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An Overview of the 10 Most Common Mistakes in Bulgarian

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There’s a Bulgarian saying that states:

  • Глупавият се учи от собствените си грешки, а умният – от грешките на другите! 
    Glupaviyat se uchi ot sobstvenite si greshki, a umniyat – ot greshkite na drugite!
    “The fool learns from his own mistakes, and the smart person learns from the mistakes of others!”

So why not become one of those smart people yourself? You can learn from the Bulgarian mistakes other learners have made, instead of repeating them and getting into some awkward situations.

BulgarianPod101 has prepared this detailed overview of the most common mistakes in the Bulgarian language, providing you with detailed explanations of rules, plenty of examples, and tips for avoiding these Bulgarian mistakes in your conversations with native speakers. This article will help you gain more confidence in your communication with Bulgarians!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Bulgarian Table of Contents
  1. Pronunciation Mistakes
  2. Vocabulary Word Mistakes
  3. Word Order Mistakes
  4. Grammar Mistakes
  5. Short and Long Definite Article
  6. Common Verb Tense Mistakes
  7. Semantic Mistakes
  8. Mistakes Involving Typical Bulgarian Expressions
  9. Embarrassing Mistakes
  10. Other Mistakes
  11. How BulgarianPod101 Can Help You

1. Pronunciation Mistakes

Here are some common pronunciation mistakes for Bulgarian-learners that you can start avoiding right now. Just study the following pronunciation rules:

Rule #1: The Bulgarian letter “P”

The Bulgarian letter “P” is always pronounced as a trilled English “R,” and never pronounced like the “R” in words like “far” or “father.”  

Bulgarians teach their children to pronounce this letter properly from an early age using this popular tongue-twister:

  • Рачо реже риба.
    Racho rezhe riba.
    “The crab is cutting the fish.”

Rule #2: Voiced and voiceless consonants in Bulgarian

In Bulgarian, each voiced consonant has a voiceless counterpart. There’s only one voiceless consonant that doesn’t have a voiced counterpart, which is the letter “Х.” Take a look at these voiced-voiceless pairs:

Voiced ConsonantsVoicelessConsonants
БП
ДТ
ГК
ВФ
ЖШ
ЗС
ДЗЦ
ДЖЧ
Х

It’s important to know them, because the voiced consonants are pronounced as voiceless when located at the end of a word. For example:

  • In the word нож (nosh), meaning “knife,” Ж is pronounced as Ш, as it becomes voiceless at the end of the word.
  • In the word град (grat), meaning “city,” Д is pronounced as Т, as it becomes voiceless at the end of the word.
  • In the word ръкав (rakaf), meaning “sleeve,” В is pronounced as Ф, as it becomes voiceless at the end of the word.

The so-called devoicing of the consonants in Bulgarian also occurs when there are two or three consonants bunched together and the final consonant is voiceless. This voiceless consonant makes all the others in the group sound voiceless, too. For example:

  • In the word дръжка (drashka), meaning “handle,” Ж is pronounced as Ш. This is because, in the pair ЖК, the final consonant is voiceless and assimilates the voiced consonant.
  • In the word градски (gratski), meaning “urban,” Д is pronounced as Т. This is because, in the cluster ДСК, the final consonant is voiceless and assimilates the voiced consonant Д.

Rule #3: Pronunciation of “A” at the end of a word

Another common Bulgarian error happens when foreigners try to pronounce the “A” sound at the end of a word. Remember that when a Bulgarian word ends in “A,” it’s pronounced like “Ъ,” unless it is a stressed syllable. For example:

  • In the word баба (baba), meaning “grandmother,” A is not pronounced like in the English word “father,” but more like the u in “ugly,” making the Bulgarian vowel Ъ.
  • In the word кокошка (kokoshka), meaning “hen,” A should be pronounced like the Bulgarian vowel Ъ.

But:

  • In the word баща (bashta), meaning “father,” A is pronounced like it is in the English word “father,” because the last A is stressed. However, the first A in this word is not stressed, and it will sound like Ъ.
  • In the word кола (kola), meaning “car,” A is pronounced like it is in the English word “father,” because the last A is stressed.

By mastering these Bulgarian pronunciation rules, you’ll really impress your Bulgarian interlocutor, as these are the niceties of the language that most Bulgarian-learners don’t know.

    → BulgarianPod101 offers you our Ultimate Bulgarian Pronunciation Guide, which can greatly help you improve your Bulgarian pronunciation and avoid some common Bulgarian pronunciation mistakes.

