The Slavic languages form a main branch of the Indo-European languages. Around 300 million native speakers worldwide speak one of the approximately 20 Slavic languages, including Russian, Polish and Ukrainian. In linguistics, languages are usually divided into the main groups of East Slavic, West Slavic and South Slavic.
With around 300 million speakers, the Slavic language family is the third largest, just after the Germanic and Romance languages. The most widely spoken Slavic language is by far Russian. The modern Slavic languages are spoken mainly in Eastern and Central Europe, in parts of the Balkans and in Northern Asia. Both the Latin alphabet (e.g. Czech, Slovak and Polish) and the Cyrillic alphabet (e.g. Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian) are used.
Origin of the Slavic languages
In linguistics, it is assumed that the Slavic languages have their origins in Original Slavic, which is also called Proto-Slavic. East Slavic, West Slavic and South Slavic first evolved during the 1st century A.D. Later on, there were apparently further migrations that shaped the present diversity of languages.
The most important East Slavic languages
Russian: The Russian language is one of the 12 world languages. It is based on the Cyrillic alphabet and is therefore not so easy for Western Europeans to learn. The closest “relatives” are Belarusian and Ukrainian. Belarusian: Belarusian is spoken by more than 2 million people in Belarus, the second official language is Russian. Both languages are based on the Cyrillic alphabet and are relatively well understood among themselves. Ukrainian: The Ukrainian language is the official language of Ukraine and is spoken there as a mother tongue by around 32 million people. There are complex grammatical rules and some hard-to-pronounce words that challenge learners.
The most important West Slavic languages
Polish: Polish also belongs to the Slavic language family. The language is spoken by over 40 million people in Poland and worldwide. Although the Latin alphabet is used, Polish is still one of the most difficult European languages. Those who already speak a Slavic language have an advantage here. Slovak: Slovak is the official language in Slovakia and is spoken by 5 million people there. The language is also spoken in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Canada, Australia and the USA. Slovak is closely related to Czech, which is why these languages are often learned together. Czech: Czech is the main language in the Czech Republic and is spoken by over 10 million people there. Beyond the Czech Republic’s borders, another 3 million people speak the popular Slavic language. Czech is reasonably easy to learn because it uses the Latin alphabet. However, the Czech case system should not be underestimated.
The main South Slavic languages
Bulgarian: Today, the Bulgarian language is one of the oldest Slavic languages. As the official language of Bulgaria, it is spoken by all inhabitants but only by 85 per cent as their mother tongue. Bulgarian is based on the Cyrillic alphabet. Serbo-Croat: Serbo-Croat is the generic term for various languages that developed after the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, including Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian and Montenegrin. Most speakers, of which there are around 15 million in total, can communicate with each other but tend to reject the collective term of Serbo-Croat. Slovenian: Slovenian is one of the newer standard languages and is spoken by around 2.2 million people worldwide, but mainly in Slovenia. The language has many dialects, which makes it difficult for individual groups to understand each other. Slovenian has the most in common with the Croatian language.
Learning Slavic languages
Slavic languages vary greatly in terms of difficulty. In principle, those standard languages that are based on the Latin alphabet are easier to learn for German native speakers, including Czech, Slovak or Polish. If you want to communicate with as many people as possible, you should try Russian. From a grammatical point of view, Bulgarian is recommended because it does not contain grammatical cases. However, you should be willing to learn the Cyrillic alphabet.
FAQ: More questions about Slavic languages
Which Slavic languages are there?
There are around 20 Slavic languages, including some subgroups and dialects. The East Slavic languages include Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Russian and West Polish. West Slavic languages are Polish, Slovak and Czech. South Slavic languages include Bulgarian, Macedonian, Bosnian, Croatian, Molise Slavic, Montenegrin, Serbian, Slovenian and Resian.
Where does the Slavic language come from?
Science assumes that the Slavic languages developed from the original Slavic, which in turn descended from the original Indo-European languages.
What is the easiest Slavic language?
Bulgarian is often called the easiest Slavic language because there are no grammatical cases. The basic requirement, however, is learning the Cyrillic alphabet.
How does Russian differ from other Slavic languages?
Russian is based on the Cyrillic alphabet and thus differs from Latin-based languages such as Polish, Czech or Slovak. Those who speak Russian will understand many words of other Slavic languages.
What is Old Church Slavonic?
Old Church Slavonic or Old Slavonic is the name given to the oldest written Slavonic language used by Greek Orthodox Slavic peoples. The language was recorded in Cyrillic script.
This site is registered on wpml.org as a development site.