Languages of Slovenia

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Languages of Slovenia
Materni jezik v sloveniji.png
Most spoken languages in Slovenia (Census 2002)
Official Slovene [note 1]
Minority Hungarian, Italian, [note 1] Romani, Croatian, Serbian, German [1] [2]
Immigrant Croatian, Serbian, Romani
Foreign Croatian, Serbian, English, German, Italian
Signed Slovenian Sign Language
Keyboard layout
Slovene QWERTZ
KB Slovene.svg

Slovenia has been a meeting area of the Slavic, Germanic, Romance, and Uralic linguistic and cultural regions, [3] [4] [5] which makes it the most complex meeting point of languages in Europe. [6] The official and national language of Slovenia is Slovene, which is spoken by a large majority of the population. It is also known, in English, as Slovenian. Two minority languages, namely Hungarian and Italian, are recognised as co-official languages and accordingly protected in their residential municipalities. [7] Other significant languages are Croatian and its variants and Serbian, spoken by most immigrants from other countries of former Yugoslavia and their descendants. Slovenia is ranked among the top European countries regarding the knowledge of foreign languages. The most often taught foreign languages are English and German, followed by Italian, French, and Spanish. [8]


The population of Slovenia has become more diverse in regard to its language through recent decades but is still relatively homogenous — Slovene was in 2002 the first language of 87.8% of the inhabitants. [8] [9] It was followed by Croatian (2.8%), Serbian (1.6%) and Serbo-Croatian (1.6%). Italian and Hungarian language, protected by the Constitution of Slovenia, had lower numbers of native speakers. [9] [10]


Areas where Slovene is spoken Slovenian language map.png
Areas where Slovene is spoken

In its Article 11, the Constitution of Slovenia stipulates that Slovene is to be the sole official and national language throughout the country. The Public Use of the Slovene Language Act of 2004 [11] further defines the legal status of Slovene, by mandating that national and local authorities are compelled to use it in communication and legislation. As a national language, it is used on the obverse side of Slovenian euro coins, in the Slovenian national anthem, by The Slovenian President, and uniquely represents Slovene culture on the international stage.

Television and radio broadcasts, newspapers, commercials, user manuals, and other printed or broadcast material must be in Slovene. Usage of material in another language is permitted, if it is accordingly subtitled, dubbed or translated. Publishing or broadcasting untranslated material, as well as selling goods without instructions and declaration in Slovene, is punishable and banned by law. Also, names of corporations and trademarks registered in Slovenia must be in Slovene; however, they may be used along with the translated name in another language if its aimed at foreign markets.

Slovene is the language of instruction at all levels of schooling, from primary to tertiary education. There is an international high school in Ljubljana with English as the language of instruction, but it admits only students from foreign diplomats and Slovenes who had been schooled abroad for several years. Undergraduate courses are run in Slovene, therefore applicants from foreign countries must prove an adequate level of knowledge of Slovene to be eligible to enroll. Graduate courses for foreign exchange students are offered in English, as well.

The Centre for Slovene as a Second/Foreign Language [12] encourages the learning of Slovene as foreign language, offers different courses in Slovene, and grants certificates of language proficiency. One may sit for the Slovene Language Exam at three levels: Basic, Intermediate and Advanced. After having passed the exam, the applicant receives the certificate of knowledge of the Slovene language, issued by the Faculty of Arts of University of Ljubljana, which is valid throughout the European Union, and makes the holder eligible to apply to any school or university in Slovenia.

With the accession of Slovenia to the European Union on May 1, 2004, Slovene became an official language of the European Union, requiring that all Acts and Directives be translated into Slovene. Additionally, Slovenian citizens may write to any EU institution in Slovene and expect a response in the same language.


Slovene is divided into seven regional dialectal groups, further subdivided into local dialects. Mutual comprehension between certain dialects is limited. [13]

Prekmurje Slovene

This is the only Slovene dialect that has ever been attempted to be declared an official language in the Prekmurje region.[ clarification needed ] [14] It has a limited standardized written form, [15] has been used in the liturgy, [16] [17] and has been used in modern literature, music, television and film. [18] [19]

Languages of the minorities and ex-Yugoslav languages


Bilingual Slovene-Italian sign in Piran. Piran - bilingual signs! (1621587289).jpg
Bilingual Slovene-Italian sign in Piran.