2. Vocabulary Word Mistakes

Paronyms in the Bulgarian language

There are many words in Bulgarian that are pronounced similarly to each other, but have different meanings. These words are called paronyms, and Bulgarian-learners must learn how to distinguish between them to avoid embarrassing situations. Here are a few examples of them:

  • жена (zhena) – “woman” vs. женя (zhenya) – “getting married”
  • коза (koza) – “goat” vs. коса (kosa) – “hair”
  • пица (pitsa) – “pizza” vs. птица (ptitsa) – “bird”
  • пипам (pipam) – “touch” vs. питам (pitam) – “ask” 

You might be able to imagine the confusion that might occur if you made the following compliment to a girl:

  • Каква красива коза имаш!
    Kakva krasiva koza imash!
    “What a beautiful goat you have!”

Instead of:

  • Каква красива коса имаш!
    Kakva krasiva kosa imash!
    “What beautiful hair you have!”
What a Beautiful Goat You Have!

Homonyms in the Bulgarian language

Another group of tricky words in Bulgarian are the homonyms, which are written and pronounced the same way, but have different meanings. Here are some examples for you:

  • син (sin) – “blue” vs. син (sin) – “son”
  • бал (bal) – “grades” vs. бал (bal) – “ball”
  • вила (vila) – “country house” vs. вила (vila) – “pitch-fork”

Usually, it’s easier to distinguish between these words in the context of a conversation. For example, if you meet someone who tells you:

  • Аз имам син и дъщеря.
    Az imam sin i dashterya.
    “I have a son and a daughter.”

It’s obvious that he isn’t talking about the color blue.

Further, if син (sin) is used as an adjective, it’s clear that it means “blue” and not a son. Here’s an example:

  • Моят панталон е син.
    Moyat pantalon e sin.
    “My pants are blue.”

3. Word Order Mistakes

Although Bulgarian word order is pretty flexible, there are some specific rules that should be followed when building Bulgarian sentences. Knowing these rules well will help you avoid some common mistakes in learning Bulgarian and enhance your communication with natives. These rules mainly have to do with the short form of the personal pronoun. Here are four rules with examples:

Rule #1: Never place the short form of the personal pronoun at the very beginning of the sentence.

Wrong:  Му е лошо. 
                Mu e losho.

Correct:  Лошо му е.
                 Losho mu e.
                 “He feels bad.”

Rule #2: When a sentence starts with a word other than a verb, the short form of the personal pronoun comes before the verb.

Wrong:     Какво боли те? 
                 Kakvo boli te?

Correct:  Какво те боли?
                 Какво те боли?
                 “Where do you feel the pain?”

Rule #3: When a sentence starts with a verb, the short form of the personal pronoun comes right after the verb.

Wrong:   Мe боли главата. 
                 Me boli glavata.

Correct:  Боли ме главата. 
                 Boli me glavata.
                 “I have a headache.”

There Are So Many Rules, That I’ve Got a Headache!

Rule #4: When a sentence is in the future tense, the short form of the personal pronoun comes right after “ще.”

Wrong:  Ще попитам го. 
                Shte popitam go.

Correct:  Ще го попитам.
                 Shte go popitam.
                 “I will ask him.”

4. Grammar Mistakes

There are a couple of things that Bulgarian-learners can keep in mind to easier understand and start applying grammar rules. Let’s examine them together to avoid the most common Bulgarian grammar mistakes.

English and Bulgarian cognates – nouns

Fortunately, Bulgarian and English have many cognates. These are words that sound similar in both languages because of their common etymological origin. Foreigners usually get used to these words faster than others. Such cognates include: fantasy, melody, concert, instrument, opera, theater, dramatic, and dynamic.

It’s easier to remember their Bulgarian form knowing that -Y in English turns into – ИЯ (ya) in Bulgarian.

  • “melody” – мелодия (melodiya)
  • “comedy” – комедия (komediya)
  • “history” – история (istoriya)

TRY IT YOURSELF

* Knowing this rule, try to make the Bulgarian forms of the following English words yourself:

  • fantasy 
  • agony

(The answers can be found at the end of this article.)

English and Bulgarian cognates – adjectives

Another rule to remember about cognates is related to adjectives. When the English adjective ends in – IC, its Bulgarian form most likely ends in -ЧЕН.

“academic – академичен (akademichen)
“dynamic” – динамичен (dinamichen)
“dramatic – драматичен (dramatichen)

TRY IT YOURSELF

* Knowing this rule, try to make the Bulgarian forms of the following English adjectives yourself:

  • fantastic
  • systematic
  • tragic

(The answers can be found at the end of this article.)

