Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Spanish Party Team in Split: Spanish Youth Tries the Croatian Coast

June 2, 2021 - One TCN intern spoke to three people from different regions in Spain about their expat experience in Split.

Croatia is an easy county to adapt to Spaniards because they don't really need to adapt a lot. The climate is similar on the Mediterranean coast and the culture has a common Catholic base. Meanwhile, it's not the same thing and they value their experience from living in Dalmatia.

My Croatian boss told me about his mate, a Split journalist, who once wrote that the best city in the world was... not Split, but San Sebastian located in the Basque Country, Spain. It represents a flagrant case, but in general, as I can see, many Split citizens have the positive impression of Spain - either through business trips, or holidays there, or the Camino - and wouldn't mind moving there for some period of time. I spoke with my Spanish colleagues in Split who have done the opposite move and asked them to compare their life in Spain and in Croatia. They came from different regions of Spain: Estela (28) is from the north-west region of Galicia, Pablo (24) is from the Saragosa, the capital of the north-east region of Aragon, and Jorge (25) is from the south-east region of Murcia.

Jamon or pršut?

"In the cuisine, there are many similarities because of common ingredients of Mediterranian cuisine," Pablo starts and enumerates some of it as olive oil, cheese, vegetables. Some foodstuff is more popular for one region than for others. For example, a homemade meal in Saragosa usually contains dishes with green beans, while in Split, it's difficult to find fresh green beans to cook with at home. In Galicia, people traditionally eat more liquid food or soups, while Dalmatians prefer solid foods like pašticada. 'Ajvar' sauce from red pepper is popular in the Balkans and would probably never become a part of Spaniards’ nutrition if they had not moved to Croatia.

Some differences in nutrition arise from the geographical circumstances, for instance, seafood is more typical for coastal sides of Spain as well as Croatia. Dorada fish is bigger in Galicia in the cold waters of the Atlantic than in Dalmatia in the Mediterranean Sea. Other distinctions stem mostly from the generational gap and personal circumstances. Young generations try to keep healthy nutrition with less meat and more fish in spite of the geographical region they live in. Estela feels closer to this generation than to the older one that cannot imagine the main dish without meat, either in Spain or in Croatia. 


Jorge was surprised by the level of prices in the supermarkets here. It's more or less the same as in Spain, whereas the level of salaries is certainly lower in Croatia. He also misses big chain supermarkets in Croatia like 'Merkadona' in Spain, because it produces some foodstuff under its own brand. Things like 'guacamole' or 'hummus' have a good quality there. However, in Split, there are a lot of products imported from Spain, like 'Lidl' supermarkets with its 'Spanish week', etc. Maybe, you won't find some small local brands of cheese or beer that you're used to in Spain, but you will find an adequate substitution. Looking closer, ‘pršut' is similar to 'jamon', 'kulen' is similar to 'chorizo’, and the like. 

Coffee or beer?

Choosing between coffee and beer depends on the time and day schedule for Spaniards. They feel more streamlined in this matter. Breakfast should be before you go to work. A lunch is between 2:00 and 3:00 pm, and dinner is served between 9:00 and 10:00 pm. "In Croatia, people eat when they want!" Pablo and Estela wonder. "Here, people drink more coffee", Estela continues. In Spain, it's normal to have coffee first with your breakfast, to drink one more in the afternoon, and perhaps to have one more coffee after lunch. People usually drink their last coffee at lunchtime, but not at 8:00 pm as people do in Split. Of course, there are some people in Spain who have to work in the evening or have other reasons to drink coffee so late, but most Spaniards prefer beer in the evening.

The culture around having coffee or beer in some public places does not differentiate much. You can enjoy one cup of coffee in a cafe for hours if you're not in a hurry. You can drink coffee quickly and go to work as well. It's typical to have a beer in the evening as people usually finish work, but it's ok to have it even at 1:00 pm as you've already finished your business. Coffee in cafes is a little more expensive than in Spain. Prices for beer in Split bar are also higher, as Jorge and Pablo guess. Estela makes adjustments. A mug of beer is bigger here, and accordingly, the price is higher. In sum, we have more or less the same level of prices in Croatia and in Spain. Also, Split is the second-largest city in Croatia and a tourist city, namely the ‘Croatian Barcelona’. Certainly, in the historic center of Barcelona, a glass of beer costs more money than in some towns in Galicia.

The variety of coffee is broader in Spain. For example, 'cortado' most likely won’t be found in any cafe in Split. Spaniards agree that the quality of coffee is good. Meanwhile, they prefer coffee from the machine or an Italian drip kettle. "Turkish coffee is kind of disgusting to everybody who gets used to Italian coffee," Jorge supposes. A beer in Croatia is less strong than in Spain, however as mentioned, a normal glass or a bottle is 0,5 l instead of 0,33 l. You get less alcohol with a bigger amount. At will, you can get the same thing in Spain. There, if a beer is too strong, people dilute it with sparkling water or lemon juice. In Croatia, nobody does that. But Croatians often dilute wine with sparkling water or ice that seems weird to Spaniards. "If wine is really bad, we do 'sangria' or 'calimontxo' (namely Croatian 'bambus') from it. If wine is good, we never mix it. People would ask why?!” Estela explains to me.

Inside or outside?

Estela and Pablo arrived in Split in late November 2020, a week before the second anti-Covid lockdown. Jorge came in March 2021, a week after cafes and terraces started to re-open after winter quarantine. One might think that Jorge was luckier to come later, but in fact, the Covid restrictions were stronger in Spain than in Croatia. In any case, their experience in leisure time had objective limits because of the Covid-19 pandemic. It's difficult to compare entertainment in your home town and in Split, they say because they haven't seen that touristic crowded loud Split as it was before the quarantine. However, nobody really suffered from the lack of activities here.

Pablo says that when you come for a year, you're more concentrated on the communication with new people you meet here. He was not striving to go to a gym or wherever for any organised leisure time. "I'm not bored now. If I lived here for a longer period of time and had a routine every day, I would probably try. I mean there are some museums, etc." Pablo speculates. Indeed, in this sphere of communication, we were lucky in Split. There are some typical public places for drinking in the afternoon or evening time in every town of Spain, but this kind of social activity is prohibited and the police usually come. Otherwise, Matejuška pier situated on the edge of the Split Riva is open 24h and rarely visited by the police. You can go there almost any time to drink in a company and meet amazing people from all over the world.


We met people on Matejuška even on the coldest evenings in winter. As a whole, there are fewer activities during the winter and more in summer. Leisure time options in Split are similar to Ferrol, Estela says. As well she prefers to spend leisure time outside. You can go hiking in the mountains or swimming in the sea - fortunately, both options are close to the city. If you fancy it, it doesn't take much time to come by foot to some beautiful nature place in the surrounding area. Split is situated on the hills, nevertheless, the Riva promenade is straight enough for roller-skating and skateboarding. With her friend, Estela found a good place for skating behind the ferry port of Split. Besides roller skates, she also took a slackline and was pleasantly surprised to find another group of slackliners in the city park Sustipan. 

They went once to the cinema and theater. In the cinema, it was an American movie - an original version with Croatian subtitles. The fact that cinemas usually show original versions is for sure appreciated by Spaniards. In Spain, movies are mostly dubbed, thus foreigners have little chance to understand the plot. What is even more pleasant, as Estela's local friend shared with her, the summer cinema on Bačvice beach will be showed with double - Croatian and English - subtitles, so foreigners will have all the options. 

To speak or not to speak?

My Spanish colleagues as well as I came to Croatia through an international program that affected our community. Almost from the first month, we joined the Facebook group 'Expats meet Split' and it also affected the international diversity of our social circle. Estela speculates: "If I had an ordinary work here, in a public school, for example, perhaps I would have more Croatian friends, and it would be easier to do at the workplace". But anyway, she considers Croats are very open to communication and their way of socialising similar to Spaniards. Croatians are open to suggestions to have coffee together, to go to the beach, to drink a beer in a bar.