Italian is officially recognised as the mother tongue of the protected Italian minority and co-official language in Slovenian Istria near the Slovenian-Italian border and at the Slovenian coastline. Public usage of Italian is permitted and protected by minority protection laws. Members of the Italian minority are entitled to primary and secondary education in their native language, as well as to radio and television programmes in Italian, and to communicating in Italian with the authorities.

Italian is co-official with Slovene in 25 settlements in 4 municipalities (all of them officially bilingual):


Hungarian is officially recognised as the mother tongue of protected Hungarian minority in Prekmurje region near the Slovenian-Hungarian border. Public usage of Hungarian is permitted and protected by minority protection laws. Members of Hungarian minority are entitled to primary and secondary education in their native language, as well to radio and occasional television broadcast in Hungarian, and to communicating in Hungarian with the authorities.

Hungarian is co-official with Slovene in 30 settlements in 5 municipalities (whereof 3 are officially bilingual):

South Slavic languages and Albanian

A significant number of Slovenian population speak a variant of Croatian and Serbian as their native language. These are mostly immigrants who moved to Slovenia from other former Yugoslav republics from the 1960s to the late 1980s, and their descendants. 0.4% of the Slovenian population declared themselves as native speakers of Albanian and 0.2% as native speakers of Macedonian in 2002. [20]

There is a small Croatian speaking community in White Carniola, whose existence predates Yugoslavia. In four villages (Miliči, Bojanci, Marindol and Paunoviči), people speak the Eastern Herzegovinian dialect, with a strong influence of Slovene. People living there are mainly Serbian Orthodox and descendants of Serbian Uskoks, guerilla warriors against Ottoman invasions. [21]


Romani, [22] spoken in 2002 as the native language by 0.2% of people, is a legally protected language in Slovenia. These people mainly belong to the geographically dispersed and marginalized Roma community. [23]


German and Bavarian dialects have been autochthonous since present-day Slovenia came under the rule of Bavaria in the 8th century. Whereas many immigrants from German-speaking areas adopted Slovene over the centuries, others retained their language. Until the 20th century, the most numerous German-speaking communities were found in the urban centers of Lower Styria, in the Gottschee County in southern Slovenia and in the villages around Apače (Apaško polje) along the Mura river.

According to the last Austrian census of 1910, around 9% of the population of present-day Slovenia spoke German as their native tongue. Towns with a German-speaking majority included Maribor, Celje, Ptuj, Kočevje, Slovenj Gradec, Slovenska Bistrica, Ormož, Dravograd and some other smaller towns.

After World War I, the number of German-speakers dropped significantly: most of the towns were slovenized, and German remained the majority language only in the Gottschee County and around Apače. According to the last pre-WWII Yugoslav census, German speakers amounted to 2.5% of the overall population. Former German or bilingual speakers had switched to Slovene, the official language.

During World War II, ethnic Germans were resettled from areas occupied by Italy (Ljubljana, Gottschee) into the German-occupied zone. On the end and after the war, the great majority of the remaining Germans were expropriated (AVNOJ-Decree), expulsed or murdered by jugoslav partisans. In the census of 2002, just 1,628 persons (0.1% of the population) declared German as their mother tongue. Almost everyone today born in Slovenia knows Slovene because people learn obligatory Slovene in school, but many at home speak other languages as well. The number of people fluent in German is unknown. German-speaking women around Maribor who are citizens of Slovenia have organized in the association Kulturno društvo nemško govorečih žena »Mostovi« Maribor ("Bridges"). [24]


Gottscheerish or Granish is a Bavarian dialect of the German language and has been spoken in the Gottschee County around Kočevje (Gottschee) since 1330. For over 600 years, it was the predominant oral language of the Gottscheers in that area, whereas Standard German was their written language. Most Gottschee Germans were resettled by the German occupation forces in 1941 during World War II. Only a few hundred Gottscheers remained, most of them supporting the partisan movement. After the war, Gottscheerish was forbidden. Today there are only a few speakers left, most of them in Moschnitze valley (Črmošnjiško-Poljanska dolina) between Kočevske Poljane and Črmošnjice, others today mainly know standard German. [25] [26] [27]


Gottscheerish and German, though autochthonous to Slovenia, have no official status and are not protected by law. [28]

Czech and Slovak

Czech and Slovak, which used to be the fourth largest minority language in Slovenia prior to World War II (after Italian, German, Hungarian, Croatian and Serbian), is now the native languages of a few hundred Slovenian residents. [20]

Foreign languages

The most commonly known foreign languages in Slovenia in 2005. According to Eurostat. Foreign languages Slovenia.jpg
The most commonly known foreign languages in Slovenia in 2005. According to Eurostat.

