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:

A J T

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. 

Except... 

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).

Albatalad.png
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.

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Council of Europe Recommends Slovenia Recognise Croatian as Minority Language

ZAGREB, Sept 23, 2020 - The Council of Europe has again recommended that Slovenia recognise Croatian as a traditional minority language, the Council said on Wednesday.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council Europe reiterated its long-standing recommendation that Slovenian authorities recognise Croatian, German and Serbian, which are present in parts of Slovenia, as traditional minority languages.

In 1992, the Strasbourg-based organisation, which includes 47 member states, adopted the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages which aims to promote and protect those languages.

In a report based on the Charter, which entered into force in Slovenia in 2001, the Committee called on Slovenian authorities to enter into a dialogue with representatives of the three languages to strengthen their protection.

It is recommended to create educational models and to broadcast radio and television programmes in the minority languages, the press release said.

According to the 2002 census, 35,642 Croats lived in Slovenia, and Croatian was the native language of 54,079 citizens, the website of the Central State Office for Croats Abroad says.

Data on the nationality and the native language of the population was not collected for the 2011 census in Slovenia, it is added.

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Friday, 24 July 2020

Croatian Language: Phrase it Properly

July 24, 2020 - Ever wondered what some famous Croatian phrases really mean? TCN contributor Ivor Kruljac breaks it down.

Croatian – that Russian sounding language, which isn't Russian. It is exotic and mysterious with only, give or take, around five million native speakers (plus Serbian and Bosnian speakers who can easily understand it). Apparently, it's a hard and challenging language to learn for non-Slavic native speakers, but with enough motivation and hard work, you can certainly learn more than 'dobar dan' (good day), 'hvala' (thank you) and 'doviđenja' (goodbye). Fascinating for its rich and diverse vocabulary (foul language in particular), one of the most interesting things about Croatian, as in any other language, is the phrases speakers use to paint a certain situation or express thoughts. Some are very similar or even the same as in English, but some are completely different ways to say the same thought.

Here are 12 phrases to enhance your enthusiasm to dig deeper into Croatian.

1.) Kad na vrbi rodi grožđe / When willow gives you grapes   

The phrase 'When willow gives you grapes', which is the equivalent to ‘When hell freezes over’, is a suitable phrase to say that something will never happen. Although this phrase will maybe need some alteration once genetic engineering catches its full speed.

2.) Mačji kašalj / Cat's cough

The easiness of 'eating cake' has been replaced with what used to be a typical pet for farmers and today for those who don't prefer dogs - a cat. 'Cat's cough' means that something is really easy to do, so simple and harmless that you, in fact, don't even notice it, and it can also be used to describe something as irrelevant. Might sound a bit odd, but think about it, did you ever hear a cat cough? 

3.) Pijan kao majka / Drunk as a mother

Translating to 'Drunk as a mother', this saying might suggest that Croatians are getting raised with a lot of family issues. However, the phrase comes from the past when hospitals were non-existent and home births were a regular practice. To ease the pain of childbirth, the mother would be provided with the only anesthetic people could find in their household: alcohol. Pending on the pain and the duration of labour, the new mother could be completely hammered by the time she gets to hold her baby in her arms. A bit less fun than for fiddlers who were enjoying alcohol in between their performance, but the end result is pretty much the same: a hard time recollecting last night.   

4.) Pušiš kao turčin / You smoke like a Turk 

Croatian memory didn't register that much smoke coming from the chimneys, but they do remember Turkish soldiers during the conquering spree of the Ottoman Empire. Noted as passionate smokers, even today people in Croatia would often say to you that you 'Smoke like a Turk', if you light your fifth cigarette before you even put sugar in your morning coffee.

5.) Mi o vuku, vuk na vrata / Speak of the wolf, wolf at the doors

Basically, 'Speak of the devil' only replace the king of hell with the wolf that is in front of your door just as you were talking about him. Scary not only because of his fatality for humans, the wolf was also hated among Croatian villagers for slaughtering sheep and other farm animals. 