Pablo has a more skeptical view of making friends with Croatians. He agrees that Croatians are open people, however, his experience of watching football in the company of Croats suggests that he needed to speak Croatian to have a true Croatian friend. They are nice, they invite you to watch a match together, but finally, they start speaking Croatian to each other and you're out of it, Pablo explains. Estela objects to him. "People of our generation, they speak good English. Of course, if you're in a big company, it'd be better to speak Croatian. If you're in a small company or one-on-one, you would not have problems socialising. You can communicate, speak, explain..."


Learning Croatian is a challenge for people from Spain. The grammar is complicated. There is just a little intersection with Latin, therefore you need to learn totally new vocabulary. There are some words without vocals ('krv' blood, 'prst' finger, etc.) which is difficult to spell, some words with sounds missing in the Spanish language which is also difficult to spell ('ljubav' love, 'izviđači' scouts). Some usual words in Croatian sound funny to Spaniards, because it sounds similar to obscene words (‘koliko puta..." how many times...). Certainly, it would take years to learn Croatian properly. So far, my Spanish colleagues in Split speak mostly English and use a dozen of Croatian phrases on occasion.

Spanish people are everywhere. If you want to find them, you'll find them. However, my Spanish colleagues don't really try to find their countrymen. Jorge shies away from the Erasmus students' society that is kinda well-staffed by Spanish students in the University of Split. Pablo's first preference was an international party, but now he doesn't care whether he will join an international or Spanish party the next evening. Estela said that she tried to avoid Spanish society. "If they start talking with me, of course, I talk... If we are in a big company, I try to move to an international circle... I have enough Spanish friends in Spain."

Pomalo or even more pomalo 

As we seek to describe the culture of a region by one word, we likely use 'pomalo' for Dalmatia. In the Dalmatian dialect it means 'take it easy', 'relax', 'slow down', 'put it off until tomorrow, 'we will do it tomorrow, 'we can do it tomorrow... or later'. The Spanish word 'mañana' (tomorrow) has quite a similar context to it. In Europe, these concepts are traditionally associated with southern sloths and laziness. "Europe has a stereotype of us that we are really pomalo, but here there's even more pomalo," Estela shares her impression. Pablo echos her: "Here everybody is so relaxed. It doesn't matter whether you come on Monday morning, or Tuesday morning, the Riva is full of people. And these people are not only tourists!" It looks like nobody works in this city!


Joking aside, some manifestations of this pomalo mentality at times frustrates my Spanish team. Estela chooses her words to be merciful with our lovely Dalmatia - flexible, not disorganised. Notwithstanding, she would like to see fewer last-minute moves and more long-term plans. Maybe, slowly, but it should come to its objective. The illustrative example is local services. Croatian Post works really slow. Sending something from Spain takes about a month, but in the end, reaches the consignee. One of the bottles was broken, but when they contacted the Croatian Post service, they promised to manage it. Meanwhile, postcards that Estela's mom had sent her via post never came to Split.

Another story has happened with my colleagues during the use of the 'e-bike' service in Split. They bought an annual Croatia subscription in Zadar and should not be charged more. But the bike company began to charge them more for rentals in Split. After e-mailing, the Spanish expats learned that Split (a big tourist city, for economical reasons) and Jastrebarsko (a small town, for a random reason) are excluded from the whole-country subscription. The company returned the money and they changed the subscription to Split only. So, services work, although slowly, whereas you should make contacts and push them, and remind them, but finally, a responsible person helps you, and you get a result. So, you can manage. But, it'd be better to feel more secure from the beginning, wouldn't it?

For more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Croaticum Croatian Language and Culture Summer School Announced for 2021

May 13, 2021 - Croaticum has announced this year's Croatian Language and Culture Summer School in the city of Zagreb, and enrollments will begin on May 24th!

The Croatian language and culture are beginning to generate more and more interest among not only ex-pats who wish to return home or reconnect with their relatives, but also among tourists and foreigners. In recent years, an increasing number of people have enrolled to study the Croatian language and culture in different cities of the country. One of these departments, the Croaticum in Zagreb, has announced the opening of its summer school for the Croatian language and culture, to be held between June and July.

Despite being a real challenge, those interested this year in learning the Croatian language and culture course are encouraged to take it online, in order to achieve an approach to the rich Croatian culture from almost anywhere in the world.

The Centre for Croatian as a Second and Foreign Language, also known as Croaticum, is the oldest and largest institution engaged in teaching, research, and description of Croatian as a second and foreign language. It is part of the Department of Croatian Language and Literature at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Zagreb, the largest Croatian academic institution specializing in social studies and humanities. Croaticum is renowned for its tradition, expertise, and knowledge.

One of the main attractions of studying through Croaticum is the opportunity of being part of classes that are organized in diverse groups of students speaking different languages and belonging to different nationalities and age groups. Groups are formed on the basis of the results of Croatian language placement tests.


For this year, Croaticum has announced that their online Summer School of Croatian Language and Culture will take place from June 23rd to July 13th. The course consists of 75 lessons during three weeks, and they are distributed as follows:

  • 60 lessons of language exercises,
  • 6 lessons of phonetic exercises,
  • and 9 lessons on cultural lectures and activities.

Lessons will be taught in the afternoon hours, starting from 2:00 pm Zagreb time (UTC +2, CEST).

The price of the course is 450 euros and enrollments are open from the 24th of May until the 18th of June. For online participation in the Croaticum Summer School of the Croatian Language and Culture a computer with a stable internet connection, microphone and camera is needed.

For more information on the Croaticum Summer School of Croatian Language and Culture, please check out their website.

If you are interested in the program, contact Croaticum for more details or you can fill out the online application form and you will receive an e-mail with more information when enrollments open.

You can also contact the Croaticum through phone (+385 1 4092 068), by email (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), or through their official Facebook page.

For more, follow our lifestyle section.

Saturday, 6 March 2021

Minority Leaders Push for Introducing Croatian as Official Language in Vojvodina

ZAGREB, 6 March, 2021 - The Croatian National Council (HNV) leader Jasna Vojnić has sent a proposal to Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić that the language of the ethnic Croatian minority should be recognised as an official language in the whole territory of the northern province of Vojvodina.

The HNV web portal reported on Friday evening about this initiative launched by the leadership of ethnic Croats in Serbia in response to the plans of the local authorities in the northern Vojvodina city of Subotica to approve the official use of the Bunjevački vernacular spoken by members of a local community who identify themselves as non-Croat Bunjevci.

Under the current law, local government units must grant the official use of an ethnic minority's language and script if that minority accounts for at least 15% of the local population. According to the 2011 census, 13,553 citizens, or 9.57% of Subotica residents, identify themselves as Bunjevci.

Despite the fact that the size of the Bunjevci community did not reach the 15% share in the population requirement and despite the fact that this vernacular does not have a status of a language according to linguistic standards, Subotica Mayor Stevan Bakić of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić's Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) moved a proposal to amend the city's statute to introduce the Bunjevac dialect and script as an official language.

The HNV leader Vojnić says that being encouraged by this example of such positive discrimination which is applied in the case of the Bunjevci community, the Croatian community "is looking forward to future initiatives of local office-holders to help minorities to exercise similar rights in settlements where ethnic Croats live."

In this context she recalls that in the city of Sombor, Croats make up 8.39% of the local population, and  in the municipalities of Apatin and Bač 10.42% and 8.39% respectively. Therefore, following the precedent of the positive discrimination towards Subotica non-Croat Bunjevci, Vojnić expects Serbia's authorities to apply such positive discrimination rules in the whole of Vojvodina towards ethnic Croats.

Another ethnic Croat leader Tomislav Žigmanov recently warned that the relevant Slavic or comparative linguistics literature does not call the Bunjevac dialect a language.