Bulgarian verb conjugation

To avoid many mistakes in Bulgarian grammar, learn Bulgarian verb conjugations and learn them well. Foreigners usually make these grammar mistakes because they aren’t familiar with Bulgarian verb conjugation. For example, they say:

Wrong:     Ние са от Америка.
                   Nie sa ot Amerika.

Instead of:

Correct:   Ние сме от Америка.
                   Nie sme ot Amerika.
                   “We are from America.”

Or:

Wrong:     Аз уморен.
                   Az umoren.

Instead of:

Correct:   Аз съм уморен.
                   Az sam umoren.
                   “I am tired.”

5. Short and Long Definite Articles

There is a definite article in Bulgarian that’s added to the end of a noun instead of before it. However, the masculine gender has two forms of definite articles: long (-ът, -ят) and short (-а, -я). The long form is used for a noun that’s the subject of a sentence, while the short form is used for nouns that are direct/indirect objects.

Foreigners often say:

Wrong: Жена седи на балкон. 
               Zhena sedi na balkon.

Following the English:
“A woman is sitting on a balcony.”

However, since жена in the sentence above is the subject of the sentence, the word should be given a long definite article, which is -та for feminine nouns. Since балкон is not a subject, but rather an indirect object, it should be given a short definite article.

Correct:   Жената седи на балкона.
                  Zhenata sedi na balkona.
                  “The woman sits on the balcony.”

Here’s another example:

Wrong:  Кораб отплава в 8 часа.
                Korab otplava v 8 chasa.

Correct:   Корабът отплава в 8 часа.
                  Korabat otplava v 8 chasa.
                  “The ship departed at 8:00 a.m.”

Кораб is the subject of the sentence, which is why it has to be used with a long definite article (-ът for masculine nouns).

The Rule for the Short and Long Definite Article in Bulgarian will Prevent Your Ship from Sinking!

6. Common Verb Tense Mistakes

A common mistake in Bulgarian involves using the incorrect verb tense, because foreigners often have trouble distinguishing between the past tenses. Take the past aorist tense, for example. Using an imperfective verb in a sentence indicates that an action has been made, but is not yet finished. 

  • Вчера писах едно писмо.
    Vchera pisah edno pismo.
    “I wrote a letter yesterday.”

However, if you use a perfective verb instead of imperfective, it implies that the action has been completed. 

  • Вчера написах едно писмо.
    Vchera napisah edno pismo.
    “I wrote a letter yesterday.”

This means that you wrote the entire letter yesterday.

A common verb tense error of Bulgarian-learners is to use present perfect in a sentence that actually requires the past aorist tense. For example:

Wrong: Вчера съм ходил на лекар.
               Vchera sam hodil na lekar.

Correct:   Вчера ходих на лекар.
                  Vchera hodih na lekar.
                  “I went to a doctor yesterday.”

The present perfect does not specify the exact time when the action took place in the past. Because the word вчера (vchera), meaning “yesterday,” implies that the action happened at a specific time, only the past aorist tense should be used.

TRY IT YOURSELF

* Knowing this rule, try to write the correct form of the following sentence, which is wrong:

Wrong: Миналата седмица съм бил на море.
               Minalata sedmitsa sam bil na more.
               “I was at sea last week.”

Correct:  

(The answer can be found at the end of this article.)

7. Semantic Mistakes

There are some Bulgarian words that share a common origin with a similar-sounding English word, but have a different meaning. For example, the Bulgarian word магазин (magazin) means “shop” rather than “magazine.”

So, it would be a mistake to say:

Wrong: Днес ще чета магазина.
               Dnes shte cheta magazina.
               “Today, I’m going to read the store.”

Correct:  Днес ще ходя до магазина за хляб.
                 Dnes shte hodya do magazina za hlyab.
                 “Today, I’m going to the store for bread.”

Or:

Correct:  Днес ще чета списание.
                 Dnes shte cheta spisanie.
                 “Today, I’m going to read a magazine.”

Another example is the Bulgarian word сок (sok), which in English doesn’t mean “sock,” but “juice.”

Correct:  Искам да пия сок от портокал.
                 Iskam da piya sok ot portokal.
                 “I want to drink orange juice.”

The commonly used English word “shop” in Bulgarian refers to a member of an ethnic group: шоп. So, pay attention when you use these words in Bulgarian.

Take a Cup of Fresh Juice while You Study the Bulgarian Word СОК!

8. Mistakes Involving Typical Bulgarian Expressions

Often, foreigners struggle to understand some of the typical Bulgarian expressions that are quite common in daily life. 

When someone tells you that you’ve “waded the onions,” which sounds like сгази лука (sgazi luka), this means that you have gotten yourself into trouble.

