Learning to read in your target language is a great way to improve your pronunciation. When this requires learning a new writing system, this can be a challenge.
One might think that because Serbian and Russian both use Cyrillic, that their alphabets are the same. But this isn’t the case.
Cyrillic is a script, not necessarily just an alphabet, so it’s used for a variety of languages across Eurasia. While Slavic languages predominantly use the script, other non-Slavic languages also use it. These include Abkhaz, Aleut, Kazakh, Mongolian, Ossetic, some dialects of Romani, Ethiopian and Yupik.
Much like the Italian or Spanish alphabets differ from English, despite using the Latin script, the Serbian alphabet differs from the Russian alphabet.
Let’s take a look at how.
The Russian Alphabet
The Serbian Alphabet
Note that Serbian uses both Latin and Cyrillic alphabets. Which is used depends on the context and formality.
The sort order of the ćirilica (ћирилица) alphabet, called Azbuka (азбука) is: А Б В Г Д Ђ Е Ж З И Ј К Л Љ М Н Њ О П Р С Т Ћ У Ф Х Ц Ч Џ Ш
The sort order of the latinica (латиница) alphabet, called Abeceda (абецеда) is: A B C Č Ć D Dž Đ E F G H I J K L Lj M N Nj O P R S Š T U V Z Ž
Similarly, the Croatian alphabet also differs from the English alphabet.
The English Alphabet
|A, a||B, b||C, c||D, d||E, e||F, f||G, g||H, h||I, i||J, j||K, k||L, l||M, m|
|N, n||O, o||P, p||Q, q||R, r||S, s||T, t||U, u||V, v||W, w||X, x||Y, y||Z, z|
The Croatian Alphabet
A History of the Cyrillic Script in Serbia
The Serbian Cyrillic alphabet, or српска ћирилица/srpska ćirilica, in Serbian, was developed in 1818 by Serbian linguist Vuk Karadžić.Karadžić believed that one should “write as you speak and read as it is written” so he made it his mission to remove obsolete letters and add consonants specific to Serbian phonology. Around the same period, Croatian linguist Ljudevit Gaj adapted the Latin alphabet, using the same principles (the reason why one of the two names for the Croatian alphabet is gajica).
A History of the Latin Script in Croatia
In Croatia, the alphabet is either called abeceda or gajica. It’s a form of the Latin script that was devised by Ljudevit Gaj in 1835 using the Czech alphabet for reference. In comparison to the English alphabet, Croatian excludes the letters q, w, x and y, but it has several letters that the English alphabet does not.
Whether written in Cyrillic or Latin, the Serbian and Croatian alphabets each contain 30 letters.
A script does not equal an alphabet, so even when learning languages that use the same writing system, be sure to spend some time learning the letters that are and aren’t used. It’s also a useful way to go over pronunciation.
If you’d like a quick reference for either the Croatian or Serbian alphabets (or Russian), I’ve created a free PDF worksheet for you. You can access it using the button below.
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My name is Shannon Kennedy and I'm the language lover, traveler, and foodie behind Eurolinguiste. I'm also the Resident Polyglot at Drops and the Head Coach of the Fluent in 3 Months Challenge.