Languages of Bulgaria
MinorityTurkish, Romani
ForeignRussian, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian
SignedBulgarian Sign Language
Keyboard layout

The official language of Bulgaria is Bulgarian,[1] which is spoken natively by 85% of the country's population. Other major languages are Turkish (9.1%), and Romani (4.2%)[2] (the two main varieties being Balkan Romani and Vlax Romani). There are smaller numbers of speakers of Armenian, Aromanian, Romanian, Crimean Tatar, Gagauz and Balkan Gagauz, Macedonian and English. Bulgarian Sign Language has an estimated 37,000 signers.[3]

Ethnicity map of Bulgaria

2011 Census

At the 2011 Census, the optional question about native language was answered by 6,640,000 respondents, or just over 90% of the total population.[2]

Native language Number of speakers Percentage
of respondents
Bulgarian 5,659,024 85.20%
Turkish 605,802 9.12%
Romani 281,217 4.23%
Russian 15,808 0.24%
Armenian 5,615 0.08%
Romanian 5,523 0.08%
Greek 3,224 0.05%
"Vlach" (Aromanian and Romanian) 1,826 0.03%
Ukrainian 1,755 0.03%
Macedonian 1,404 0.02%
Arabic 1,397 0.02%
Tatar 1,372 0.02%
Other 10,623 0.16%
Do not self-identify 47,564 0.72%
Total returns 6,642,154 100%
Total population 7,364,570

2001 Census

The 2001 census defines an ethnic group as a "community of people, related to each other by origin and language, and close to each other by mode of life and culture"; and one's mother tongue as "the language a person speaks best and usually uses for communication in the family (household)".[4]

Native Language By ethnic group Percentage By first language Percentage
Bulgarian 6,655,210 83.93% 6,997,000 88.46%
Turkish 746,660 9.42% 663,000 8.62%
Romani 370,910 4.67% 128,000 1.13%
Others 69,000 0.87% 71,000 0.89%
Total 7,928,900 100% 7,928,900 100% [4]


Main article: Bulgarian language

Bulgarian is the country's only official language. It's spoken by the vast majority of the Bulgarian population and used at all levels of society. It is a Slavic language, and its closest relative is Macedonian.

Bulgarian is written with Cyrillic, which is also used by Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Serbian and Macedonian.

Minority languages


Main article: Turks in Bulgaria

The Turks constitute the largest minority group in the country. The Turks in Bulgaria are descendants of Turkic settlers who came from Anatolia across the narrows of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus following the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, as well as Bulgarian converts to Islam who became Turkified during the centuries of Ottoman rule.[5][6]


Main article: Romani people in Bulgaria

The Romani constitute the second largest minority group in the country. The Romani in Bulgaria are descendants of Romani nomadic migrants who came from India across the narrows of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus, in the late 13th century[7] and following the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans in the late 14th and early 15th centuries, and also during the five centuries of Ottoman occupation.[7][8]

Other minority languages spoken are Russian, Ukrainian, Armenian, Tatar, Greek, Romanian and Aromanian (the latter two often collectively referred to as "Vlach" in Bulgaria).

Foreign languages

According to a Eurobarometer survey conducted in 2012,[9] English was the most commonly known foreign language in Bulgaria (25% claimed workable knowledge of it), followed by Russian (23%), and German (8%). This is a decrease of 12 points for Russian.[when?] This is because many of the people who learned Russian at school are from an older generation and some are now deceased or as time has elapsed, have forgotten how to speak the language. When asked which two languages, other than their mother tongue, would be the most useful for children to learn in their future, an overwhelming majority of respondents said English (90%), with German coming second (36%), and Russian third (14%).[10]

See also


  1. ^ "Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria". National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria. Retrieved 30 August 2020.
  2. ^ a b Национален Статистически Институт (2012). Преброяване на населението и жилищния фонд през 2011 година. Vol. Том 1: Население. София. pp. 33–34, 190.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) The majority of the 9.8% who did not answer this question were among the young.
  3. ^ Eberhard, David M.; Simons, Gary F.; Fennig, Charles D., eds. (2019). "Bulgaria – Languages". Ethnologue (22nd ed.). SIL International.
  4. ^ a b Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe. "Population by ethnic group and mother tongue, 2001". Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 2 December 2008.
  5. ^ Stein, Jonathan. The Politics of National Minority Participation in Post-communist Europe, p. 238. M.E. Sharpe, 2000. ISBN 0-7656-0528-7
  6. ^ R.J.Crampton. "A concise history of Bulgaria", p. 36. Cambridge University Press, 1997.
  7. ^ a b Tomova, Ethnic Dimensions of poverty in Bulgaria, p. 15
  8. ^ Marushiakova et al., Gypsies in the Ottoman Empire: a contribution to the history of the Balkans, p. 26
  9. ^ "SPECIAL EUROBAROMETER 386 Europeans and their Languages" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-01-06.
  10. ^ "Special Eurobarometer 386 - Europeans and their Languages" (PDF). EC. June 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-01-06.