Localisation challenges of Central European languages: Slovak

Over the next three months, we’ll be presenting our insight into the Central European languages in a special blog series. Our aim is to provide a useful linguistic and cultural guide for companies and organisations seeking to localise into these challenging languages.  

In the second post of our series, we present Slovak, a language with a rich history and fascinating culture behind it. For foreign companies seeking to localise into Slavic languages, Slovak deserves special attention. To the 7 million native speakers worldwide, the language is the defining cornerstone of their culture and a national symbol of the young country of Slovakia.

Due to its historical ties to Czech and other Slavic languages, there is a common misconception that the differences between the languages are too insignificant to warrant specialised localisation for Slovak speakers. In fact, the differences in vocabulary, orthography, grammar, and cultural influences are striking. Foreign companies need to be sure to localise taking into consideration the specific linguistic and cultural needs of Slovak speakers.

Countering potential translation issues thus requires an in-depth understanding of the history, structure, and influence of the Slovak language.


In the 6th century, an ancient, proto-Slavic language splintered into Eastern, Western, and Southern dialects after a massive wave of Slavic tribes descended upon their European neighbours in what is now known as the “Great Migration”.

Speakers of Western Slavic settled in Moravia, the modern-day territory of Slovakia and the Czech Republic. By the 11th century, the Slovak dialect had begun to take form.  

In the mid-20th century, Slovak speakers fell under Soviet rule in Czechoslovakia. Slovak was officially considered substandard to Czech, and Russian was taught in schools. It has only been in recent years, since 1989, that the language has been free to evolve and hold influence.


Slovak shares a branch with Czech and Polish on the Indo-European language tree, meaning that it shares more than history with its neighbours. Slovak and Czech are mutually intelligible; speakers of both languages can easily understand each other. In fact, Slovak is regarded as the most comprehensible of all Slavic languages.

While this confirms the similarities between Slovak and other Slavic languages, there are clear, if not slight, differences, as can be seen below.






How are you?

Ako sa máš?

Jak se máš?

Jak się masz?

Kak u tebya delayet?

Slovak was one of the first Slavic languages to be standardised, and grammar rules are now clearly organised. Officially, Slovak syntax is subject-verb-object. However, Slovak word order is used quite freely, and although it is not officially structured as a topic-prominent language, focus is often placed at the beginning of the sentence.

Lastly, the Slovak alphabet is Latin-based, with a few additions. It consists of 46 letters, due to diacritics (accent marks). Q and W are only used for foreign words, mainly from English and German, but this is rare. Most foreign words receive a Slovak spelling, such as weekend – víkend.


The Slovak alphabet


With 5.6 native speakers in Slovakia, companies and organisations may not initially see a need to significantly localise their product or service for Slovak speakers. However, it is important to recognise that there are a further 2 million speakers worldwide. The majority are found close to home in Central Europe, specifically in neighbouring Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, and Ukraine. Its reach does not stop there, however, and Slovak speakers can be found in the USA, UK, and Canada, among other countries outside Europe.

Providing content in their native language is sure to generate loyal Slovak customers in Central Europe, and beyond!

Want to learn more? Be sure to read our next post, Top Five Tips for Translating English into Slovak. Our Slovakian translators will offer new clients advice on resolving common problems that may arise during the localisation process.


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