I am often asked: “What language do they speak in Albania?” Well, they speak the authentic Albanian language here. Albanian language will greatly surprise you. In this article, I will tell you everything a tourist needs to know about the language in Albania.

Albanian language
In any cafe, everything is in Albanian, but sometimes also in English. It may seem intuitive, but do you understand the difference between “doner” in the last line and “doner” in the third line from the bottom? And what about “souvlaki” in the second and fourth lines from the bottom?

Albanian Language: General Aspects

The information in this article will surprise many. It surprised me at the time as well. You won’t learn Albanian for sure, you won’t even remember 10 words, I promise you that. But the surprises upon arriving in Albania will be much smaller. Below, in brief, are a few general points:

  • Official language in Albania is Albanian language.
  • Almost 100% of the population speaks it. There are almost no dialects or regional variations.

Next is a very interesting paradox, not only for the region but for the whole world.

  • The history of Albania spans over 2000 years. Throughout these two millennia, the country was conquered by the Romans, the Ottomans, and the Byzantines. Their influence can be seen in everything: architecture, religion, cuisine.
    • You might think, what about the language? Yes, but no.
  • We know that on the Balkans, people speak languages from the Slavic group everywhere. In Serbia and Croatia, most basic phrases are similar. For example, “dobar dan” means “hello” in Serbian or Croatian. Or “koliko to košta” means “how much does it cost.” And these are all neighbors of Albania.
    • But here, it’s completely different. The Albanian language is not at all similar to the languages of the former Yugoslav republics.
  • On the other side of Albania, there is Greece, which also has its own language, different from others. Albania could have borrowed many things from the Greek language. But again, no.

Interesting fact:

Just to mention, most travelers believe that Albania was part of Yugoslavia. But no, it never was.

What language is spoken in Albania?

As a result of everything mentioned above, the Albanian language has developed separately from other Balkan countries for the past 2,000 years. Today, we have a language that is unlike any European language. Listening to it, you won’t have any associations, and your ear won’t catch on to anything. It will be a meaningless collection of sounds.

Those who love traveling around Europe are already accustomed to basic phrases like “hello,” “goodbye,” “thank you” sounding familiar to our ears. Here are words that Europe understands: hello, hola, bonjour, merci, ciao, gracias, bye.

  • Rest assured that in Albania, you will face difficulties even with simple greetings like “hello” and “thank you.”
  • By the way, the Albanian alphabet consists of 36 letters, of which only 7 are vowels.
albania letters
That’s the entire Albanian alphabet. We already know most of the letters, which is not bad.

Double consonant letters in the Albanian alphabet, such as Ll and Rr, still surprise me to this day. For example:

  • Rruga – translates to “street”
  • Llogara – and this is the name of a mountain pass

What about the English language in Albania?

Here, it’s like everywhere else. Almost everyone who works with tourists knows English at a basic level to communicate and can manage with you using basic words in 80% of cases.

The situation is a bit different in the mountains rather than on the coast, where there are many tourists. English is almost unknown there. However, it doesn’t hinder traveling around the country. Albanians are very sociable, and you will easily communicate with them using gestures.

An interesting aspect:

Often, when you’re buying a “burek,” ice cream, or some small item on the street, and the vendor doesn’t speak English, and price tags are more of a luxury in Albania, they will hand you the coins and show you how much you need to pay. It’s important to always have small change with you. In the article provided, you can learn all about the currency in Albania.

Polyglots will have an easier time in Albania, and here’s why:

  • There are many Italians living in the country. Italy is very close, just across the sea. Many locals learn Italian at school because Italy is Albania’s main economic partner.
    • If you speak Italian, it will be much easier for you.
  • And if you also know Greek, you will feel at home in southern Albania.
    • Touristic towns like Ksamil, Himara, Dhermi, and Saranda historically have a Greek population.
    • Even signs, road signs, and menus often have Greek translations.
greek and albanian language
Road signs and indicators in southern Albania are duplicated in Greek as well.

Tourist Vocabulary

Albanians themselves are aware of how complex their language is and that tourists don’t know a word of Albanian.

I have prepared five basic words for you. If you remember them, especially the first two, you will receive extra attention and respect from the locals. You might even get an additional discount at the market. You can’t imagine the reaction of Albanians when they see that a tourist knows at least one word in their language. Read more about the markets in Albania here.

  • Good day – mirëdita (meer-uh-DEE-tuh).
    • To be honest, the word “hello” is more popular among them. They use it much more frequently. And “good day” specifically refers to the daytime, not evening or morning.
    • But “hello” in their language is such a complicated word that I don’t know any tourists who have managed to memorize it.
    • Just in case, here’s how you say “hello” in Albanian: përshëndetje.
  • You’ve learned greetings. The second most important word is “thank you” – faleminderit (fah-le-min-DEH-rit).
  • And three more words, let’s learn to count up to three. It will come in handy in cafes and restaurants when placing an order.
    • One – një. Pronounced as “nyuh” (very short and quick).
    • Two – dy. Pronounced as “dee” (it’s difficult to write, but the letter “y” in this word is pronounced as something in between “y” and “u,” and it’s also short. There’s no need to prolong this letter).
    • Three – tre (It’s straightforward, read it almost as you see it – “treh”).

Well, congratulations! Now you know five words in Albanian and can take a look at the menu from the restaurant in the photo below.

what language spoken in albania
Since you already know Albanian, try choosing a dish for dinner. Here’s a hint: it’s the page with main course.

Albanian Language: Travel Tips

  • If you don’t know Italian, or even, to my surprise, Greek, download an English-Albanian translator app on your phone in advance.
  • But in any case, you won’t get lost in Albania. Sign language is well-developed here. And the Albanian warmth and willingness to help tourists are in your favor.
  • Start learning at least “good day” and “thank you” now. Remember, it might come in handy during your trip, but I can’t guarantee it. It will definitely be of great help.

In conclusion, even though everyone in Albania speaks Albanian, a language that is challenging and unfamiliar to our ears, it doesn’t cause difficulties. On the contrary, it adds charm to your journey. Don’t forget that Albanians are very hospitable, but in moderation, not like Georgians. And the country itself is perfectly safe. Also, you’re far from being the first one who doesn’t know Albanian.

Faleminderit që lexuat udhëzuesin tim! (Thank you for reading my guide!)

Resources to help you plan your dream trip to Albania

  • Flights at the best prices with best discounts
  • Car rental in Albania (cheaper – only by bus):
    • DiscoverCars – a major international resource
    • LocalRent – the leader in the Albanian car rental market. Very low deposits, even in cash.
  • Hotels and apartments throughout the country:
    • Hotellook – compares prices among dozens of platforms and offer you the best one.
    • Booking – large online booking platform.
    • Agoda – even more accommodation options in Albania.
  • Tours, excursions and activities:
    • GetYourGuide – more than 550 tours
    • Viator – 920+ excursions and activities throughout the country
  • Comprehensive travel insurance: EKTA
  • Internet and Calls:
    • Airalo eSIM in Albania from $4.5
    • DRIMSIM – universal SIM card (or eSIM) in any country in the world.
  • Taxi and airport transfer: Intui.Travel