6.) Ispeci pa reci  / Bake it and then say it

This is similar to 'Think before you speak' with some differences. With the translation being 'Bake it and then say it', it is a suitable response to everyone bragging about something while not having any proof they did it or are telling you how to do something even though they are not doing it. 

7.) Trinaesto prase / 13th pig

The unlucky 'Thirteenth pig' is truly a clever deduction. To attribute someone who always got left behind, people compared him with a rare but very possible scenario when a pig gives birth to 13 piglets. With only 12 breasts for feeding, one always loses a meal.

8.) Točan kao švicarski sat / Precise as a Swiss watch

With its Rolex and Tag Heuer, Switzerland is a known symbol of quality and precision when it comes to wristwatches. Especially for Croatians. The older generations would often say to you that you are 'precise as a Swiss watch' when you arrive on time.

9.) U tom grmu leži zec / In this bush lies the rabbit

Not just an observation in hunting, 'in this bush lies the rabbit' is a common phrase to describe a situation when someone keeps a secret from you, or reveals his/her secret motives that explain something you couldn't quite put your finger on.

10.) Pamti pa vrati / Remember and return

'Remember and return' at first may sound a bit revengeful, and it is. But it can also mean to return a nice favour to someone. Basically, how you treat others, others will treat you. If someone was nice to you, remember that and be nice as well and if not, remember, so you don't make the same mistake twice.

11.)  Bez muke nema nauke / Without suffering there is no knowledge

The Croatian version that's most similar to 'No pain, no gain' translates as 'Without suffering, there is no knowledge'. Guess it was easier for Croatians to learn from their own mistakes and not from others.

12.) Što se praviš Englezom? / Why are you pretending you are English?

In the past, Croatian territory was under the rule of the Romans, Austrians, Hungarians, Turks, French and even had close clashes with Tatars during Genghis Khan. The colonial force of the British empire does not go further in Croatia than Vis island, where in the 19th century, the Brits raised fortresses seeable today as you enter St. Juraj port. Despite that, English folks entered Croatian phrasing nevertheless. 'Why are you pretending you are English?' is a question for someone who had done something wrong but acted like he/she didn't do anything and didn't know what you are talking about. It can also be used to describe someone who acts more important than he/she really is, which might have been inspired by the aristocracy or even the Royal family itself. Good news for Britain, however, is that this phrase is less used among younger generations (which can also, let's be frank, be said for all of these phrases). Still, don't be surprised if you meet a cute and wisecracking Croatian group that might remember this and use it as a suitable joke for their English friends.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Public Call for Scholarships for Croatian Language Learning

As Glas Hrvatske writes on the 22nd of May, 2020, the Central State Office for Croats Outside the Republic of Croatia has announced a public call for scholarships for learning the Croatian language in the Republic of Croatia for the winter semester of the 2020/21 academic year.

The application for the aforementioned public call is to be submitted exclusively in electronic form using an e-application form by June the 17th, 2020.

The public call has been announced in order for would-be Croatian language learners to gain a better grasp of Croatian language, which is often referred to as a very difficult language to learn, get better acquainted with general Croatian culture and preserve the country's national identity outside of its borders, as well as to promote unity and cooperation and the return of Croats who have emigrated abroad, as well as their descendants.

Who exactly can apply? Members of the Croatian people, their spouses as well as friends of the Croatian people and Croatia who would like to nurture the Croatian identity and promote the Croatian cultural community, from the age of 18 onwards.

Those individuals must have completed at least their high school education and they must reside outside of Croatia. Those who hold residence in the Republic of Croatia may also apply, but their residence in Croatia must not have lasted longer than three years as of the day of the publication of this public call.

As stated, applications are being received only electronically, using the e-application form available here. To emphasise once again, the deadline for applications is June the 17th, 2020.

All details for this Croatian language course and more are listed on the link placed above, as are the attached instructions.

