A useful article for all travelers. You will learn about the language in Montenegro, what language the locals speak (spoiler alert: in Montenegrin), and whether this language exists as an independent one. I will also offer tourist vocabulary and basic words. It will help in the market when buying souvenirs. The locals will be pleased, and maybe even you will get an additional discount.

Table of contents:

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alphabet in montenegro
Montenegrin alphabet in Cyrillic and Latin. Serbs have the same, only they use Cyrillic less often.

Language in Montenegro: general points

The answer to the question: What is the state and official language in Montenegro – is simple. The official language is the Montenegrin language, it is also specified in the country’s constitution of 2007.

The Montenegrin language is considered to be a very young language, it is only 15 years old. It began to be considered a separate language after the formation of the independent state of Montenegro in 2007. Read an interesting history of the country from the Romans to Yugoslavia at the link.

And here are the general points that you need to know about the Montenegrin language:

  • It is a South Slavic language, a dialect of the Serbo-Croatian language group. Sounds complicated, but in practice it’s simple:
  • There is the Serbian language, and it has dialects:
    • Croatian
    • Bosnian
    • Montenegrin

Interesting to know:

All these 4 languages are standardized and mutually intelligible languages.
montenegrin language
Map of Serbian and its official dialects. Countries where all residents understand Serbian.

This means that speaking any of these four languages, a native speaker of any of these four languages will understand you. But there is one detail: people often ask if the Montenegrin language exists as an independent language.

Does the Montenegrin language really exist?

And now the most interesting:

  • Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian have their own literary standards and spelling rules, which are slightly different for each language.
  • But the Montenegrin language does not have such standards. It completely repeats the literary rules of Serbian. Serbia and Montenegro are connected not only by language, but also by history, and national cuisine – it is almost identical.

Cherry on the Montenegrin language cake:

The last census in Montenegro was held in 2011. 4 years after Montenegro and the Montenegrin language became independent. Each resident of the country was asked the question: what language does he speak? More than half of the residents answered that in Serbian. Although the Serbs in Montenegro live less than 25%.
оfficial language in montenegro
Map of Montenegro and languages of its inhabitants (2011). Blue and light blue colors are regions where the inhabitants mainly speak Serbian. And areas where residents speak Montenegrin are highlighted in red and pink. Olive and beige are areas where predominantly Albanians live and speak Albanian.

Even today, discussions about the existence of the Montenegrin language do not stop. And there is a lot of controversy, even among experts, what language is the state language in Montenegro. If there is no difference from the Serbian language, why then call it Montenegrin?

There is an answer to this question as well: this is a good example of the fragmentation of national identity in Europe today. When historical united peoples and territories are today divided into smaller states. And having your own state language only adds points to independence from other countries.

Vocabulary for a tourist in Montenegro

If you are from a West Slavic country (Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland and others), then many words will be familiar and understandable to you. Montenegrin language is the language of the Slavic group.

  • Dobar Dan / Zdravo – do-BAR dan / ZDRAH-voh — Good Day / Hello
  • Hvala / Molim – HVAH-lah / MO-leem — Thank you / Please
  • Doviđenja / čao – doh-vee-JEH-nyah / CH-ow — Goodbye / ciao
  • Dobro / Da / Ne – DOH-broh / DA / NE — Good / yes / no
  • Izvini / Izvinite – EEZ-vee-nee / EEZ-vee-nee-teh — Excuse me / Sorry
  • Kako ste? – KAH-ko steh? — How are you?
  • Ne razumijem – neh rah-ZOO-mee-jem — I don’t understand
  • Koliko je košta? – KOH-lee-koh ye KOH-shta? — How much does it cost?
  • Račun – RAH-choon — Bill
  • Popust – PO-pust – Discount
what is the language in montenegro
If I don’t tell you in which country the photo was taken, you won’t even understand: Serbia, Croatia or Montenegro?

And now – a little practice:

  • You are asking for a discount in the market: Molim vas dajte mi popust
  • You need to ask for a bill in a restaurant: Račun molim

Below are two helpful articles on this topic:

Tourist Tips

As a person who has lived in Serbia and Montenegro, I do not distinguish between these languages. For me it is the same language, with the same pronunciation and spelling. The only difference is the alphabet. Serbs often use only Cyrillic, while Montenegrins more often use Latin.

To be honest, Montenegrin is the Serbian language that is spoken in Montenegro. It doesn’t even sound like a dialect. However, I am an expat and this language is not my native language.

National identity does not come immediately, especially in a country that is only 15 years old. And if in 2011 more than half of the inhabitants answered the question “what language is in Montenegro and what language is spoken here” that it was Serbian. Then in 2017 – only 42% said that it was in Serbian and already 39% that it was in Montenegrin, although earlier it was about 25%.

The formation of a nation is happening right before our eyes. I am sure that in the next census the number of people who believe that they speak the Montenegrin language will be more than 50%.

Good to know:

In general, the Montenegrins all speak English quite well. So you won’t get lost here. You can communicate in English with almost everyone.
montenegro language
Tourists from Western Slavic countries will understand everything without translation.

In conclusion: today the Montenegrin language is very similar to Serbian. Only the locals themselves can point out the differences. Montenegrins definitely need their own language, the presence of their own national language is a sign of a mature and independent nation. And everyone in Montenegro understands this.

Maybe after 10-20 years we will honestly say that Montenegro now has its own national language. But so far, no matter what anyone says it is in 99% Serbian.

Resources to help you plan your dream trip to Montenegro

  • Aviasales – Cheap Flights and best deals.
  • Car rental in Montenegro:
    • DiscoverCars – a large international platform.
    • LocalRent – works with local rental companies. Leader in car rental in Montenegro.
  • Hotels and apartments all over the country:
    • Hotellook compares the prices among dozens of other booking services and offer the best price
    • Booking – the most popular booking platform
    • Agoda – even more accommodation options in Montenegro
  • Tours, excursions and activities (including extreme ones):
    • GetYourGuide – more than 430 tours
    • Viator – 780+ excursions and activities throughout the country
  • Comprehensive travel insurance: EKTA
  • Internet and Calls:
  • Taxi and airport transfers: Intui.Travel