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Serbian Language: Cyrillic vs. Latin Alphabet?

April 7, 2015
Country/Region:  Serbia
Category:  Did You Know?

Did you know that Serbian language uses both the Latin and the Cyrillic alphabet? You might wonder when it uses which and what does it depend on. Interestingly, it sometimes varies from case to case and is not obvious at all. A little guide on what to expect, based on my experiences in Belgrade, the capital city of Serbia.

Road Sign: Belgrade Written in Cyrillic and Latin
Road Sign: Belgrade Written in Cyrillic and Latin

1. Street names: When it comes to street names, all of them are written in Cyrillic, unless we’re talking about popular tourist spots. Using the public transport might be a bit tricky for tourists, because the destination and direction shown on trams and buses is mostly written in Cyrillic.

2. Books: When you go to a bookstore, 90% of the books are printed in Latin. School books and in addition many children’s books are written in Cyrillic. Children learn the Cyrillic alphabet in the first grade and continue with the Latin alphabet in the second grade of the primary school. Both alphabets are considered to be equal at Serbian schools: so for instance when the task is writing an essay for literature class, the students have a freedom to choose which alphabet they wish to use.

3. Stores: most of the names of stores and cafes are written is Cyrillic, but not all: it varies from case to case and depends on the owner. According to my observations most bakery names are written in Cyrillic.

4. Media: All newspapers and magazines apart from Politika – a political newspaper, as the name suggests- are written in Latin.

5. Official institutions: official documents are printed in Cyrillic only, since the Cyrillic became the official alphabet in 2006.

6. Internet: Interestingly, Cyrillic domains – ending with .srb- are in use since January 2012. Google and Facebook use Cyrillic exclusively when the language is set to Serbian, and this might greatly contribute to the revival of the Cyrillic alphabet among young people.

About the Author

Marta Ritecz-Sekulic

Marta Ritecz-Sekulic

Marta has obtained her Master’s degree in European Studies in Cracow, Poland. She adores writing and sharing her thoughts in general, as well as learning new languages and getting to know other cultures. She is mostly acquainted with Polish, Croatian, Hungarian and Serbian culture as she has lived in those countries. Marta currently works at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Hungary as a Desk Officer for Poland. She is the founder of The Cultural Spotter.