In case of the need for additional information, candidates can send their inquiries to the e-mail address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Thursday, 7 May 2020

How the Professor of Hvar Dialects Helped Preserve Croatian Culture & Tradition

May 7, 2020 - What a lovely email! How a fun YouTube series in the early days of TCN became a national phenomenon. It is all thanks to Professor Frank John Dubokovich, Guardian of the Hvar Dialects.

It started out as a joke, something to fill some content in the first month of my new portal, Total Hvar, way back in November 2011. It became such a cult hit that it soon hit national television, then British reality TV,  and now - so I learned today 8.5 years later, a catalyst to preserve some of Croatia's dying culture forever. 

My good friend from Jelsa, Frank John Dubokovich, was born in New Zealand but moved back to Jelsa at the age of 8, the Hvar town where his family are from. So he grew up bilingual, actually trilingual. 

For Frankie spoke Jelsa dialect, which is a whole linguistic sub-species of its own.

An idea was born, to do a short video series of the differences between Jelsa dialect and standard Croatian, looking at different aspects of life - food, months of the year, articles of clothing - to demonstrate the differences. It started with the infamous Dalmatian Grunt, a video which is sadly no longer available online currently (but which I am trying to find), and which amassed almost 100,000 views on YouTube when I saw it last year. 

.

As his flock grew, so did Frankie's authority, and he became the self-styled Professor Frank John Dubokovich, Guardian of the Hvar Dialects. Here is one of the original lessons, in which he investigates parts of the body in Hvar dialect, including a live demonstration of shaking his ass. 

His fan base was truly international. The then assistant coach of the Australian football team jetted in from Sydney to meet with The Professor.

So impressed was Ante Milicic with The Professor that he even had his voice on his ring tone and wake up call. 

It was only a matter of time before national television came calling.

HRT asked us to record a special lesson on dialect words for wine, which featured on their promo video 'Susur' in July, 2015. The Professor makes his entrance at 04:18 in the programme, above. 

With such colossal talent, it was not long before the international talent scouts were in touch with TCN, and The Professor and his Hvar dialects were soon starring on British television reality shows. 

How to get a bunch of chavs into Dalmatian grunting - genius!

So brilliant was The Professor that he even taught us how to speak Hvar dialect using only vowels on a guest appearance in Split. 

And that is where I thought the story ended. A lot of fun on the way, and a lot of beautiful women falling at The Professor's feet, and the occasional Australian football coach waking up to the dulcet tones of The Professor each morning. 

Until today.

Until the loveliest email of the year. 

From Grgo. 

hvar-dialects-kajkavski.JPG

Hey Paul! We haven't met in person but you've had a huge influence on me and what I have been doing last couple of years. It took me long time to finally contact you haha. 

I want to thank you for the Hvar Dialect Lessons you started posting on YouTube 5-6 years ago. I was in shock, just like the rest of my friends from Zagreb and the area. It was super entertaining but also educational. It made me think (and the rest of us) how our authentic local heritage was fading away. General unawareness of this local universe we have across Croatia. 

What happened next is I started recording the "Kajkavski lessons of Marija Bistrica" on YouTube with my local native speaker...in the end I spent most of my University along with my master project all about preserving and promoting local dialects and values in Croatia. 

I graduated as a visual communications designer so I wrote and illustrated a tale in Kajkavski idiom, then posters and picture books for children...

Following that I started recording other people along the coast. Just last year spent two weeks on Dugi otok island recording the locals stories and their dialects. The project started connecting the locals across Croatia raising awareness. Schools and parents are calling me for the presentations... it's just crazy.

And all of it kind of started when I saw the first "Hvar Dialect Lesson" you posted. ?

Cheers from Zagreb!

Grgo

Love it. And so will Professor Frank John Dubokovich, Guardian of the Hvar Dialects, when he learns that we will be taking him all the way to Marija Bistrica to meet Grgo and do a Mother of All Dialects lesson when all this madness is over. 

I can't wait, even though I probably won't understand a word. 

hvar-dialects-grunt.JPG

Professor, we salute you. Your infamous grunt has inspired the preservation of more Croatian culture that the uhljebs in the ministry in an entire mandate. 