Historically, German was the lingua franca of Central European space and was perceived as the language of commerce, science and literature in Slovenia. Consequently, German used to be the first foreign language taught in schools. With the formation of Yugoslavia, so-called Serbo-Croatian became the language of federal authorities and the first foreign language taught in school. But also, Slovenes pick up Croatian more easily than other foreign languages due to its relative similarity to Slovene.

Nowadays, English has superseded it and is taught as the first foreign language throughout the country from pre-school onwards. German has, however, retained its strong position as an important language and is the most common second foreign language in high schools. According to the EU, Slovenia has the highest competence in German of any non-Germanic country, with only Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Denmark being higher. [30] Other second foreign languages are Italian, Spanish, French and Hungarian. Among the five subjects in the Slovenian finishing exam (Matura), one foreign language—most commonly English—is compulsory.

As a consequence of different foreign languages having been taught at different times, there is no prevailing foreign language knowledge in Slovenia. Younger generations know English and Croatian well enough to communicate, whereas elder generations speak Croatian better. There are also regional differences, especially among the knowledge of a second foreign language, with German being more frequently taught and used in Styria region, whereas residents of the Littoral region have better familiarity with Italian.


  1. 1 2 Italian and Hungarian are recognised as official languages in the residential areas of the Italian or Hungarian national community.

Related Research Articles

Slovenia Country in Central Europe

Slovenia, officially the Republic of Slovenia, is a country located in Central Europe at the crossroads of main European cultural and trade routes. It is bordered by Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Hungary to the northeast, Croatia to the southeast, and the Adriatic Sea to the southwest. Slovenia covers 20,271 square kilometers (7,827 sq mi) and has a population of 2.095 million. One of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia is now a parliamentary republic and member nation of the European Union, United Nations, and NATO. The capital and largest city is Ljubljana.

Demographics of Slovenia Demographic features of the population of Slovenia

This article is about the demographic features of the population of Slovenia, including population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the population.

Slovene language South Slavic language spoken primarily in Slovenia

Slovene, or alternatively Slovenian, is a South Slavic language spoken by the Slovenes. It is spoken by about 2.5 million speakers worldwide, the majority of whom live in Slovenia, where it is one of the three official languages. As Slovenia is part of the European Union, Slovene is also one of its 24 official and working languages.

Municipalities of Slovenia

Slovenia is divided into 212 municipalities, of which 11 have urban status. Municipalities are further divided into local communities and districts.


Prekmurje is a geographically, linguistically, culturally and ethnically defined region of Slovenia, settled by Slovenes and a Hungarian minority, lying between the Mur River in Slovenia and the Rába Valley in the westernmost part of Hungary. It maintains certain specific linguistic, cultural and religious features that differentiate it from other Slovenian traditional regions. It covers an area of 938 square kilometers (362 sq mi) and has a population of 78,000 people.

Kočevje City in Slovenia

Kočevje is a city in the Municipality of Kočevje in southern Slovenia. It is the seat of the municipality.

Duchy of Carniola

The Duchy of Carniola was an imperial estate of the Holy Roman Empire, established under Habsburg rule on the territory of the former East Frankish March of Carniola in 1364. A hereditary land of the Habsburg Monarchy, it became a constituent land of the Austrian Empire in 1804 and part of the Kingdom of Illyria until 1849. A separate crown land from 1849, it was incorporated into the Cisleithanian territories of Austria-Hungary from 1867 until the state's dissolution in 1918. Its capital was Ljubljana.

Lower Carniola Traditional region in Slovenia

Lower Carniola is a traditional region in Slovenia, the southeastern part of the historical Carniola region.