Croatia's Ambassador to Serbia, Hidajet Biščević, has said in an interview with Hrvatska Riječ that the initiative fort the recognition of the Bunjevci vernacular as an official language is legally unfounded and that it also contains undesirable negative political and social consequences for the interests of the Croat ethnic minority in Serbia.

The diplomat also said that the initiative is contrary to the agreement between Croatia and Serbia on the mutual protection of ethnic minorities.

In the meantime Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Ministry sent a protest note through its embassy.

"The Bunjevci dialect is not a language. It belongs to the new Stokavian-Ikavian dialect, it is one of the dialects of the Croatian language. The Bunjevci people in Hungary are also a sub-ethnic group who call their language Croatian," Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said at  news conference last Thursday, explaining the reasons for the protest note.

Around 16,000 Bunjevci who deny their Croatian origins live in the north of the Bačka region. They are represented by the Bunjevci National Council, whose leaders are close to the  Vučić's SNS party.

The remaining majority of the Bunjevci, including the leadership of the Vojvodina Croats, formally identify themselves as Bunjevci Croats.

In the 2011 census, nearly 58,000 people in Serbia identified themselves as Croats.

Monday, 1 March 2021

Learning Croatian: Dalmatia's Shortest and Most Common Conversation

March 1, 2021 - How hard is learning Croatian really? Take some encouragement from the shortest and most common conversation in Dalmatia - just 4 words!

Having the perfect teacher can enhance your chances of learning a foreign language considerably, and there are no finer teachers than Professor Frank John Dubokovich, Guardian of the Hvar Dialects. 

With his expert knowledge and considerable patience (although not as patient as the waiters listening to his 30-second specific way or ordering coffee), I have learned things I never needed to know about Hvar dialect. Fun fact - did you know, for example, that there are 8 different words for 'chisel' on the island of Hvar. The bigger joke, perhaps, is that it is all but impossible to actually buy a chisel on the island. 

The Professor is a master at keeping words to a minimum, unless of course, he is ordering that coffee. In terms of mastering the basic Dalmatian greetings, there is nobody who can touch the Professor in terms of making each syllable count. His legendary Dalmatian Grunt, below, quickly went global when it was unleashed on an unsuspecting Internet a decade ago.

More archive footage has emerged of the Professor demonstrating the shortest and most common conversation in Croatia. It is a conversation you hear EVERYWHERE in Dalmatia. 

And it is incredibly easy to learn. 

One question, one answer, 4 words, 5 syllables. How hard can that be?

The conversation goes as follows:

Di si?

Evo me. 

Which literally translates as ('Di' is dialect for 'Gdje')

Where are you?

Here I am. 

End of conversation.


 And there you have it. Along with the grunt, you have greeted your companion, enquired after their health (sort of), and are now free to enjoy the morning newspaper. 

When it comes to coffee, however, the Professor has a LOT more to say. 

The only footage I have of the Professor ordering a coffee is this video with former Australia Socceroos assistant coach, Ante Milicic, who was so impressed by the Professor's teachings that he has his voice both as his ringtone and wakeup call. And no, I am not kidding. 

For more inspiring lessons from the linguistic colossus that is Professor Frank John Dubokovich, visit the TCN Talks YouTube channel


Saturday, 27 February 2021

People also ask Google: How do Croatians Greet Each Other?

February 27, 2021 – How do Croatians greet each other? Saying hello isn't always as straightforward as it could be in any language. But, in Croatian, there's no need to be apprehensive. The rules are easy to master. Until you enter the minefield of personal space intrusion. Oh, and the thing with the eyes...

If you're asking how do Croatians greet each other, you're probably considering greeting a Croat in their own language. Bravo! By and large, Croatians are bilingual or multilingual. They mostly learn and speak English to an excellent standard. Why do they do this?

Well, Croatians are more than aware that 1.5 billion people in the world speak English. That's 20% of the world's population. They use the English they learn in business, tourism and when they travel or go abroad to work or live. Croatians are also more than aware that only around 4 million people live in their country. By comparison, very few people in the world speak Croatian.

That's why it's particularly impressive to a Croat if you make an effort to greet them in the same way Croatians greet each other. You're making your first tiny step in the Croatian language. And you're showing respect. Needless though your efforts probably are, they will be met with appreciation by the Croatians you greet. They will also be met by a return greeting in Croatian. Let's do the simple stuff first. You can be proficient at this in under 5 minutes.

How do Croatians greet each other? Dobar dan

How do Croatians greet each other? Dobar dan

The standard greeting in Croatian is 'Dobar dan'. This means 'Good day'. You will actually hear 'Dobar dan' at any time of day.

If you go in the supermarket at 9am, the person on the checkout may say 'Dobar dan' to you, even though it is morning. This is not only because 'Dobar dan' is such a standard greeting, but it's also because they've been working since 6am. While you were sleeping. It definitely feels like 'dan' to them.

Whether or not the 'dan' is indeed 'dobar', you will have to ascertain from looking at their face. But, it's actually irrelevant if their day or your day is good or not. You say 'Dobar dan'. It's the standard greeting.

If a Croatian says 'Dobar dan' to you, the correct reply is, of course, 'Dobar dan'. If this is not your first meeting, or if you know the person you're greeting, this will probably be followed by 'Kako ste?' (formal) or 'Kako si?' (informal). This means 'How are you?' The standard reply is 'Dobro' (OK/Good), closely followed by 'a vi?' (formal) or 'a ti?' (informal). That means 'And you?' But, we're jumping ahead of ourselves a little.

If it is the morning, the standard Croatian greeting should change to 'Dobro jutro'. Obviously, this means 'Good morning.'

If it is the evening, obviously you change to 'Good evening'. The Croatian for 'Good evening' is a little contentious.

You'll notice that the word 'Good' in the morning and daytime greeting is not spelled the same. That's because each noun in Croatian has a gender. Like in French or German, there are three genders for Croatian nouns – male, female, neutral (don't call this third one 'non-binary' or 'bisexual', Croatians don't find that funny)

It's 'Dobar dan' because the word 'dan' is male. It's 'Dobro jutro' because the word 'jutro' is neutral.

The word 'večer' is feminine. The correct way to say 'Good evening' in Croatian is, therefore 'Dobra večer'. But, that's not altogether how do Croatians greet each other in the evening.

In place of 'Dobra večer', you can also hear 'Dobro večer', 'Dobro veče' and 'Dobar večer'. For simplicity's sake, just stick to the correct 'Dobra večer' and you'll be fine.

Other variations of these standard greetings remove the 'Good' altogether. So, you'll definitely hear 'jutro', 'dan' and 'večer' or 'veče'. This actually makes them slightly less formal. These would be usually be expressed between people who are familiar with each other – a work colleague, someone you share a house with, the lady in the store who saw you a hundred times before.

If you're meeting someone for the first time, stick to 'Dobar dan', 'Dobro jutro' or 'Dobra večer'

How to greet in Croatian in a formal way
men-1979261_640.jpgHow do Croatians greet each other? Formal greetings are a whole other ballgame

There are some circumstances in which more formality is required if you're greeting in Croatian. The best example would be when you start writing a letter or email to someone you don't know, such as in an application for a job.

In this instance, you would start the letter or email with the word 'Poštovani'. In letter writing, this is used in place of the English word 'Dear'. But, it probably more closely translates as 'Greetings' but formal. The word for 'dear' is 'dragi' or 'draga', but this more applies to 'dear to me', rather than the opening of formal communication.

If you're writing a letter or email, begin with 'Poštovani'. You use this word to address your letter to a man or to multiple people. If you don't know if the recipient of your letter or email will be a man or woman, 'Poštovani' is perfect – you're covered because it addresses multiple people.

If you know for sure that the recipient of your mail will be a lady, then use 'Poštovana. As with 'Dobra večer', you can see the word has changed to have an 'a' on the end. 'A' denotes a feminine noun or that you are addressing a female in Croatian.

