Learning Croatian: Dalmatia's Shortest and Finest Conversation

By 20 May 2018

Learning Croatian is no easy thing, but when some standard exchanges can be picked up very quickly, such as the very finest and shortest conversation exchange in Dalmatia.

I am just back home in Varazdin after 12 days on the road on a Grand Balkan Tour, which took in Dalmatia, Bosnia, Montenegro and southern Albania, an exhausting but fascinating snapshot of this magnificent but troubled region. 

My final port of call was the gorgeous island of Korcula, and it was nice to reawaken the 'bodul' within, after my 13 years of the neighbouring island of Hvar. 

When I first came to Croatia, all the locals sounded the same, as I grappled with their complicated language and impossible dialects, but over the years, I have learned at least some of the regional differences, and now living in Varazdin Country (where the local dialect is impossible without a couple of litres of gemist), I can spot a Dalmatian from 10 kilometres. 

Hearing the sounds of island Dalmatian took me back, of course, to the linguistic colossus, Professor Frank John Dubokovich, Guardian of the Hvar Dialects. The Professor has been entertaining our regular Total Hvar readers for years with his unique insights into how to speak Hvar  dialects, and his tireless work was recognised firstly by an appearance on national television, after which he was picked up by a British reality TV show. You can check out his linguistic genius and extraordinary language-teaching skills on the British reality show below:

The Professor was also kind enough to demonstrate one of the most common forms of greetings in Dalmatia. It is one of my favourite exchanges and involved two people and just four (five for total authenticity) words. Check out The Professor in action below.

"E, Di si?" (the 'E' is optional, and used by language purists).

"Evo me."

End of conversation. 

The translation:

"Where are you?"

"Here I am."

End of conversation. Silence

It is a conversation which takes place in queues at the bank, across cafe tables, on ferries. The person asking the question knows exactly where the other person is. Four, or maybe five words, with so much imparted between the two parties.

Ah, Dalmatia. Simplicity.

Who said Croatian is a hard language to learn?