Is it difficult to learn Slovenian?

Slovenian, or the Slovene language, is part of the group of South Slavic languages. So, if you want to learn Slovenian and already speak a Slavic language, you will most likely find the language easier to acquire than someone how has no experience with the language family. Another player is previous experience learning languages. Generally, polygots have developed a process for picking up a new language, consciously or unconsciously which makes adding further languages to their tally easier.

In short, on a subjective scale of language learning difficult, I rank Slovenian as pretty difficult, 7 out of 10 on my imaginary scale.

Reasons it can be challenging to learn Slovenian

The Slovene language has some features uncommon to most other languages. These are cases and the grammatical number dual.

Cracking the ‘Cases’

In Slovenian there are six cases. This means noun endings change, usually depending on the preceding preposition. Russian is an example of another language which features cases.

Here is an example of all six cases, and the three grammatical numbers, for the word ‘frog’.

Case Singular Dual Plural
1st žaba žabi žabe
2nd žabe žab žab
3rd žabi žabama žabam
4th žabo žabi žabe
5th pri žabi pri žabah pri žabah
6th z žabo z žabama z žabami

That is 18 variations for 1 noun, which, especially for an English speaker completely unfamiliar which the concept of cases, is intimidating.

Frog with sunglasses ready to learn Slovenian

Image Credit: Bill Collins

Singular, Plural, Dual

In addition to singular and plural, Slovenian uses the grammatical number dual. This can be explained as follows.

Grammatical Number Use
Singular Used for one person
Dual Used for two people; both male, both female, or male and female
Plural Used for more than two people

I would be interested in hearing thoughts from native speakers and anyone trying to learn Slovenian, or who has already learnt the language. What was your experience like, what approach did you take, and how difficult a language do you think it is to learn?

The content for this post is created using samples from our self-study program Learn Slovenian Online.

Published on April 14, 2013