Languages of North Macedonia

The official language of North Macedonia is Macedonian, while Albanian has co-official status. Macedonian is spoken by roughly two-thirds of the population natively, and as a second language by much of the rest of the population. Albanian is the largest minority language. There are a further five national minority languages: Turkish, Romani, Serbian, Bosnian, and Aromanian. The Macedonian Sign Language is the country's official sign language.

Languages of North Macedonia
Skopje – trilingual signpost.jpg
Signage in Macedonian, English, and Albanian in Skopje
Semi-officialAlbanian (co-official)
MinorityTurkish, Romani, Serbian, Bosnian & Aromanian
ForeignSerbo-Croatian, English, Russian, French, German
SignedMacedonian Sign Language
Keyboard layout
Linguistic map of North Macedonia, 2002 census.


Languages of North Macedonia
2002 census
other / unspecified

According to the 2002 census, North Macedonia had a population of 2,022,547. A total of 1,344,815 Macedonian citizens declared they speak Macedonian, 507,989 speak Albanian, 71,757 speak Turkish, 38,528 speak Roma, 6,884 speak Aromanian, 24,773 speak Serbian, 8.560 speak Bosnian and 19,241 speak other languages.[1]

Language policyEdit

Macedonian (official and national)Edit

The language policy in North Macedonia is regulated by the 7 Article of the Constitution of North Macedonia and the Law of languages. According to the national constitution:[2]

  1. The Macedonian language, written using its Cyrillic alphabet, is the official language throughout the Republic of North Macedonia and in the international relations of the Republic of North Macedonia.
  2. Any other language spoken by at least 20 percent of the population is also an official language, written using its alphabet, as specified below.
  3. Any official personal documents of citizens speaking an official language other than Macedonian shall also be issued in that language, in addition to the Macedonian language, in accordance with the law.
  4. Any person living in a unit of local self-government in which at least 20 percent of the population speaks an official language other than Macedonian may use that official language to communicate with the office of the central government with responsibility for that municipality; such an office shall reply in that language in addition to Macedonian. Any person may use any official language to communicate with a main office of the central government, which shall reply in that language in addition to Macedonian.
  5. In the organs of the Republic of North Macedonia, any official language other than Macedonian may be used in accordance with the law.
  6. In the units of local self-government where at least 20 percent of the population speaks a particular language, that language and its alphabet shall be used as an official language in addition to the Macedonian language and the Cyrillic alphabet. With respect to languages spoken by less than 20 percent of the population of a unit of local self-government, the local authorities shall decide on their use in public bodies.

Albanian languageEdit

The Albanian language is used as co-official along with Macedonian in the municipalities where speakers of Albanian consist at least 20% of the population or more. As of the 2021 census, Albanian speakers meet or exceed this 20% threshold in 24 municipalities.[3]

The new law from 2019 extended the official use of Albanian over the entire country, easing communication in Albanian with the institutions. Under the new legislation, Macedonian continues to be the primary official language, while Albanian may be used now as a second one, including at a national level in official matters. The legislation stipulates also all public institutions in the country will provide Albanian translations in their everyday work.[4][5] Despite since 2019 the usage of Albanian language being no longer geographically limited, the Macedonian language with the Cyrillic alphabet remains the only official language throughout the whole territory of North Macedonia and its international relations, per Macedonian Government.[6][7][8]

Minority languagesEdit

Some minority languages are co-official, along with Macedonian, in the municipalities (opštini) where they are spoken by at least 20% of the municipal population. Turkish is co-official in Centar Župa, Karbinci, Konče, Plasnica, and Vasilevo. Romani is co-official in Šuto Orizari.

List of languagesEdit


Macedonian (македонски јазик, makedonski jazik) is a South Slavic language, spoken as a first language by approximately 1.4–2.5 million people, principally in North Macedonia and the Macedonian diaspora. It is the official language in North Macedonia and a recognized minority language in parts of Albania, Romania and Serbia.

