A Handbook of Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian begins with a short introduction, then jumps into the geography and history of each country and how that history influenced various aspects of each respective language. I found it interesting to learn about the different paths these countries took and understanding how those paths shaped their cultures. Dialects are briefly touched on here, and again more extensively toward the end.
Before going on, I should note that despite my title choice for this post, the term "Serbo-Croatian" isn't used anymore. If wanting to learn any of these languages, the best option is to focus on either Croatian or Serbian. Learning materials for Bosnian specifically are pretty hard to find. I checked on Amazon and all I found were a couple of Bosnian-English dictionaries.
Back to the book...
The sound system is covered next. If you're not into the technicalities of it all (which I admittedly am not), the details can be a tad overwhelming. Teach Yourself Serbian goes over the most common examples of spelling changes and the sound changes that result in a way that's much easier to take in. Fortunately, Serbian is very straight-forward when it comes to pronunciation. The idea is one letter, one sound, and that applies whether reading Cyrillic or Latin.
It's made known from the beginning there really aren't many differences in the grammar of these three languages. In this segment, which is the longest, all are basically treated as one language with specific distinctions made only when necessary. I'm weird, I like grammar. Not in that totally unbending way some people get caught up in, but more because I'm fascinated by the way other languages operate.
We then learn all about vocabulary. Here is where the languages are said to differ the most. Examples are given along with a few categorized wordlists. One thing I've noticed is there seem to be quite a few words for one thing. I've looked up words in Serbian and have been surprised and confused by the many translations that appear.
Finally, there's a short reading text that's literally translated with the part of speech or case listed under each word of the translation. For a language where articles don't exist and case expresses certain things we would use separate words for in English, I found this to be very helpful.
To sum up, this little book is good for anyone seriously studying these languages, but needlessly technical for the casual learner. I consider myself somewhere inbetween. The "serious" part of me found myself highlighting facts that the "casual" side of me had wondering, 'What in the world are you gonna do with that info?' Due to the technicalness - not sure that's an actual word, but we'll just pretend it is ;) - it would perhaps be most appealing to those interested in the linguistics of the Balkan region.
After going over this booklet, I am now more inspired to practice my Serbian, and will hopefully start adding posts to my Serbian language blog soon. :)