Gottschee refers to a former German-speaking region in Carniola, a crownland of the Habsburg Empire, part of the historical and traditional region of Lower Carniola, now in Slovenia. The region has been a county, duchy, district, and municipality during various parts of its history. The term often also refers to the entire ethnolinguistic enclave regardless of administrative borders. Today Gottschee largely corresponds to the Municipality of Kočevje. The original German settlers of the region are called Gottschee Germans or Gottscheers, and their German dialect is called Gottschee German or Gottscheerish.

Italian language in Slovenia

The Italian language is an officially recognized minority language in Slovenia, along with Hungarian. Around 3,700 Slovenian citizens speak Italian as their mother tongue. Italian has a strong presence in Slovenia, both historical and current. An estimated 15% of Slovenians speak Italian as a second language, which is one of the highest percentages in the European Union.

Slovene Lands

The Slovene lands or Slovenian lands is the historical denomination for the territories in Central and Southern Europe where people primarily spoke Slovene. The Slovene lands were part of the Illyrian provinces, the Austrian Empire and Austria-Hungary. They encompassed Carniola, southern part of Carinthia, southern part of Styria, Istria, Gorizia and Gradisca, Trieste, and Prekmurje. Their territory more or less corresponds to modern Slovenia and the adjacent territories in Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia, where autochthonous Slovene minorities live. In the areas where present-day Slovenia borders to neighboring countries, they were never homogeneously ethnically Slovene.

Prekmurje Slovene

Prekmurje Slovene, also known as the Prekmurje dialect, East Slovene, or Wendish, is a Slovene dialect belonging to a Pannonian dialect group of Slovene. It is used in private communication, liturgy, and publications by authors from Prekmurje. It is spoken in the Prekmurje region of Slovenia and by the Hungarian Slovenes in Vas County in western Hungary. It is closely related to other Slovene dialects in neighboring Slovene Styria, as well as to Kajkavian with which it retains partial mutual intelligibility and forms a dialect continuum with other South Slavic languages.

Republic of Prekmurje

The Republic of Prekmurje was an unrecognized state in Prekmurje, an area traditionally known in Hungarian as Vendvidék . On June 6, 1919, Prekmurje was incorporated into the newly established Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

The Prekmurje Slovenes are Slovenes from Prekmurje in Slovenia and Vendvidék and Somogy in Hungary. The Prekmurje Slovenes speak the Prekmurje Slovene dialect and have a common culture. The Hungarian Slovenes (Porabski Slovenci) and Somogy Slovenes also speak the Prekmurje Slovene dialect.

Kočevske Poljane Place in Lower Carniola, Slovenia

Kočevske Poljane is a village in the Municipality of Dolenjske Toplice in Slovenia. The area is part of the historical region of Lower Carniola. The municipality is now included in the Southeast Slovenia Statistical Region. The village includes the hamlets of Gorica and Trnovec.

Municipality of Ajdovščina Municipality of Slovenia

The Municipality of Ajdovščina is a municipality with a population of a little over 19,000 located in the Vipava Valley, southwestern Slovenia. The municipality was established in 1994. Its seat is in the town of Ajdovščina. As of 2020, its mayor is Tadej Beočanin.

Municipality of Dobrovnik Municipality of Slovenia

The Municipality of Dobrovnik is a municipality in Slovenia. The seat of the municipality is Dobrovnik. It is located in the Prekmurje region. It has a significant Hungarian ethnic community that outnumbers the Slovenes. Dobrovnik is one of the two municipalities in Slovenia where ethnic Slovenes form a minority of the population, the other being Hodoš.

Municipality of Hodoš Municipality of Slovenia

The Municipality of Hodoš is a municipality in Slovenia. The seat of the municipality is the town of Hodoš. It is part of the Prekmurje region. Both Slovene and Hungarian are official languages in the municipality. The seat of the municipality is the village of Hodoš. The municipality was established on 7 August 1998, when it was separated from the former Municipality of Hodoš–Šalovci.

Minority languages of Austria

Minority languages are spoken in a number of autochthonous settlements in Austria. These are:

Municipality of Lendava Municipality of Slovenia

The Municipality of Lendava is a municipality in the traditional region of Prekmurje in northeastern Slovenia. The seat of the municipality is the town of Lendava. Lendava became a municipality in 1994.


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