Standard Macedonian was implemented as the official language of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia in 1945[9] and has since developed a thriving literary tradition. Most of the codification was formalized during the same period.[10][11]


Albanian (gjuha shqipe) is an Indo-European language spoken by over 7.3 million people world-wide, primarily in Albania and Kosovo but also in other areas of the Balkans in which there is an Albanian population, including western North Macedonia, southern Montenegro, southern Serbia and Greece. Albanian is also spoken in centuries-old Albanian-based dialect speaking communities scattered in southern Greece, southern Italy,[12] Sicily, Ukraine[13] and the Albanian diaspora. Within North Macedonia, Albanian is spoken in western and northern parts of the Republic. As of January 2019 it has become the co-official language in North Macedonia.


Turkish (Türkçe) is the most populous of the Turkic languages, with over 70 million native speakers.[14] Speakers are located predominantly in Turkey, with smaller groups in Germany, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Cyprus (mostly in the occupied North of the island), Greece (mostly in Western Thrace), and other parts of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia. Small Turkish-speaking communities can be found in several places in North Macedonia, such as Vrapčište, Skopje and Gostivar.

Turkish speakers are above the 20% threshold for local official use in Plasnica Municipality (97%), Centar Zupa (59%), Karbinci Municipality (25%), Vasilevo Municipality (23%), and Konče Municipality (22%) as of the 2021 census.[3]


Balkan Romani (Romani: romani ćhib) is one of several related languages of the Romani people, belonging to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family. Many varieties of Romani are divergent and sometimes considered languages of their own. The largest of these are Vlax Romani (about 900,000 speakers), Balkan Romani (700,000), Carpathian Romani (500,000) and Sinti Romani (300,000). In North Macedonia, Balkan Romani is spoken. Šuto Orizari is the largest Romani-speaking settlement in the country.

Serbian languageEdit

Serbian (српски, srpski) is a standardized register of the Serbo-Croatian language[15][16][17] spoken by Serbs,[18] mainly in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and North Macedonia.[citation needed] It is official in Serbia and one of the official languages of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and is the principal language of the Serbs.

Serbian speakers do not form greater than the 20% needed threshold for official use in any municipality as of the 2021 census. The two municipalities with the highest percentage of Serbian speakers are Staro Nagoričane (9.6%) and Čučer-Sandevo (8.6%).[3]

Bosnian languageEdit

Bosnian (bosanski, босански) is another standardized register of Serbo-Croatian,[15][17][19] spoken by Bosniaks. As a standardized form of the Shtokavian dialect, it is one of the three official languages of Bosnia and Herzegovina.[20]

Most of the Bosnian-speaking Macedonian citizens live in the Vardar region, though they do not form greater than the 20% threshold in any municipality in the country. The municipalities with the highest percentages of Bosnian speakers are Petrovec Municipality (19%), Dolneni Municipality (15.3%), Gradsko Municipality (11%), and Studeničani Municipality (7.4%), as of the 2021 census.[3]


Aromanian (Limba Armãneascã) or Vlach is a Balkan Romance language spoken in several pockets across Southeastern Europe. Its speakers are called Aromanians or "Vlachs" (which is an exonym in widespread use to define the communities in the Balkans). It shares many features with modern Romanian, having similar morphology and syntax, as well as a large common vocabulary inherited from Latin. An important source of dissimilarity between Romanian and Aromanian is the adstratum languages: while Romanian has been influenced to a greater extent by the Slavic languages, Aromanian has been more influenced by the Greek language, with which it has been in close contact throughout its history. The largest Aromanian-speaking community in North Macedonia can be found in the town of Kruševo (3.7% of the municipal population). In North Macedonia, the language is known as 'Vlach' (влашки јазик, vlaški jazik).

