (approximately 90 hours, with 3 hours per day), we attended a session of suggestopedia to learn the basics of Bulgarian in a very nice and relaxed atmosphere. This lessons are very helpful if you want to make a first idea about Bulgarian without learn through a traditional and boring method. Thanks to the suggestopedia method, participants are introduced to more than 2,500 words – most commonly used in the daily life in an easy and calm atmosphere with music, role play, art, and tender love for the human being.
Know more about the Suggestopedia center in Sofia. The group sessions can be followed on the morning or at the end of the day after work.
6. Organize or participate in meet-ups in Bulgarian
It’s definitely a nice way to meet new people from everywhere with sometime the same goal as you, learn Bulgarian making new friends. If there are not lot of public events or meet ups to improve your Bulgarian, it is also definitely easy to create one and attract people to participate with the community website www.meetup.com. Not need to be full, with 3 or 4 people (2 Bulgarians and 2 foreigners) it will be fine and more efficient for you. The Facebook community Foreigners in Sofia & Friends in Sofia is also very active with more than 16 000 people both Bulgarian and international. By joining it, you can probably find Bulgarian people with whose to organize discussion sessions and foreigners eager to learn or perfect their Bulgarian. Bulgarian are very open for that.
Some other very active communities can be usefull if you stay in Plovdiv with for example Expat in Plovdiv.
In Varna, the monthly event « Cafe Polyglot » organized by Francophone Center in Varna, gathers the time of a glass expatriates and many Bulgarians open to discuss in their language.
7. Avoid expats
Because it is well known, you will speak with them your natal language. Personally, we’ve never seen a group of French speaking Bulgarian with each others … It’s even the kind while two or three people in the group are Bulgarian and do not speak French. If this can motivate you, think at least of them who do not understand anything about what you are saying. In addition you would do them the honor to speak their language and they will help you naturally to progress. The best is definitely to choose only events where you will have to speak Bulgarian. Then, absolutely refuse to speak English or even your native language with a Bulgarian who probably speaks different languages.
8. Drink a lot of rakia …
For sure, you will be fluent in Bulgarian for a few hours and it’s already good. And never mind if no one understands you. Probably the best way to learn Bulgarian 🙂 !
Good luck and stay motivated.
Marie, your blog is wonderful and funny. You have a great sense of humour and you write really well.
I have to say that I do not agree with some of the things that you have written about learning Bulgarian. It is really quite an easy language, once you get over the shock of the Cyrillic alphabet. My wife is Russian, so it was not quite so hard for me, but maybe it will be tougher for some people. In my blog, « Bulgaria with noodles », I compare learning Bulgarian with learning Mandarin (Chinese) and of course Bulgarian is much easier. It has been estimated that there are something like 40,000 different, separate characters in Mandarin, whereas there are only 30 letters in the Cyrillic alphabet. (Well, to be honest, most Chinese people know only 4,000 – 5,000 characters, but that is still much, much more difficult!
The capacity to learn a language depends of people and their motivation. Because lot of Bulgarian people speak English, I was not really motivated to learn Bulgarian, probably for this reason I though that it was difficult. But sure, when you compare with English it is difficult, but when you compare with Chinese, it is easy. Good luck for your blog !