Girl Meets Bulgaria

Musings of an American expat in Bulgaria (with detours in Utah and Alaska)

Adventures in Bulgarian: Beginnings


I am embarrassed to admit it, but the last time I posted about my attempts to learn Bulgarian was in August of 2010.

It was my first month of blogging and I was hell bent on getting serious with my self-study of the language.

That gung-ho attitude lasted all of about 5 seconds.

(Typical Whitney, unfortunately)

Well, I don’t think I can put it off any longer.

In just 3 short months I’ll be back on a plane bound for Bulgaria. No more sitting on my butt hanging out with the hubs in our living room. This time around, we’ll be living in Sofia, working (him for sure, me hopefully), and doing a lot more socializing with friends.

I don’t want to be “that American girl” who doesn’t speak a lick of the language. Not anymore!

In August of 2010 I was simply dating a Bulgarian. Now, nearly two years later, I am married to a Bulgarian and living in Bulgaria. If that’s not enough reason to buckle down and learn the language, I don’t know what is!

I have to say, it’s more than a little shameful to admit to those who ask that I speak little to no Bulgarian. Even after three months living in the country (and with my Bulgarian-speaking in-laws, no less), I only know a few words and phrases. Granted, I understand a lot more than I give myself credit for, but I am nowhere near where I should be after being in a relationship with a Bulgarian for 4 years.

One of my “textbooks”… An activity book for 1st graders!

So, here I am. Starting over. Starting small.

My goal for July is to simply master the Cyrillic alphabet.

(Baby steps to learning Bulgarian…)

Learning my letters

It’s a daunting prospect in and of itself. I have memorized it many times in the past few years, but when it comes to recognizing the letters and their sounds, pssh…I stink!

I think a month is more than enough time to nail it down.If I’m feeling extra studious, I think I’ll throw in some small phrases and greetings. I have most of the colors down as well as the basic formal greetings. Now it’s just recalling them that I need to focus on!

I am surrounded by Bulgarians and hear the language spoken daily. It really shouldn’t be too hard to find someone to practice with. Ventsi and I also talk multiple times a day, so some over-the-phone coaching might be in order as well.

A section in my activity book. Reminded me of the wildlife up here in Alaska!

I’ll be posting on my progress regularly, so stay tuned.

Do any of you bilinguals/multilinguals out there have some advice or tips on how to approach learning a second language? Steps to effective self-study? Please share! 🙂



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10 thoughts on “Adventures in Bulgarian: Beginnings

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  4. Probably perserverance is the key! And definately do some every day. Languages are hard to build up without constant practice. My boyfriend has been sucessful in finding some methods for studying languages, but alas he is trying to learn French, so he can find programs and things like that easily.

  5. I found no better way of learning Norwegian than a really good class in Norway. I had made efforts to learn before I went, but my grammar and pronunciation were atrocious! After only a week or two of an intensive language course I could hold a basic conversation with Norwegians, so I guess my efforts must have helped with the background and helping me learn faster on the course, but having someone to really explain grammar made a big difference. But then maybe the husband can help with that 🙂

    Other than that, watching TV in the language but with English subtitles is great, watching English films with subtitles in Bulgarian might help too. Listening to a Bulgarian radio station even if you can’t understand a word is supposed to help with getting the sounds of the language into your subconscious, but maybe you have that from living there. You can get many radio stations over the internet or maybe YouTube. Try learning Bulgarian songs! That can be fun and help overcome pronunciation problems, if you have a CD to sing along to as well as a written copy of the words.

    As for the Cyrillic, try writing a diary in English but using Cyrillic script. Then a week later try reading it 🙂 I love alphabets and once learned the Cyrillic (plus several others) just for fun, though I’ve forgotten much of it. I do remember there was a letter for shch which I found bizarre, but I guess than must be a more common sound in Russian than English! Just keep at it and it will come eventually, good luck 🙂

  6. I just learnt 5 a day and within a week I was there! Try writing your friends’ names in Cyrillic (or go to McDonalds, where the menu is all english words in Cyrillic, like ‘pie’ written пай) so that you start to associate the letters with certain words -easier to remember.

    (And don’t let anyone show you handwritten Cyrillic for a few weeks after you’ve mastered the typewritten version – some of it is totally different!)

  7. Hi, so what are the Bulgarian Language books and where can I get a copy?

  8. I’m someone who always loved studying languages so I probably don’t have too many helpful tips on staying motivated. But hen you do get to Bulgaria, there are likely to be tv shows dubbed from the US–I actually found watching TV to be a great way to learn a language, if you’re watching a show like that where you sort of already know what’s going on. There are probably folks who would be happy to exchange say a half hour of Bulgarian for a half hour of English language practice as well. The difficulty is probably that so many people speak English well it’s hard not to be tempted to just lapse into English. It’s going to be one of those things where you’ll feel like you hit a wall, but suddenly you’ll have a great jump forward, and that story over and over again. I think people will be appreciative that you are trying to learn their language so don’t be shy–unfortunately you have to clod through a lot to learn but that’s the best way!

  9. Hi, I subscribed to your blog, because as a bulgarian it is interesting for me to see a foreigners point of view on our country and traditions… hope you don’t mind my voyeuring.
    As for your current endeavor – first of all GOOD LUCK!
    Secondly, I can give you a tip on what is the usual curriculum on a language course (at least the ones that I’ve attended). First of all you will need to learn the alphabet, of course. After being somewhat comfortable with the letters you may start on everyday phrases, numbers, colors, etc. Usually in one of the first lessons is the self-presentation, afterwards presentation of a third person. Then comes the basic description of places, directions etc. And after that you may start mastering the tenses and other grammar issues.
    Try to listen to people speaking bulgarian more often, so you can get used to the dynamics of the language, and soon enough you will start to understand what is the subject and memorize a lot of phrases.

    I hope this will be somewhat helpful. Other than that, good luck with your moving to Bulgaria 😉

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