While Serbian for foreigners is not the easiest language in the world, it’s not impossible to learn. Moreover, once you’ve learned the basics, Serbian will grow on you. In fact, it may even become ‘yummy’. Keep reading to find out why.
We hear this story often from our foreign students: they come to Serbia, enrol in a Serbian for foreigners course, where the teachers clobber them with grammar, overwhelm them with cases, and they end up giving up Serbian for good… Until they enrol at Queen Victoria Education. Here, we greet students with a big warm Serbian welcome and a natural learning concept focusing on conversation and functional language.
Students ask: “What is functional language?” It is a combination of common words and expressions which allows you to communicate in real-life situations, and is an ideal way to familiarize yourselves with both the cultural and linguistic aspects of the Serbian language. Great! I can’t wait! Count me in, let’s begin!
And what are the simplest, real joys of life to be shared with locals?
Food, naturally, is the first that comes to mind. For the purpose of this article, we conducted a research on what foreigners like the most about Serbia, and 95% chose food, while for the remaining 5% food comes second. It’s no wonder: Serbian people love to eat, talk about eating, cook, bake, fry, and smother others with food.
So how about we teach you some food vocabulary that would come in handy next time you feel peckish?
Ajvar – If you come across domaći ajvar (homemade ajvar), you have hit the jackpot! That means that this wonderful treat, a veritable national treasure, was prepared by a skillful grandma following her secret recipe. This cross between caviar and pâté, is made of pureed red peppers, is used as a spread or as a salad. It goes great with meat, pasta, and everything else.
Čvarci – also nicknamed “piggy bonbons” these crispy cracklings come in two varieties: basic and tobacco (due to their resemblance to dried tobacco), while in some parts of Serbia one might find a healthier version of piggy bonbons made of mangulica. If you can’t have a day without tobacco, opt for tobacco čvarci.
Don’t forget these two Serbian gastronomic gems: gibanica and proja. Gibanica (aka giba) is a form of pie made of filo dough, cottage cheese and eggs, while proja is made of corn flour, cottage cheese and eggs, (and secret ingredients of course.)
Both can be served as an entrée, or it can be a great base to place your ajvar spread sprinkled with some čvarci – a true Serbian canapé. But something is missing…
Meso (meat). That’s right. We are proud of our slanina, kobasica, peglana kobasica, švargla, kulen, sudžuk, pršuta, pečenica…. Pure ingenuity in terms of both flavor and product naming.
So what do we have so far? Ajvar + čvarci + proja + meso = meze or iće (as in a phrase “nešto za iće i piće” meaning “to have something to eat and drink”), or “nešto za na zub” (to have a small bite, in the sense of having a snack).
Meze is just an appetizer, followed by čorba, roštilj (i.e. ćevapčići – a word we like to hear pronounced by foreigners simply because it makes us laugh to be honest).
You can test this basic vocabulary kit immediately in any kafana when you decide to take a small break from sightseeing.
As you can see, it’s true that Serbian is not a piece of cake (don’t get me started on deserts), but it’s tasty. And if you want to meet people, find out how to interact with locals, practice the language and learn how to make a typical Serbian dish, you my friend, are in for a treat.
Join us for our Serbian Language and Food Workshop and have a taste of it all!
by Bojana Jovanovic
Serbian Language and Food Workshop
- Venue: Queen Victoria Education
- Time: Weekends at 11 AM
- Duration 3 hours
- Number of people per workshop: max 8