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Speaking the LanguageBack to top Back to main Skip to menu
Croatia - Speaking the Language
The official language in Croatia is standard Croatian. It is a member of the Slavic family language group, which has been enriched over the centuries by German, Turkish and Hungarian influences.
There are also a number of minority languages which can be used in an official capacity, including Serbian, Romani, Italian, Czech, Hungarian and Slovak. However, only about four percent of the population speak a minority language.
The education system in Croatia takes foreign language learning seriously. The country recognises the importance of communicating with nearby trading partners, and the significant financial benefit of providing leisure services to foreign tourists with the languages they can understand.
As early as the first grade, children begin instruction in their first foreign language. A choice between English, German or Italian is normally available, with schools typically making the choice based on the teaching staff available.
Classes in a second foreign language begin in the fourth grade. The typical options will be English, German or Italian, although some schools will also offer Spanish, French or Russian. Students know that languages will be useful in their adult lives, which is a good motivation to do well.
It is therefore not surprising that approximately four out of five Croatians can speak a second language to a respectable level, although the level is higher in districts dominated by tourism and lower in remote areas. Age is also a big factor, with younger people being more likely to speak at least one foreign language compared to pensioners.
English, followed by German and then Italian are the languages most likely to be spoken by a Croatian national. Older Croatians are more likely to speak German, whilst English is the most common foreign language spoken by those under 35.
If you intend to settle in Croatia for some time, it makes sense to learn the language.
You can start by using online resources, although these are sparse. Even watching YouTube videos can give you a basic introduction, whilst Duolingo offers a few introductory sessions for free. The website Learn Croatian has a lot of useful starting points and suggestions for further resources. Another website, Language Courses UK, lists a number of links to useful online resources.
If you want to attend Croatian language classes in the country, you have plenty of options. The website Study In Croatia lists university language courses available at a number of Croatian universities. Moja-Edukacija provides a list of courses at private centres across Croatia. Don’t be put off by the Croatian writing, scroll down and you will quickly find the English language information.
Is Croatian Easy To Learn?
As with every language, how easily you learn Croatian will depend on your natural ability, how hard you are prepared to work, the quality of resources or teaching available to you, and your contact with native speakers.
For pronunciation, it is helpful that every letter is vocalised. Compare that to English, where the silent k in knee is ready to trip up any new English language learner, or where an e at the end of a word can not only be left unsaid but also changes the sound of a vowel several letters before it, such as in smile.
Unfortunately there are also some letter combinations which produce sounds that are not mirrored in the English language. However, there are not many of these, so once you have studied them, they will not hold you back for long.
Croatian grammar is complicated. Verb endings are different according to the tense and person or item being referred to, which is confusing for Chinese speakers but familiar to European people.
Even if the complexities of grammatically correct Croatian are beyond you at this stage, don’t be put off learning. Pick up a few common sentences, and use them to greet your neighbours or order bakery items at the counter. This will give you confidence for speaking the new language as well as some building blocks from which you can work.
Watching TV In Croatia
Croatia offers a range of TV viewing choices, and the great news is that plenty of UK and US programmes are broadcast with Croatian subtitles. That means you can listen to the original soundtrack.
The exception is for children’s programming. All foreign shows are dubbed into Croatian, given that they are aimed at an age group too young to read subtitles.
The state owns several channels, including HRT 1 and HRT 2, which broadcast entertainment, drama, news and sport 24 hours a day. The state also provide documentary and factual interest programmes on HRT 3, and a sports news channel on HRT 4. Further channels providing a mix of entertainment and news are available on RTL 1, RTL 2, Nova TV and Doma TV.
Netflix became legally available in Croatia in 2016. Most of its programming is in American English, and can be downloaded to just about any streaming device with access to the internet. You can create up to five user profiles on your account, each retaining the user’s viewing history and favourite shows.
British expats living in Croatia are not legally permitted to access the download TV and radio programmes from the BBC iPlayer. This information is clearly displayed in the iPlayer terms and conditions of use. The system is provided for all UK households who purchase an annual TV License, which forms the basis of BBC funding without access to advertising revenue. The TV License cannot be purchased from outside the UK.
English Language Newspapers
There is a broad range of Croatian newspapers and magazines available to meet just about any political outlook or special interest. However, if you wish to read articles in English, your best sources will be online.
Croatia Week offers magazine articles on travel, entertainment, sport, business and news. Total Croatia News is a more serious look at Croatian life across the country. Meanwhile there are a few regional options too, such as the Dubrovnik Times, which keep English speaking expats up to date about what is happening in the area.
Find Your Language Target
If you are living in Croatia for just a few weeks or months, you’ll need very little Croatian. You can access English speaking TV and online news content, and many of the people you come into contact with will be able to speak at least some basic English phrases.
However, if this is your home for the long term, or you are joining the business community, then it’s up to you to make the effort to assimilate. This means learning enough of the national language to have everyday interactions with local people, and possibly more if you want to be seen as a valued colleague or business contact. Luckily, there are plenty of options to help you achieve that goal.
Read more about this country
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