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Bulgarian is the official language of the Republic of Bulgaria.

The Census of 2011 shows that the Bulgarian language is the native tongue for 5,659,024 people, or 85.2% of the population; the Turkish language, for 605,802 people or 9.1% of the population; and the Romani language, for 281,217 people, or4.2% of the population. The data show that for the great majority of Bulgarians their native tongue is the official language of the country – Bulgarian (

Bulgarian belongs to the South Slavic family of languages and forms part of the Balkan linguistic union (Balkan Sprachbund). Consequently, Bulgarian displays similarities to both language groups. As a Slavic language Bulgarian possesses a rich inflectional and derivational morphology, verb aspect pairs, etc. However, due to the mutual influence of Balkan languages Bulgarian has lost noun cases (except vocative) and has completely has lost the infinitive form.

The official alphabet is Cyrillic. Bulgarian was the first Slavic language to have its own writing system, which dates from the 9th century. In 886 AD the Glagolitic alphabet was introduced in Bulgaria. Glagolitic was created by St Cyril and St Methodius, but was gradually replaced by the Cyrillic alphabet, created at the literary schools of Ohrid and Preslav in the beginning of the 10th century. On 1 January 2007, when Bulgaria became a full member of the European Union, Cyrillic became the third official alphabet of the European Union, following the Latin and Greek alphabets.


Legal framework

Bulgarian is the official language in the Republic of Bulgaria, as stated in the Bulgarian constitution.

Article 3 of the Bulgarian Constitution states that “Bulgarian is the official language of the Republic”. Bulgarian is the language of State in Parliament, courts of justice, public administration, schools and economic life in general.

Article 36 of the Bulgarian Constitution provides that “(1) The study and use of the Bulgarian language shall be a right and an obligation of every Bulgarian citizen. (2) Citizens whose mother tongue is not Bulgarian shall have the right to study and use their own language alongside the compulsory study of the Bulgarian language. (3) The situations in which only the official language shall be used shall be established by law” (

Constituted by decree of the Council of Ministers, the Institute for the Bulgarian Language of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences ( is the official institution which observes changes in the Bulgarian language, determines literary norms and reflects these changes in both orthography and speech.

Bulgarian has acquired the status of an official administrative language of the European Union after Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007. 

Laws regulating learning and use of language


The founding principles of the Bulgarian educational system are set out in the National Education Act, the Pre-school and School Education Act ( and Ordinance No 6 of 11.08.2016 on the Mastery of Literary Bulgarian (

The study of Bulgarian is compulsory for elementary and secondary schools.

According to the most recent National School Curriculum, Bulgarian language teaching is conducted within the framework of a cultural and education study sector – Bulgarian Language and Literature. This sector is traditional within Bulgarian schools and the universities train specialists – middle and high-school teachers – in this subject.

Public administration

Bulgarian is the official language of the Republic of Bulgaria and its use is obligatory in public administration. The Judiciary System Act stipulates that all proceedings before judicial system bodies shall be conducted in Bulgarian (Article 13) and that records of proceedings shall be drafted in Bulgarian (Article 14.1). The entry of foreign words or expressions on the official record may only be authorized when they have a particular relevance to a case (Article 14.2) (


The Law on consumer protection came into force on 10 June 2006 ( It includes a “linguistic prescription” which stipulates that all products sold in Bulgaria must be labelled in Bulgarian together with or alongside the label in the language spoken in the country from which the product originates. A series of regulatory texts specifies the obligations by sector, including providing information in different languages to allow consumers to make informed decisions.

The Law on Medicinal Products in Human Medicine from 2007 (Article 169.2-3) sets the standard that the information on the packaging and leaflet may be in several languages but one of these must be Bulgarian language. The content of the information in the various languages must be identical. The name of the medicinal product shall obligatorily be written in the Bulgarian language and the international non-proprietary name of the medicinal substance shall be written according to the Anatomic Chemical-Therapeutic Classification of the WHO (


Principal legal provisions in force concerning the use of regional or minority languages

In 1997, Bulgaria signed the Council of Europes Convention Framework for the Protection of National Minorities in Strasbourg, and ratified it in 1999. Article 14 of the Convention Framework requires that the Bulgarian government should “ensure, as far as it is possible and in the context of its educational system, that persons belonging to minorities have the opportunity to learn their minority language or to receive teaching in that language.”

Special arrangements exist for children whose native tongue is not Bulgarian. The Pre-school and School Education Act stipulates in Article 13 §6 that: “Pupils whose mother tongue is not Bulgarian, besides the compulsory study of the Bulgarian language, shall have the right to study their own mother tongue under the protection and control of the state.” (

As a preventive measure against children from vulnerable communities dropping out from school, policies are implemented for overcoming the separation of children and students in groups/at kindergartens/and classes/at schools/, for enhancing the intercultural competence of all participants in the educational process. Additional training in the Bulgarian language is also provided. Article 16 of the Pre-school and School Education Act provides that “Children and pupils for whom the Bulgarian language is not their mother tongue shall be provided additional conditions to assist their educational integration under the terms and conditions laid down in the state education standard for the mastering of the Bulgarian literary language.”

In 2017, study programmes for the teaching of four mother tongues were approved (Ordinance № РД09-5835/07.12.2017 of the Minister of Education and Science) – Turkish, Armenian, Romani and Hebrew (, in Bulgarian).

Teaching of foreign languages within the education system

The official language of instruction in the educational system is Bulgarian. In specialised language schools, instructions may be in English, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Armenian, Hebrew, Russian, and other languages. In 2017, the relative share of children in general education schools who studied foreign languages in the primary grades (I - IV) was 83.1%, and the great majority of them studied English - 91.3% (

The teaching of foreign languages is carried out from second to the twelfth grade and is regulated by the Law for Educational Degrees, Minima of General Education and Teaching Plan (

Admission into secondary schools with intensive instruction in a foreign language (most often English, but also French, German, Spanish, and Italian) is possible after the completion of the seventh grade and is based on a competitive entrance examination in mathematics and the Bulgarian language and literature. The first year of instruction, called the preparatory class, is dedicated to studying the foreign language. 


The language situation in the Republic of Bulgaria can be briefly characterised as follows:

  • The data show that the great majority of the population is constituted of Bulgarians and the dominating native language is the official language of the country – Bulgarian.
  • With over 5.5 million native speakers living in Bulgaria, Bulgarian is a relatively small language. However, the chairman of the State Agency for Bulgarians Abroad stated in 2017 that approximately 8 million Bulgarians lived abroad (


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