Main street Sarajevo

Slav It Up! : Bosnian Phrases You Should Learn before Your Trip

Want to learn a bit of Bosnian before your trip? Here's a great place to start.

Photo of undefined

Elma Murić

4. October 2017

Many Bosnians speak some English, mostly due to the fact that, along with German, this language is usually being taught as one of the mandatory courses in elementary and high schools. Also, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, American movies and TV shows are subtitled, not voice synchronized, so many people learn the language this way.

Although this may be common within younger population, especially in bigger cities, but not so accurate if you are going 'deeper' into the countryside or small towns that are not used to tourists and visitors.

Also, many people are not comfortable to communicate in English, so if you're staying longer in the country or traveling outside the cities, maybe you should learn few basic phrases in Bosnian language.

The Bosnian language: General info and pronunciation of specific letters

Bosnian is a South Slavic language, and as other languages from this family, it's very phonetic – meaning that one letter represents one sound. For instance, letter A is pronounced as /a/ such as in the word car, and letter nj is pronounced as /ɲ/ like in word onion.

As it's not easy to explain this via written examples, check this video to see how to pronounce the letters and certain words in Bosnian! 

Many words used in today's Bosnian language are words taken (and adapted) from German, Hungarian, Turkish and Arabic due to the mutual history and centuries long mixing of cultures in the Balkans.  In the streets of Sarajevo and other Bosnian cities you can often hear older people greeting with merhaba (which means hello in Turkish).

Also, don't be surprised to hear word ciao (Italian for hello and/or goodbye) everywhere, as it's a common unofficial greeting among younger Bosnians.

Useful phrases in Bosnian language

Every traveler should try to learn some words and phrases in the language of the foreign country they’re visiting. Locals will appreciate your effort even if it’s only ‘good day’ or ‘goodbye’ and you will learn something you’ve never known before which is one of the best things about traveling.

When it comes to Bosnian language, the most important is to learn how to pronounce the words because in the other way, the real meaning of the word will be, let’s say, completely ‘lost in pronunciation’! Without right way of saying it, there is no much use in knowing it, so we will here try to make this task as easier as possible. 

These are some of the phrases in Bosnian you could learn before your trip:

Hello - Zdravo (zdrah-voh)

Good morning - Dobro jutro (doh-broh you-troh)

Good day/afternoon - Dobar dan (doh-bahr dahn)

Good evening - Dobro veče (doh-broh vech-eh), with ch like in church

Good night - Laku noć (Lah-ku noch), with c like in ciao

Thank you - Hvala (hvah-lah)

You're welcome - Nema na čemu (neh-mah na cheh-moo)

Yes - Da (dah)

No - Ne (neh)

Excuse me (or sorry) - Izvinite (eez-vee-nee-the)

Please - Molim (moh-leem)

How are you? - Kako ste? (formal), (KAH-koh steh) or Kako si? (informal) (KAH-koh see)

What is your name? - Kako se zovete? (formal) (kah-koh seh zoh-veh-teh), or Kako se zoveš? (informal) (kah-koh seh zoh-vehsh)

My name is... - Zovem se...  (zoh-vehm seh...) or I am... - Ja sam... (yah sahm...)

Nice to meet you - Drago mi je (drah-goh mee yeh)

Do you speak English? - Govorite li engleski? (goh-voh-ree-teh lee ehn-glehs-kee)

I don't understand - Ne razumijem (neh rah-zoo-me-yehm)

I can't speak Bosnian - Ne govorim bosanski (neh goh-voh-reem boh-sahns-kee)

It's an emergency - Hitno je (Heet-noh yeh)

I need your help - Treba mi vaša pomoć (treh-bah mee vash-ah poh-mohch)

I need a doctor - Treba mi doktor (treh-bah mee dohk-tohr)

I need a phone - Treba mi telefon (treh-bah mee teh-leh-fohn)

For more common phrases, check this Bosnian phrasebook on WikiTravel website, and for the correct pronunciation of certain phrases, we recommend this video that we found to be quite practical.

And finally, vidimo se u Bosni i Hercegovini!