Sign languageEdit

The Macedonian sign language (Macedonian: македонски знаковен јазик, romanizedmakedonski znakoven jazik or македонски гестовен јазик / makedonski gestoven jazik) is a sign language of the deaf community in North Macedonia.[21] As all sign languages, the Macedonian sign language is also based on gestures and body movements, particularly movements with the hands. The precise number of signers in North Macedonia is not known, but 6,000 people in 2012 requested signed news on Macedonian television.[22] The learning and the usage of the language, as well as the rights of the deaf community in North Macedonia are regulated by a national law.[23]

Foreign languagesEdit

Many people speak a foreign language. A rapidly declining share of the population, consisting almost entirely of elderly people, has knowledge of Serbo-Croatian, French or German. Russian is also well-known. Among the younger population, English is extremely common, along with knowledge of Serbo-Croatian and some German.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Državen zavod za statistika / State Statistical Office (2002). Popis na naselenieto, domaḱinstvata i stanovite vo Republika Makedonija, 2002: Definitivni podatoci / Census of Population, Households and Dwellings in the Republic of Macedonia, 2002: Final Data (PDF) (in Macedonian and English). Skopje.
  2. ^ Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia See amendment V
  3. ^ a b c d 2021 census, municipality by mother tongue
  4. ^ "Law on Use of Languages Will Cost a Lot and Requires a Lot of Work". 16 January 2019.
  5. ^ "Albanian Designated Macedonia's 2nd Official Language". New York Times. Associated Press. January 15, 2019. Archived from the original on 2019-01-19.
  6. ^ Kolekjevski, Ivan (18 January 2019). "Macedonian Language Remains only Official Language at Entire Territory, International Relations: Gov't". Macedonian Information Agency. Archived from the original on 2019-01-21.
  7. ^ "Macedonia's Albanian-Language Bill Becomes Law". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. January 15, 2019.
  8. ^ "Albanian Designated Macedonia's 2nd Official Language". AP News. Associated Press. January 15, 2019.
  9. ^ "МИА – Македонска Информативна Агенцијa – НА ДЕНЕШЕН ДЕН". Archived from the original on 2012-03-08. Retrieved 2010-08-15.
  10. ^ Thornburg, Linda L.; Fuller, Janet M., eds. (2006). Studies in Contact Linguistics: Essays in Honor of Glenn G. Gilbert. New York: Peter Lang. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-8204-7934-7.
  11. ^ Friedman, Victor A. (1998). "The Implementation of Standard Macedonian: Problems and Results". International Journal of the Sociology of Language. 131: 31–57. doi:10.1515/ijsl.1998.131.31. S2CID 143891784.
  12. ^ "Albanians". World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples. Minority Rights Group International. Archived from the original on 2012-01-21. Retrieved 2012-01-02.
  13. ^ "The Albanian Language – Robert Elsie".{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ "Turkish Language Program". Syracuse University. Archived from the original on 2011-08-23. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
  15. ^ a b David Dalby, Linguasphere (1999/2000, Linguasphere Observatory), pg. 445, 53-AAA-g, "Srpski+Hrvatski, Serbo-Croatian".
  16. ^ Fortson, Benjamin W., IV (2010). Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction (2nd ed.). Chichester, U.K.: Blackwell. p. 431. ISBN 978-1-4051-8895-1. Because of their mutual intelligibility, Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian are usually thought of as constituting one language called Serbo-Croatian.
  17. ^ a b Blažek, Václav. "On the Internal Classification of Indo-European Languages: Survey" (PDF). pp. 15–16. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
  18. ^ E.C. Hawkesworth, "Serbian-Croatian-Bosnian Linguistic Complex", also B Arsenijević, "Serbia and Montenegro: Language Situation". Both in the Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 2nd edition, 2006.
  19. ^ Benjamin V. Fortson, IV, Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction, 2nd ed. (2010, Blackwell), pg. 431, "Because of their mutual intelligibility, Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian are usually thought of as constituting one language called Serbo-Croatian."
  20. ^ See Art. 6 of the Constitution of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, available at the official website of Office of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina
  21. ^ Admin. "Знаковен јазик".
  22. ^ "Dnevnik". Archived from the original on 2011-07-27. Retrieved 2012-12-14.
  23. ^ Закон за употреба на знаковниот јазик, Службен весник на Република Македонија, број 105, 21 август 2009, Скопје

External linksEdit