Learning the gender of every Croatian noun takes time. But, if you remember 'a' means female, you're on your way. It's easy to remember – it's near impossible to think of a Croatian female name that doesn't end in 'a' – Marija, Vedrana, Mia, Ema, Lucija, Lana, Sara, Petra, Ana.

'Poštovani' is not only used in written Croatian. You will hear it spoken and it is used in formal situations. Back to the supermarket. When the staff want to warn you the store will soon close, you'll usually hear one of them start their call over the tannoy system with 'Poštovani kupci' (dear/greetings shoppers).

You may also hear poštovani used in combination with the standard greetings. “Poštovani i dobar dan” This is a quite formal and flowery use of language.

Another formal greeting in Croatian, but less formal than 'Poštovani', is 'Zdravo'. This is more commonly used among older generations of Croatians. One slightly less formal than Zdravo is 'Pozdrav'. Pozdrav is kind of in the middle of formal and informal, but if you use it in a formal setting, nobody will mind at all. Like some other Croatian greetings, pozdrav is also used to end a dialogue, to say goodbye. Sometimes, when used as a denotation of parting, pozdrav is shortened to 'poz'. Poz is extremely informal. You would only ever say 'Poz' to a friend.

How do Croatians say hello to their friends? How to greet someone in Croatian informally?


swedishchefbork.pngThe famous catchphrase of the Swedish chef character from The Muppets is "börk, börk, börk". This isn't actually a word in Swedish. To you, this may sound similar to how your Croatian friends greet each other casually with the word "bok". To them, it doesn't (not least because the Croatian 'r' is rolled and pronounced much more strongly than in English). Don't compare your Croatian friends with the Swedish chef. They will think you're an idiot and not at all funny.

The standard way to say 'Hi' to a friend in Croatian is 'Bok'. This is a very informal greeting.

You wouldn't say it to the lady in the supermarket or store unless you know them and have spoken several times before. Similarly, you wouldn't say it to your elders, your boss or your friend/girlfriend's parents, unless they first say 'Bok' to you. After you're greeted with 'Bok', you know you're in safe 'Bok' territory with this person.

This is actually a pretty good line to follow in many ways when both greeting a Croatian and when using the Croatian language generally. Want to know if you can downgrade your 'a vi?' (formal) to 'a ti?' (informal). An older Croatian will decide when you are acquainted well enough to call them 'ti' and they will tell you. Following someone else's lead is also the essential way of dealing with the physical aspects of greeting someone in Croatian.

Ask a Croatian where the word 'Bok' comes from and many won't have an answer. It's unique to Croatia. Though the language used in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina is almost identical to Croatian, they don't say 'Bok' in those countries (unless you are a Croat living in Bosnia and Herzegovina and you are greeting another Croat).

The Croatian word for God is 'Bog'. It would be a very good guess to assume that the word 'Bok' is a shortened version of an old Croatian greeting that contained the word God - 'God be with you', 'God bless you'. Many now archaic greetings using the word God can be found in almost every language within the Christian world. Indeed, Croatians still use religious text in greetings to this day. If you want to greet a nun or a priest in Croatian, you will always say 'Hvaljen Isus' or 'Hvaljen Isus i Marija' (Thanks be to Jesus or Thanks be to Jesus and Mary).

Other informal Croatian greetings

Croatians have many different and creative ways to greet their friends. Translating some of these is difficult. Recognising them as actual words is no easier.

The 'Dalmatian grunt', as intensely featured in TCN's great video series, is one you might learn to recognise. But, it may not be worth trying to master it yourself. In many instances, it sounds similar to the cry of a large sea mammal that is in distress.

seal-1347886_640.jpgHow do Croatians greet each other? Dalmatian is a tricky dialect to master

Similarly, you might hear a rather startling abbreviation of 'Hey!'. Hey is Croatian is 'Hej' (the letter j in Croatian is pronounced like y is in English). Hej is quite often shortened to 'Ej', although this is sometimes slightly harder in meaning.

For instance, your friend might say 'Hej' to you as a greeting and it will be delivered with a smile and softly spoken (well, as softly spoken as Croatian gets). But, if someone wants you to stop doing something that is dangerous, foolish or annoying, they might more sternly say 'Ej!'

If you're causing offense or being rude and someone wants you to desist or check yourself, they might actually say 'Hallo' or 'Alo'. Yes, 'Hello' is an English word that Croatians have adopted into their own language. And in Croatian, it doesn't mean hello. You might hear the word 'Hallo' or 'alo' used to attract the attention of a waiter or barman. More often, you'll hear the word 'Sorry' used to get a waiter or barman's attention. 'Sorry' is another English word adopted by Croats. And, again, in Croatian, it doesn't mean 'sorry'. If you said 'sorry' to an English or American barman, they might wonder if you're about to inform them of the affair you're having with their wife or of the drink you've spilled. To say sorry in Croatian, you say either 'Zao mi je' (I'm sorry to hear that) or 'Oprosti mi' (Forgive me). The correct way to get a waiter's attention in Croatian is actually to say 'izvinite' (Excuse me). All waiters will recognise this, but some of your Croatian friends around the restaurant table might give you a weird look if you say it, depending on where they are from. That's because truly correct Croatian sounds more like Serbian to some Croatians than the modern language or local dialect they use.

The lowest grade of 'Hej' that you need to recognise as a friendly or informal greeting is one employed by people from Bosnia. They might greet you with the monosyllabic 'Eeeeeeeee'. The exact number of e's in this greeting is influenced by regional dialect, the closeness of friendship, how long it's been since the greeter saw you and how much alcohol they've had to drink. As this is a common greeting for those originally from Bosnia, it is very common to hear 'Eeeee' throughout the streets of Zagreb.

How do Croatians greet each other informally? Ćao

Ćao is more often than not how you'd say 'Hi' in Italian. Traditionally, the second language of many Croatians in the coastal regions was this language. As a result, Ćao has entered the Croatian language and is now a perfectly normal way of saying Hi, especially if you're on the coast. Indeed, it is also commonly used by young people in Zagreb. However, 'Ćao' is also the definitive way to say 'Hi' in Serbia. To some in the east of Croatia, to some in Zagreb, and moreover, to some older people who are not from coastal regions, 'Ćao' is Serbian, not Italian, and therefore rather frowned upon. Such persons prefer more distinctly Croatian greetings.

How do Croatians greet each other? Where are you?

binoculars-1209011_640.jpgHow do Croatians greet each other? Where are you?

The most charming and initially unusual greeting you will receive from a Croatian friend is that they will ask you where you are. 'Gdje si?' is 'Where are you?' in Croatian. You won't often hear that as a greeting. Because this is an informal greeting between friends, it is usually shortened. In Dalmatia, they say 'Di si?'. In other parts of Croatia, they say 'De si?' (specifically, in Primorje, Zagorje and some in Zagreb). Bosnians pronounce it 'Đe si?' (pronounced Dje si). So, in Zagreb, you'll hear all three.

The correct response to a Croatian asking you where you are is to ask them also where they are. Yes, it's completely self-evident where you both are. You're looking at one another. That's not the point. Just say 'De si ti?' in reply and be done with it. If your logic takes over and you instead reply 'Evo me' (I'm here), you're breaking the rules of the game. But, as this is an informal greeting between friends, your pal will recognise you are an idiot foreigner, forgive you instantly and smile.

How to physically greet someone in Croatia

woman-888406_640.jpgHow do Croatians greet each other? Shake a paw


A handshake upon your first meeting with someone is pretty standard, just as it is anywhere in the English-speaking world. Just as you do elsewhere, you must look the person you're shaking hands with directly in the eye as you do so. Anything other than direct eye contact may be met suspiciously or as rudeness on your part. It's the same everywhere, so just do it.

How do Croatians greet each other? Watch the eyes!

