If you're heading off to go walking, trekking or biking in Slovenia, why not learn a few phrases? Speaking any Slovenian at all – even to say thank you – will endear you to the locals and make the whole experience that much better.
The language of Slovenia
Slovenia is a small country with a tiny population; nobody bothers to learn their language. As a consequence, and because tourism is one of their major industries, everyone you’re likely to meet will speak excellent English. A standard response to the question, ‘Do you speak English?’ is, ‘A little,’ followed by a near-fluent conversation.
That said, it is always useful – not to mention polite – to learn a bit of the language of the country you’re visiting. As Slovenia has the decency to provide us with some truly beautiful bike rides, walks and treks, and some of the cheapest nights out in Europe, it’s the least we can do. Here, then, is a handy glossary, but first…
Some notes on pronunciation
Slovenian is a Slavic language coming from the same root as Russian, Polish or Czech, and at first sight it can appear daunting with its accented letters and alien words. But just as Slovenian also contains words with Latin roots to make us feel more at home, it is also surprisingly easy to learn to pronounce.
Without exception, letters and words are pronounced consistently, so once you have learned how to do it properly, it’s always the same.
As a general rule, letters in Slovenian are pronounced in the same way they are in English, with these notable exceptions:
|C||‘ts’ as in hats|
|Č||‘ch’ as in church|
|G||hard g as in goat|
|H||‘ch’ as in loch (we have no real equivalent in English but the Scots come closest; it’s a sort of half-growl at the back of the throat)|
|I||‘ee’ as in seen|
|J||‘y’ as in yellow|
|Š||‘sh’ as in shutter|
|V||‘f’ as in four|
|W||‘v’ as in victor|
|Ž||‘j’ as in Jack (again, we have no real equivalent in English; it’s actually closer to the French j as in Jacques)|
|AV||‘ow’ as in ow|
All letters are pronounced, so an e at the end of a word has a sound: for example, the word limonade is pronounced ‘lee-mo-na-deh’. Finally, it’s usually the penultimate syllable that is stressed, but if you’re getting that technical you’re probably already learning Slovenian.
|hello||dober dan||‘dobber dan’|
|thank you very much||hvala lepa||‘h-vah-la lay-pah’|
Food and drink
|bread||kruh||‘kruch’ (with the Scottish ‘ch’)|
|coffee (an espresso)||…kava||‘car-vah’|
|…with milk||z mlekom||‘z m-lek-om’|
|with cream||s smetano||‘s smet-ah-no’|
Other useful words for mountain bikers
Fancy going mountain biking in Slovenia?
This is an extract from Rob Houghton's guidebook to Mountain Biking in Slovenia, out now.