When someone wants to tell you that something will never happen, it will sound like когато ми цъфнат налъмите (kogato mi tsafnat nalamite), which is literally translated as “when my clogs blossom.” They may also opt to use: на кукуво лято (na kukuvo lyato), which is literally translated as “on a cuckoo’s summer.”

When someone “sends you to find green caviar,” or пращам те за зелен хайвер (prashtam te za zelen hayver), this means that he tries to trick you.

One more funny expression in Bulgarian culture is to say that someone is “naked water,” which in Bulgarian sounds like гола вода (gola voda). This means that the person is bad at something.

You Don’t Have to be гола вода Naked Water in Bulgarian Language!

9. Embarrassing Mistakes

When talking to Bulgarians, there’s another kind of mistake you need to avoid. This is a mistake that doesn’t necessarily involve semantics, grammar, or vocabulary, but may be considered offensive to native Bulgarians. 

For example, asking a Bulgarian when the language will adopt the Latin script instead of using the Russian alphabet could certainly be taken the wrong way. Bulgarians are very proud of their Cyrillic alphabet—which is not Russian, but was introduced to the First Bulgarian empire in the ninth century AD. Bulgarians celebrate the creation of their alphabet on a national holiday each year on May 24. 

Another embarrassing situation would be to mistake someone’s name. Be careful when you pronounce a person’s name, as this is the name by which the person identifies himself. Carefully listen to the proper pronunciation of your interlocutor’s name, and if needed, ask him to repeat it for you instead of saying it incorrectly. 

There are many names in Bulgarian that have a specific meaning, so be sure to pronounce the name correctly!

  • Аз съм Мирослава.
    Az sam Miroslava.
    “I am Miroslava.”

In Bulgarian, this name is composed of two words: мир (mir), which currently means “peacе,” but in ancient Bulgarian meant “world”; and слава (slava), which means “fame.” So the name Мирослава means “the world’s fame.”

If you get the name wrong, it might change its meaning. For example:

  • Здравей, Морислава.
    Zdravey, Morislava.
    “Hello, Morislava.”

In Bulgarian, the word мори means “to exterminate,” so the meaning of this beautiful Bulgarian name might turn into “exterminate the fame,” which could be quite embarrassing for both parties.

Is Your Name Miroslava or Morislava?

10. Other Mistakes

BulgarianPod101 has gathered for you a wide variety of Bulgarian mistakes, but here we’re going to review one more mistake, related to the politeness level. English-speakers find it difficult to distinguish between the different forms in Bulgarian. Here’s an overview:

When you speak to a family member, close friend, or a person younger than you, you can use the informal form “ти” along with a verb in the singular form: 

Informal:    Ти работиш ли?
                     Ti rabotish li?
                     “Do you work?”

When you speak to an elder person, a stranger, or your boss, you need to use the formal form “Вие” along with a verb in the plural form: 

Formal:   Вие работите ли?
                 Vie rabotite li?
                 “Do you work?”

TRY IT YOURSELF

* Knowing this rule, try to turn this formal question into an informal one:

Formal: Как се казвате?
               Kak se kazvate?
               “What is your name?”

Informal:  

(The answer can be found at the end of this article.)

11. How BulgarianPod101 Can Help You

BulgarianPod101 prepared this detailed overview of the ten most common mistakes in Bulgarian to help you overcome your language barriers, and to encourage you to start conversations with Bulgarians. The most important thing to remember is to never give up because of the mistakes you make. The more you practice, the better you will become. Be aware that every beginning is difficult. 

If you don’t feel confident in your ability to avoid all of these common Bulgarian mistakes by yourself, you can find personal guidance from our MyTeacher service. Your Bulgarian language teacher will guide you step-by-step through the speaking process and will help you build your confidence.

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this detailed article. We would appreciate your feedback about it! Please, let us know in the comments whether you found the exercises easy or difficult, and we’ll help you out the best we can. 

And now, it’s time to check your answers!

Answers to Section 4

“fantasy” – фантазия (fantaziya)
“agony” – агония (agoniya)

“fantastic” – фантастичен (fantastichen)
“systematic” – систематичен (sistematichen)
“tragic” –  трагичен (tragichen)

Answers to Section 6

Wrong: Миналата седмица съм бил на море.
               Minalata sedmitsa sam bil na more.
               “I was at sea last week.”

Correct:  Миналата седмица бях на море.
                Minalata sedmitsa biah na more.

Answers to Section 10

Formal: Как се казвате?
               Kak se kazvate?
               “What is your name?”

Informal:  Как се казваш?
                  Kak se kazvash?
                  “What is your name?”

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