It's also very good practice for later that evening. If you can master the hand-coordination-whilst-looking-elsewhere required for a greeting, you're well on your way to being able to take part in Croatian toast. In a bar or at a party, when a toast is made and you clink glasses and say 'cheers!', you similarly have to look your co-cheerer directly in the eye.

This is much more difficult to do if you are worried about spilling your full pint during the clink because Croatian custom demands you take your eyes off the golden prize. The way around this is to have a sneaky sip before the toast, so you don't spill any. But, actually, you're supposed to toast before the first sip. Ah well, you'll just have to figure that one out yourself.

Kissy, kissy, free hugs

How do Croatians greet each other? A hug is sometimes part of the exchange. Deal with it.

The minefield of kisses and hugs in Croatian greetings has been covered by TCN before. Some people kiss, some people hug. Some do both. Some kiss once, some kiss twice. In Serbia, they kiss three times. In France, they all kiss – sometimes once, twice or three times, depending on the region.

This invasion of personal space is usually quite horrifying to the more reserved British gentleman, particularly if a French man you don't know dives in to kiss you upon first meeting. In Croatia, the only kissing that goes on between men in greeting is between good friends, so relax, no worries.

Kisses and hugs as a part of greeting in Croatia are generally informal, but not always. And, as some indulge in this while others don't, the golden rule is to follow someone else's lead. So, pay attention to body language and the side of the face which is offered. Start passive, then respond. Problem solved.

How do Croatians greet each other? Let them take the lead

For more answers in the People Also Ask Google series, follow the dedicated section

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Thursday, 25 February 2021

People Also Ask Google: What Language Do They Speak in Istria?

February 25, 2021 – Continuing the TCN series answering the questions posed by Google's People Also Ask function, one that confuses many: what language do they speak in Istria?

Where is Istria?

Istria is the biggest and northernmost peninsula in Croatia and the Adriatic. It lies in the northern part of the Adriatic, in Croatia, Slovenia, and Italy. Geographically, 90 percent of the Istrian peninsula is part of Croatia, while nine percent includes Slovenia.

Most Croatians live in the Croatian part of Istria (68,33 percent), while minorities make up a quarter of the population, of which Italians are the biggest group – six percent. In the Slovenian part, Slovenes make up the absolute majority population. Only one percent of the Istrian surface is part of Italy. It includes only two small municipalities near Trieste, of which the majority of the inhabitants in one are Slovenes and in the other are Italians.

According to the 2011 census, 25 percent of people in Croatia declared their regional identity as Istrian, of which 12 percent live in Istria County, one of 20 Croatian counties. The name for a regional identity developed by a part of the citizens of Istria, mainly its Croatian part, is Istrianism. Thus, regional identification is more pronounced in Istria than in other parts of Croatia.

How many official languages are there in Istria?

Since there are two official languages in Istria – Croatian and Italian – Istria is a bilingual community. Italian is the second official language in Istria since 1994, and the Constitution guarantees the rights to bilingualism in Croatia. Out of 208,000 inhabitants in Istria County, 180,000 stated that their mother language was Croatian, while 14,000 of them stated Italian as their mother language.


Native speakers of Italian in Croatia according to the 2011 census / Wikipedia

In addition to Croatia's Constitution, local legislation, i.e., the Istrian County Statute equates these two languages in public use and encourages learning Italian as an environmental language. The Istrian bilingual community includes both smaller and larger Istrian settlements.

Due to this bilingualism, Istria is a specific region in Croatia, so there are many Italian public institutions (schools, kindergartens, etc.). Istria has a long tradition of education in another language. Besides, the environment itself is bilingual, which means that Italian is not only spoken by Italians but people of other nationalities too, including Croatians. Also, Istria is historically, culturally, and economically strongly connected with Italy.


Buje, Istria / Copyright Romulić and Stojčić

Reputable cultural, scientific, pedagogical, and artistic minority institutions have been established in Istria: Italian Drama in Rijeka (Dramma Italiano), Center for Historical Research in Rovinj (Centro di Ricerche Storiche), Italian department at the Faculty of Philosophy and departments in Italian for teacher education at the College of Teacher Education in Pula. Also, La Voce Del Popolo, a daily newspaper in Italian owned by the Italian Union (Unione Italiana), is published in Rijeka.

During his visit to Istria last year, Italian Ambassador to Croatia, Pierfrancesco Sacco, said that Italians in Croatia feel at home, like Croats in Italy. This is especially evident in Istria and Pula, where there are a deep friendship and a desire to find new cooperation methods. On that occasion, the Mayor of Pula, Boris Miletić, said that the fundamental values, which have been nurtured in this area for decades, are openness, multiculturalism, and coexistence.

What language do they speak in Istria?

The vast majority of Istrians speak the Croatian language's Chakavian dialect, meaning they use the interrogative pronoun "ča." Only in some parts near the border with Slovenia, some people use the interrogative pronoun "kaj," so they are often mistaken for Kajkavians. Still, the structure and characteristics of these speeches are distinctly Chakavian.

Chakavian dialect is also spoken in Dalmatia. However, the Istrian Chakavian dialect is different from the Dalmatian one due to the numerous Italianisms. It is also difficult to understand it in the rest of Croatia. The most widespread Chakavian dialect in Istria is the Southwestern Istrian dialect. There are also Buzet, Northern, Central, and Southern Chakavian dialects in Istria.


Chakavian dialects in Istria: Southwestern (purple), Buzet (orange), Northern (yellow), Central (green), and Southern Chakavian (blue) / Wikipedia

The aforementioned Italian minority lives in some towns on the Istrian west coast and in some villages near Buje, and they speak Italian. In the Slovenian part of Istria, the Slovenian language is spoken.

In the eastern part of Istria, at the foot of the Ćićarija mountain, in several smaller villages live Istro-Romanians or Ćići, a population of Romanian origin who speak their own Istro-Romanian language, which is a mixture of Romanian and Croatian. Today, many of them have adopted the Croatian language and are now considered Croats.

In addition to the dominant Croatian and Italian languages, other minority languages are spoken in Istria, namely Serbian, Bosnian, Slovenian, Albanian, and Macedonian. One can hear the Shtokavian dialect in Istria as well.

What language do they speak in Istria? Istro-Romanian language

Istria is home to two of the 20 most endangered languages in the world by UNESCO – the Istro-Romanian language and Istriot.


Istro-Romanian language is a Balkan Romance language spoken by only a few hundred people today in the northern Istrian villages of Žejane, Lanišće, and Šušnjevica. It is highly similar to the Romanian language, and for some linguists, the Istro-Romanian language is considered a dialect of Romanian. People in Istria who speak it are called Rumeri, Rumeni, Vlachs, or Istro-Romanians. Croats disparaging started to call them Ćići or Ćiribirci.

In the middle of the 15th century, the Ćiribirci were settled by Ivan VII Frankopan from Velebit on the island of Krk. Since the Ćići plundered Ivan Frankopan in northern Istria in 1463, when their name is first mentioned, it is believed that they immigrated to Istria from Krk. However, Istro-Romanians are not officially recognized as a national minority in Croatia.

The most interesting fact about the Istro-Romanian language is that it was spoken by one of the most famous inventors of all time – Nikola Tesla – even though he wasn't even aware of the ethical existence of the Istro-Romanians. Since elementary school, Tesla was able to speak the Istro-Romanian language, despite the fact that Istro-Romanian was not taught in schools in those years. It was only spoken by a few thousands of people in Istria and Lika, and he could have probably learned it in his family.

Although Telsa always considered himself a Serbo-Croat, one Romanian academic, Professor Moraru, thought Tesla was an Istro-Romanian. When Romanian scholars contacted Tesla in the early 20th century and explained he was of Istro-Romanian roots, he allegedly showed amazement but did not comment on that matter. Therefore, Nikola Tesla has never denied the possibility of his Istro-Romanian origins.

