Serbian Language in Foreign Movies and TV Series

The entrance of a cinema

If you’re determined to learn Serbian, you’ve probably resorted to Serbian movies at some point. After all, movies and TV series aren’t only for entertainment. They provide an abundance of vocab and slang, all in their natural environment. Yes, textbooks are essential learning tools, but movies give you context and help place all the phrases into a realistic situation. So, Serbian movies are a fabulous tool for enhancing your skills. 

But did you know that you also expose yourself to some Serbian language by watching foreign flicks? Here is a list of foreign movies and TV series with Serbian phrases.

1. Cat People (1942)

In Serbian: Ljudi mačke

This classic horror is the oldest movie on the list. It follows the story of Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon), a Serbian immigrant in New York City. She meets and eventually marries Oliver Reed (Kent Smith). 

However, their marriage is not a happy one. In fact, Irena believes she is cursed, so if she engages in sexual activity, she will become a bloodthirsty “cat person.” She also shares an old Serbian legend. According to the story, the people of her village engaged in witchcraft and Satanism and turned into panthers under intense feelings such as jealousy or anger. Needless to say, this creates some tensions between the newlyweds. 

So what Serbian phrase appears in the movie?

Irena and Oliver are enjoying a party in a restaurant named Belgrade (also, the capital of present-day Serbia) when a mysterious-looking lady addresses Irena saying: “Moja sestra” (my sister). Of course, the assumption is that the mysterious lady comes from the same village and carries the same curse as Irena. 

2. Last Christmas (2019)

In Serbian: Prošlog Božića

In this rom-com, Emilia Clarke stars as Kate, an aspiring singer working at a holiday shop. Kate is a chaotic, messy lady who is far from figuring out her life. As a result, she messes up her friendships and is not on good terms with her family. Later, she meets Tom (Henry Golding), a charming but odd guy. As a result, her life takes a new turn, but it all seems too good to be true. We won’t go on to avoid any spoilers.

So what does this have to do with Serbian language? As it turns out, Kate’s full name is Katarina, and her family name is Andrich. We can see a scene from Kate’s childhood where she sang in a choir in Yugoslavia in 1999. The funny thing is Yugoslavia didn’t even exist by 1999, but we get the point — the family emigrated from Yugoslavia.

 At one point, at the dinner table, Kate and her family quarrel, and some nasty Serbian swearwords fly around. Finally, Kate’s father (Boris Isaković) asks: “Šta je vama?” (what’s wrong with you all?) in desperation. 

3. Children of Men (2006)

In Serbian: Potomci

This dystopian futuristic thriller takes us to a world of poverty, disease, and infertility. Namely, humans have been unable to reproduce for the last 18 years, so the future of humankind is doomed. However, the protagonist, Theo Faron (Clive Owen), is in charge of saving the world by protecting a woman who is miraculously pregnant.

In the opening scene, we see the devastated streets of dystopian London. Soon, Theo passes by a cage full of immigrants. One of the immigrants speaks Serbian. She says: “ Gladni smo. Žedni smo. Izvinite molim vas. Mora da je greška”. (We are hungry. We are thirsty. Excuse me, please. It must be a mistake.)

4. Killing Season (2013)

In Serbian: Sezona ubijanja

Killing Season is a story about two veterans of the Bosnian War, a Serb, and an American. Ford (Robert De Niro) and Kovac (John Travolta) clash in the Appalachian Mountains, opening the old wounds and revealing long-forgotten secrets. 

In one scene, Travolta speaks Serbian.

Serbian guy: “Poranio si.” (You’re early)

Travolta: “Pa i ti si.” (So are you)

18 godina sam čekao.” (I’ve been waiting for 18 years.)

Serbian guy: “I šta sada?” (And what now?)

In the end, Travolta states in English that he’s going hunting.

However, this is not the best resource to learn Serbian. As many native Serbian speakers pointed out in the comments below the video, the only reason they can decipher what Travolta says is the subtitles. Others make fun of his Serbian. We won’t do that, but if you don’t want to sound like Travolta speaking Serbian, check out our pronunciation course.

5. The Beach (2000)

In Serbian: Plaža

In The Beach, Richard (Leonardo Di Caprio) is backpacking through Asia. In Bangkok, he meets a guy who gives him a map that can take him to an uninhabited place that’s supposed to be paradise on Earth. However, when he arrives, he learns another group of travelers has already found the place. Instead of peace, Richard finds the same social issues he’s been trying to escape. 

In one scene, Sonja (Zelda Tinska) challenges others to pronounce a sentence in Serbian: 

Sutra ću putovati mnogo milja biciklom.” (Tomorrow, I will travel for many miles on a bicycle.)

Several characters try out the same sentence. And we got to admit,  DiCaprio did a fine job. 

6. La casa de papel (2017-2021)

In Serbian: Kuća od papira

The series follows a group of people performing a money heist. Oslo (Darko Perić) and Helsinki (Roberto García Ruiz) — code names — are two Serbs in the group. They’re fierce but lovable giants. 

In Season 1, Helsinki finds his friend fatally injured. He cries: 

Kume. Kume bre! Kume, bre, šta su ti uradili, kume, bre?” (Bro, what the heck did they do to you?)

In a later scene, before putting him out of his misery using a pillow, Helsinki utters:

Kume, reci mi samo jedno. Nećeš da se ljutiš na mene?” (Bro, just tell me one thing! You won’t get mad at me?)

Of course, Helsinki speaks in a very native-like way. He overuses the word “bre,” but Serbs tend to do that in emotional situations. 

If you’re wondering about the meaning of — kum —  the explanation isn’t that simple. It can mean a groomsman or a godfather, but this role has a much greater significance in Serbian culture. Namely, it implies a sacred, lifelong friendship. So, if you think about it, this explains the depth of Helsinki’s grief.

Have Fun and Learn Serbian

Having fun while learning a language improves your retention. Since the entire process is more enjoyable and memorable, you can learn faster and have fun at the same time. It’s a win-win situation. 

So, if you’re a movie buff, use it to your advantage. Check out the movies and TV series on the list, and try to learn Serbian phrases. But don’t stop there. Do the same with music, books, cartoons, or food labels. Anything can be a learning resource as long as you enjoy it. 

And if you want to discuss what you learned in movies and practice the phrases with fellow learners who are at the same level and have similar interests, book our Group Serbian conversation lessons and take your Serbian skills to the next level!

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