Language Guide

Language Guide

Slovenian, the national language, is spoken as mother tongue by 91% of the population, but there are also small Italian (concentrated on the Primorska coast) and somewhat bigger Hungarian (in Prekmurje to the northeast) minorities. Historically, and prior to the end of WWII there was also a significant German speaking minority. Conversely, Slovenian is spoken in border regions of neighboring countries.

The level of spoken English is very high when compared to most European countries. Most people you come into contact with as a tourist, especially younger ones, will speak English. Many Slovenians have some functional knowledge of German, in particular in Eastern Slovenia, and of Italian in the coastal region where Italian is a co-official language. Serbo-Croatian is very closely related to Slovenian and widely spoken by those above 30 and at least understood by younger people. Communication in other Slavic languages, while possible, will require some more effort and hand waving.

The Slovenian school system heavily promotes the teaching of foreign languages from primary school onwards. Children study two foreign languages (most commonly English and German) by the time they get to grammar school. A typical grammar school often teaches an optional third foreign language, Spanish, Italian, or French. While the youngsters speak English quite fluently, older people are more skilled in Serbo-Croatian, German and Russian, and can read cyrillic.

However, learning a few words of the local language will earn you a great deal of respect and some friendly smiles.

Remember, when speaking in English, use simple language, as anywhere where English is not a native language. It will get you further and help to avoid any misunderstandings.


Useful Slovenian phrases

The table below provides a number of useful Slovenian expressions, courtesy of Omniglot – the guide to languages. Click on the Slovenian words to hear the pronunciation.