What language do they speak in Istria: Istriot language

Istriot language, often confused with Istro-Romanian language, is a Romance language spoken by about 400 people in the southwestern part of Istria, particularly in Rovinj and Vodnjan. Still, it is also preserved in Bale, Fažana, Galižana, and Šišan. It should not be confused with the Istrian dialect of the Venetian language either.

According to some estimates, the Istriot has only a few dozen active speakers and about 300 people who understand it and can use it in part. It is a Romance language related to the Ladin populations of the Alps, currently only found in Istria. Its classification remained mostly unclear, but in 2017, it was classified with the Dalmatian language in the Dalmatian Romance subgroup.

Historically, its speakers never referred to it as "Istriot language." Instead, it had six names after the six towns where it was spoken: in Vodnjan it was named "Bumbaro," in Bale "Vallese," in Rovinj "Rovignese," in Šišan "Sissanese," in Fažana "Fasanese," and in Galižana "Gallesanese." The term Istriot was coined by the 19th-century Italian linguist Graziadio Isaia Ascoli.

Younger Italians in these places mostly understand Istriot, but they rarely use it, and Croats rule this idiom very badly or not at all. It is most endangered in Fažana, and it seems that it is most strongly maintained in Bale.

What language do they speak in Istria: Istrian dialect in Slovenia

Slovene dialects are separated into a few groups, and the Istrian dialect, spoken in Slovene Istria, falls in the Littoral dialect group. Istrian dialect is spoken in the rural areas of Koper, Izola, and Piran. The Slovenes living in the Italian municipalities of Muggia and San Dorligo della Valle, as well as in the southern suburbs of Trieste (Servola, Cattinara). In Croatia, it is also called the Slovenian-Istrian dialect.

The dialect has been influenced by Croatian as spoken in Buzet and Ćićarija and is further subdivided into the Rižana and Šavrin Hills subdialects.


Slovene Istria / Wikipedia


Rižana subdialect (yellow) and Šavrin Hills subdialect (green) / Wikipedia

The Rižana subdialect is spoken in the northern part of Slovenian Istria, in the Rižana Valley east and north of Koper, including the settlements of Bertoki, Dekani, Osp, Črni Kal, Presnica, Podgorje, and Zazid. In Italy, Rižana subdialect is spoken in most of the municipalities of San Dorligo della Valle and Muggia south of Trieste and some southern suburbs of Trieste, especially Servola.

The Šavrin Hills subdialect is spoken in the Šavrin Hills south of a line from Koper to the south of Zazid. It includes the settlements of Koper, Izola, Portorož, Sečovlje, Šmarje, Sočerga, and Rakitovec.

The mixture of Šavrin dialects proves the closeness to the Čakavian dialects, and the Rižana sub-dialect is entirely Slovene. There are many Romance loanwords in both sub-dialects linguistic legacy, mostly Venetian, Trieste-Romance, and Italian.

Why do locals speak Italian?

As previously explained in the second paragraph of this article, Croatians in Istria speak Italian because it has been implemented in public speech and institutions for such a long time.

As Marija Črnac Rocco, head of the Rovinj City Council office, explained for Novosti portal, the Italian national minority in Istria (and certain other Croatian parts) is autochthonous, meaning that the Italian component has always lived and existed in these territories.

Likewise, Italian was the official language during all the various reigns in Istria until the end of the Second World War – the Venetian Republic, the Kingdom of Austria, Napoleon's rule, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and the Kingdom of Italy.


Rovinj, Istria / Copyright Romulić and Stojčić

After the Second World War, Istria was annexed to the Federal Republic of Slovenia and Federal Republic of Croatia, namely the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Italian national community's position, which became a minority in a significant part of Istria due to sad post-war circumstances, has been the subject of consideration and securing the rights of many international agreements.

Therefore, the equal use of the Croatian and Italian languages in Istrian County and many towns and municipalities in Istria is undoubtedly a legal obligation, which for most Istrians is both a moral duty and a civilizational achievement of which they are proud.

Bilingualism in Istria is not only lived in translated official documents, it is lived in families, on the street, in everyday communication, in traditions, and customs. Bilingualism in Istria is natural, spontaneous, and it is perceived as an advantage and a richness.

Istria in Italian and Croatian: some important bilingual place names

Istrian County has ten cities and 31 municipalities. When you drive through Istria, you will notice bilingual traffic signs, including both Croatian and Italian names of towns and municipalities, such as:

  • Buje – Buie
  • Buzet – Pinguente
  • Fažana – Fasana
  • Grožnjan – Grisignana
  • Labin – Albona
  • Medulin – Medolino
  • Motovun – Montona
  • Novigrad – Cittanova (d'Istria)
  • Pazin – Pisino
  • Poreč – Parenzo
  • Pula – Pola
  • Rovinj – Rovigno
  • Umag – Umago
  • Višnjan – Visignano
  • Vodnjan – Dignano
  • Vrsar – Orsera
  • Žminj – Gimino

As such, in Croatian, we say Istra, and Italians say Istria.

When was Istria a part of Italy?

Istria was a part of the Kingdom of Italy after the First World War when the Austro-Hungarian Empire disintegrated. In 1920, with the Rapallo Peace Treaty, Istria, the Croatian city of Zadar, as well as the islands of Lastovo, Cres, and Lošinj, belonged to Italy. Rijeka belonged to Italy in 1924. During the Second World War, the population organized a movement of resistance to fascism by Benito Mussolini. Therefore, after the war, Istria became part of Yugoslavia, where it remained until its disintegration in the early 1990s when the Istrian peninsula was divided by Croatia and Slovenia.

During the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, a significant Italian linguistic and ethnic community in Croatia mainly concentrated on the west coast of Istria and in Rijeka, Dalmatian, and Kvarner towns. After the First and especially after the Second World War, most Croatian Italians emigrated to Italy.


Grožnjan / Copyright Romulić and Stojčić

Today, almost three-quarters of all Italians in Croatia live in Istria County. The only municipality in Croatia where Italians make up a relative majority is Grožnjan in Istria, with 39.4 percent ethnic Italians in the population and 56 percent of the people whose mother language is Italian.

The Italian community's position and rights are guaranteed by the Constitutional Law on Human Rights and the Rights of Ethnic and National Communities of the Republic of Croatia, as well as various international agreements and treaties.

To follow the People Also Ask Google about Croatia series, click here.

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Month of Croatian Language to be Observed from 21 February to 17 March

ZAGREB, 20 February, 2021 - The Month of the Croatian Language starts on Sunday, and the Institute of Croatian Language and Linguistics has called on all primary and secondary schools students to tune in to its virtual Croatian language classes, to last until March 17.

The Month of the Croatian Language is taking place between the day marking the International Mother Language Day, 21 February, declared by UNESCO in 1999, and 17 March, the day when the Declaration on the Name and Status of the Croatian Standard Language was published in 1967.

"The Month of the Croatian Language has been marked in Croatia and everywhere else where Croatian is spoken for a number of years. One of the most important traits of the Croat national identity, the Croatian language has kept its identity and autonomy despite its less than favourable treatment, resisting all pressure, degrading and bans throughout its millennial history," the Institute says.

It recalls that in 2013 Croatian became the 24th official language of the European Union, which was one of the reasons why the Institute launched the Month of the Croatian Language to continue protecting the Croatian linguistic and national identity in the European family of nations.

This year's edition of the Month of the Croatian Language will be held online and will last until March 17.

It will include numerous lectures on digital platforms, whose schedule will be agreed with Croatian language teachers.

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Learning Croatian: the Dialect Words of Hvar Wine (VIDEO)

January 10, 2021 - Continuing our alternative look at the Croatian language through Hvar dialects, some essential vocabulary relating to Hvar wine. 

One of my favourite features over the last ten years writing about Croatia is a language series we started soon after the launch of Total Hvar way back in 2010. 

Sitting in The Office in Jelsa one quiet November lunchtime, I decided to film my friend with some typical Dalmatian greetings.

The unique phenomenon that is the Dalmatian Grunt hit the Internet and a new online start was born. The linguistic colossus that is Professor Frank John Dubokovich, Guardian of the Hvar Dialects, quickly amassed 50,000 views on YouTube, and a fascinating series of lectures followed, until they were inexplicably removed from YouTube a few years ago. 

Thankfully, I came across some of the offline originals recently and have been publishing them again.

Today's lesson focuses on the dialect words for Hvar wine. In some ways, it is a landmark lesson, since it was the first to be independently commissioned by someone else. 

The Professor's fame had spread so far that national television came calling, and they requested that we record an exclusive lesson for them about Hvar wine for a forthcoming primetime feature on tourism in Jelsa. 

The Professor was eager to please and was eager to expand his ever-expanding flock. We thought that the best place to record was at Artichoke Wine Bar and Restaurant in Jelsa, which became the first place the island to offer Hvar wine by the glass soon after it opened several years ago. 

You can check out the Professor's latest foray into the world of Hvar wine above, as well as checking out the entire feature on Jelsa, the only time in my life I have ever been recorded eating blitva.

You can catch up with The Professor's teachings on our TCN Talks YouTube channel

For more news from Hvar, check out the dedicated TCN section


Sunday, 6 December 2020

Croatian Language: Logical, Phonetic, Impossible, Dialectalised & Globalised

December 6, 2020 - Is the Croatian language as impossible to learn as they say? It really depends on how you view it. A bigger question might be whether or not locals can understand each other when they speak it. 

One of the most amazing experiences I have had as a parent so far was watching my eldest daughter learn to read at the age of four. 

One day, she sat with all the letters, learned what the fuss was about, how to write and pronounce them. I was really impressive and the proudest father in the country. 

"Come on then, Dad, test me. Give me a word to write."

 We started with simple words like 'dobar dan.' I was amazed at how quickly she produced the perfect answers. I tried something harder, the names of the towns and villages on Hvar - Jelsa, Vrboska, Pitve, Vrisnik.  All perfect. Never being the most patient guy in the world, I tried something really hard - the word for patience.

S T R P LJ E N J E she wrote, without a moment's hesitation. 

Incredible, but it confirmed to me what I already knew - that Croatian is a totally phonetic language. What you see is what you get. The words may look complicated, but if you learn the 33 letters and how to pronounce them, there are no surprises. 

"Now can you spell the English word for 8?" I asked, intrigued. She thought for a moment:


As it should be when you learn to read and write with the Croatian alphabet as your guide. She looked at me in horror when I showed her E I G H T.

"Your language is very stupid, Daddy." You are not wrong there, kiddo. 

Not only is Croatian the most phonetic language I have come across, it is also the most logical. This may surprise people, give that the Croatian language has a reputation for being incredibly difficult to learn. And I would agree that it is, if you are not versed in the structure of Slavic languages. 

My baptism of fire with Slavic languages was Russian, which I studied at university in anticipation of becoming the MI6 bureau chief in Moscow. Getting a Western brain around Slavic languages after growing up on French, German, Latin and Ancient Greek took some effort, but my knowledge of the structure of Russian helped tremendously when I came to tackle Croatian. All the language structure issues were essentially the same, and it was just a case of learning the words, as well as the case endings for Croatian. All of these were totally regular once you learned about 10 execptions, all of which were applied without exception. Which mean that they were also very regular in a way. 

Things like 'k' followed by 'i' always goes to 'ci' - Afrika but u Africi, and so on. 

Learn the Slavic structure, those 10 or so exceptions and the Croatian alphabet, and you have the keys to the linguistic kingdom of the world's most logical language. A battle-hardened, worldly-wise Esperanto for Slavs. 


There are a couple of things that get ine way of this perfect story of the harmonious Croatian language - history, dialects and globalisation being three of them. 

One of my favourite little-known facts about the Croatian language is one I learned while living on Hvar. On Croatia's premier island, full-time population 11,000, there are 8 different dialect words for chisel, depending on which town or village you come from. The bigger joke back then was it was impossible to actually find a chisel even if you used all eight words. 

When I started learning Croatian, I had about 6 private classes before I realised that I could teach myself the grammar after my Russian linguistic training, and pick up the vocabulary over conversation in the cafes. And all was going really well until I travelled one day to Zagreb to meet a client there who wanted to buy a house. He asked me what the selling price was.

"Petdeset mejorih," I replied, my heart beating slightly faster as the prospect of an imminent sale. 

This Purger had no idea what I was talking about. Eventually, I had to write down the figure of 50,000 euro so that he could understand. It turned out that I was speaking Jelsa dialect, a language I had become quite proficient in at the expense of learning proper Croatian over many beers on the pjaca. My word for 'thousand' was apparently understood only on Hvar, and the people of Brac would have looked at me equally as blankly, apparently. God knows what I would have ended up with I had ordered a thousand chisels in Hvar dialect. 

Some of the Croatian dialects are totally impossible to understand, and there is even a case for questioning if parts of it can even be classified as language. Check out a common greeting in Dalmatia in the video above, the famous Dalmatian Grunt, as personified by Professor Frank John Dubokovich, Guardian of the Hvar Dialects.

These dialect differences cause real problems of understanding, and they often produce completely different sentences for the same meaning. In our previous series looking at Hvar dialects, check out the differences in these sample phrases of standard Croatian, The Professor's Hvar dialect, and the Dubrovnik dialect of a visiting tourist in the video above. 

Interestingly, these dialect differences have been preserved with emigration in some cases. Here is a comment from a recent thread in a Facebook group on the Croatian language in the diaspora:

And that is the magic of spoken Croatian. Here in New Zealand we have people from many parts of Croatia. All brought with them a particular dialect. My family from Korcula had two dialects, one from Lumbarda, and the other Zrnovo. Listening to people from other villages in Korcula is a treasure!. I'm mesmerised by the dialect from Brac! My husband's family and friends from Drvenik were intrigued by my spoken dialect. Sadly, with education and media influences, the localised dialects will change. That is language for you!

Education, media influences and globalisation are all playing their roles in adding an additional level of comprehension issues to this most logical and phonetic language.  As has recent history. 

Serbian and Croatian languages have always been similar, but when the artificial country of former Yugoslavia was created, so too was an attempt to homogenise the langauges. The language of Serbo-Croat was born. Always a symbol of the hated communist regime, it did not take long for Croatians to revert back to some more traditional words, while a Tudjman era attempt to put linguistic distance between Croatian and Serbo-Croat generated many new words. 

The Serbo-Croatian Oktober, for example, was replaced by one of my favourite words to describe a time of year - listopad, which literally means 'leaves falling', a perfect way to describe October. Meanwhile, at Tudjman HQ, 'aerodrom' was being replaced by 'zrackna luka' (literally 'air harbour/port'), 'helikopter' by 'zrakomlat.'

The biggest changes, however, are coming from globalisation and the influence of the Englsh language. This actually started in the diaspora many decades ago, and a lot of the 'Croatian' that is spoken there is actually Croglish - a mixture of Croatian grammar and English words. Check out some of the gems in the New Zealand Croatian language lesson above, for example. 

But real change to the Croatian language has come from the Internet age and the dominance of the English language. I am amazed listening to my kids hanging out with their friends. The language of Croatian is often not Croatian, but English. While I would expect that between my own kids, for them to be communicating that way with their classmates is interesting. Good news for the next generation regarding language skills in the global market, less so perhaps for the future of the Croatian language. 

A few days ago, I overheard a conversation which included the sentence:

"Ja sam hezitajtala." I hesitated. It was the first time that I had heard the such a use of the word hesitate in Croatian. And while it made things easier for me to understand as a foreigner, it made me wonder how the older generation of non-English speaking Croatians are managing to keep up with communications with the grandchildren. It was a topic I thought was worth looking into, so I took to Facebook to ask for other examples of new words which are creeping into the Croatian language. There was quite a response. 

Croatian speakers, research help for an article please.

Foreign words are encroaching on the Croatian (and other) languages in ever greater numbers. Here is something on similar words and phrases to (itself under foreign influence) the verb 'šerati'

Lista riječi i fraza, sličnih 'šerati': lajkati, shareati, uploadati, sherati, tagirati.

This week a was listening to a younger generation conversation between Croats with Croatian as their mother tongue which inclued the sentence - Ona je hezitajtala (my spelling) - she hesitited.

My two questions

  1. What unusual/bizarre/extreme examples have you come across (with simple explanation if appropriate)?
  2. How does the older generation in your family who might not speak English deal with these linguistic changes? Do they understand, pick them up? Or is the language of the younger generation 'graded' according to the audience?

Interested in what you have. Leave comments below or send private message.

cheers Paul

Here are some of the gems which came back:

subskrajbaj se - subscribe

Ovo sam kopipejstala. - I copy pasted this

"sinati" (with long "i")- when you mark a WhatsApp message as seen. Two days ago, the weather reporter on N1 said that she will "monitorirati" the situation. As in monitoring. Also, "post" is usual when you want to describe something you posted on Facebook, instead of objava. When you come to a party, you can "minglati" (to mingle). It's endless. And no, the older non-speaking English have no idea what all this means. And no, youngsters don't adjust to the audience, they usually assume it's common knowledge.

Also, "bindžati", like binge watching

Najstrimanija (pjesma, h/t Laganini FM radio)

“Hendlati situaciju” - Handle the situation.

Sometime last year, I was driving, and listened Croatian Radio 2. They had some music top list, and at one point host (so, on public radio which should preserve national bla-bla-bla) said "Nju entri na našem čartu je..."

Skrinšot - screenshot

Just this week I saw an estate agent use a word 'za rentiranje', adapting to rent.

Čilati=chill out or relax

I'm actually making a list of words that come out of our politicians mouth, for which we have perfectly good ones - was planning to write a text using them, and then giving it to my grandmother and see if she'll understand anything....

Here are some...

Involvirati = Uključiti

Egzekucija = Izvršiti

Recentno = Nedavno

Evaluacija = Procjena

Deskripcija = Opis

Rola = Uloga

Respektirati = Cijeniti

Akceptirati = Prihvatiti

Genuino = (genuine, just lol)

Abandonirati = Napustiti

Signifikantno = Značajno

Oponenti = "Protivnici"

Akcesoar = Predmet/dodatak

Substituirati = Zamjeniti

Fragilno = Osjetljivo

Intencija = Namjera

Anticipirati = Predvidjeti

Egzaktno = Točno

and so on.... ?

My daughter started to use in conversation with friends words like: - sinala je - for seen /the message - livaj - to leave - đoinaj - to join - hejtati - to hate

Resetirati - to reset Isprintati - to print Softver - Software

The funniest word I came across was “a typo”, that is, apparently, “zatipak” in Croatian!

If it continues like this, Croatian will not only be the most logical and phonetic language, but also the easiest... 

What Croatian language gems do you have? Drop us a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject Croatian Language.



Saturday, 21 November 2020

Slavonia Students Spot 300 Spelling Mistakes In Names of Public Places

November 21, 2020 - How difficult is it to learn Croatian? Slavonia students from one high school learned it's really not so easy for people to correctly use their own language

How difficult is it to learn Croatian? Well, it's pretty difficult. Croatians know this best of all and will be reasonably impressed if you make any advances in trying to speak their language. A professor of linguistics from Zagreb University once told this writer that to be able to regard yourself as wholly proficient in the Croatian language, you would have to study it to no less than university level. Naturally, not every speaker of Croatian has done so.

Slavonia students from a high school in Slavonski Brod were recently tasked with looking for mistakes in the use of Croatian language in public places. So complex is the Croatian language, spelling and grammar mistakes are commonplace. The teacher assigning the task, Vesna Nosić from Matija Mesić high school, was no doubt confident her students would uncover some mistakes. However, the grand total of 300 spelling and grammar mistakes the Slavonia students found is possibly more than was bargained for. Particularly as those found were all assigned to public places.

26962181_1551793224935146_5167430988168811831_o.jpgMatija Mesić high school in Slavonski Brod, where Slavonia students made their findings © Matija Mesić high school

The misspelling or incorrect translation of food items on a restaurant or tavern menu is a regular cause of amusement in Croatia. But, the mistitling of public places - streets, squares, companies, monuments, traffic signs and even schools – is perhaps more surprising. These are places you walk past every day.

The Slavonia students were given the high bar of the official standards of Croatian language set by the Institute of Croatian Language and Linguistics. Their teacher, Vesna Nosić, has published their findings in the popular science journal Hrvatski jezik (Croatian language), which is published by the institute. Croatian language is something of a national obsession in Croatia, its acceptance as the official language very closely linked to the country's struggle for autonomy. For most of its history, the lands of modern-day Croatia were controlled by empires for whom Croatian was not their language. The use of foreign tongues has been imposed on the population of Croatia for centuries.

The most common mistakes made in the Croatian language are related to the incorrect use of the sounds ć and č, đ and dž. The letters here come from Gaj's Latin alphabet, devised by Croatian linguist Ljudevit Gaj in 1835. It is the Latin script used across the region in which to write the similar languages of Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, and Montenegrin (in Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro, the Cyrillic alphabet is used as well as Gaj's Latin alphabet).

The contemporary version of Gaj's Latin alphabet (it originally contained Dj, which was replaced by đ. This alphabet ihe easiest part of learning Croatian - within 15 minutes, almost anyone can correctly pronounce all Croatian words by using this. In comparison to the Latin alphabet used by English speakers, the letters q,w,x,y are omitted. Instead, we get the additional č, ć, dž, đ, lj, nj, š and ž. Looks difficult? It isn't. Almost all of these sounds exist within the English language. Except for lj which, to English speakers, is torturously missing some kind of vowel © Albatalad

Mistakes between the ć and č or đ and dž sounds are understandable if you can pronounce Gaj's Latin alphabet. And anyone can. The easiest part of learning Croatian is Gaj's Latin alphabet – all of the sounds exist within the English language, all of the letters are always pronounced in exactly the same way (unlike English). The difference in sound between ć and č or đ and dž in spoken Croatian is difficult to perceive if you are not a native speaker (often, even if you are!)

Some of the mistakes found by the Slavonia students are perhaps more forgivable – the standard of Croatian their comparisons was made against is rigid. Thus, pekarna (bakery) instead of pekarnica, or dućan (shop) instead of trgovina were classed as mistakes, but are actually in everyday use on streets across Croatia.

Other mistakes found relate to grammar, spelling and the misuse of upper case or lower case lettering. For instance, Ulica Pavleka Miškina should be written Ulica Pavleka Miškine (the word ending changes to denote it is the street of Pavlek Miškina), Crkva Gospe od brze pomoći, should be crkva Gospe od Brze Pomoći; Muzej Brodskog Posavlja should be Muzej brodskoga Posavlja and Šetalište Braće Radić should be Šetalište braće Radića (denoting it is the promenade of the Radić brothers).
muzej.jpgNot sure which words should be in upper case or lower case in Croatian? Write everything in upper case - problem solved!  © Slavonski Brod Tourist Board

Sitting to one side and watching how others do something, judging them, then informing them they are doing it incorrectly is not the most pleasant way to occupy your time. However, for the purposes of this study, this not-uncommon activity in Croatia is exactly what was asked of the Slavonia students. However, as noted in today's coverage of this story in Index, there is a great saying in Croatian that serves as a response to any unwanted judgments coming from those on the sides - “clean up the trash in front of your own doorstep before you discuss that which lies in front of your neighbour's”. And, that's exactly what the Slavonia students did – and found out that the name of their own school was spelled wrong.

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