I can't wait to hear how the grunt sounds in Marija Bistrica. 

You can follow Grgo's excellent YouTube channel here

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Scholarships Offered for Online Learning of Croatian

ZAGREB, August 21, 2019 - The Central State Office for Croats Abroad has published a call for scholarships for online learning of Croatian in the coming school year.

The office will award 10 scholarships for attending the semester-long online courses of the Croatian language.

The grants refer to the online course called HiT-I organised by the University of Zagreb, the Croatian Heritage Foundation (HMI) and the University Computing Centre SRCE.

More information is available on https://matis.hr or on the Office's website.

Applications can be sent by ethnic Croats living abroad, and descendants of Croat expat communities as well as their spouses and foreigners interested in Croatian heritage and culture, provided that they are above 18 of age and have finished at least secondary school.

More diaspora news can be found in the dedicated section.

Monday, 29 July 2019

Croatian Language Included in High-Tech Instant Translation Device

ZAGREB, July 29, 2019 - A Japanese high-tech invention called MUAMA Enence Instant Translator enables communication in 40 languages, including Croatian, the German website WOWTechLife says.

"MUAMA Enence is a state-of-art Japanese technology which allows you to instantly communicate with another person no matter what language he or she speaks. This tiny but genius device instantly records and translates over 40 languages, which makes communication easy & fast. You can use it when travelling, for business meetings or whenever you wish to say something in a different language. With Enence you instantly communicate in almost any language in the world," the website says.

The device is easy to use although it is equipped with the latest technology. "All you need to do is to choose the language in which you want to communicate and record your words or sentences. You can even record really long sentences and Enence will translate everything perfectly," WOWTechLife says.

The device allows two people speaking two different languages to hold a conversation with ease.

"Just press the A button and start talking. Then release the A button and your Enence Translator will automatically translate your speech into a selected foreign language. Your foreign friend will hear your translated speech in a native speaker-like manner. Press button B - let your foreign friend speak. Then release the B button and your Enence Translator will automatically translate their speech back into your native language."

The supported languages include Arabic, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian and Vietnamese.

More IT news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Croatian Customs: Jeste za Jednu Kavicu? Fancy a Coffee?

Gospođo, nešto Vam curi iz torbe! / Madam, something's dripping out of your bag! – a nice older lady addressed me that rainy cold morning just a few days ago as I was dragging myself into a crowded tram desperately trying to get people’s elbows out of my back.

For a moment or two I was living in hope that she was talking to someone else, but a quick look to a steaming-hot, black liquid dripping on the tram floor through my bag soon convinced me otherwise. I rolled my eyes and panicking tried to reorganise the contents of my bag but as the tram suddenly pulled away, the entire content of my coffee-to-go cup spilled down my jeans.

And then I realised, in that exact moment, standing in a tram with a huge coffee stain on my light blue jeans, and coffee dripping from my leg while raindrops were slowly dripping on the tram window, that I had a whole day of lecturing to people in the classroom in front of me. Okay, this is it. You've now officially hit rock bottom with your coffee addiction, I thought to myself.

It wasn't actually supposed to look like that, this morning. I was supposed to get up, get dressed, do my morning workout, prepare a nice, healthy fibre rich breakfast and then enjoy one of my favourite moments of the day - the peace and quiet with my first cup of steaming, black coffee.

Things went wrong when I slept through my alarm, I think. You see, yesterday evening I needed to get some paperwork done, so I had just a bit, well a cup, okay, maybe two cups of coffee, just to keep myself awake. So when I finally woke up that morning, I realised I had no time for aerobics, a fibre rich breakfast and rest, but to find some clothes, get the kids out of bed and make myself some coffee to go! Not necessarily in that order, I'm afraid.

In my own defence, however, if you've ever been to one of my early lessons, when I hadn't had my first coffee yet, you'd probably realise why it's essential for me to carry coffee cups around ewith me in my purse!

Thank God half of the students in the room are still sleeping through their morning lessons, so they're not paying any attention to the nonsense that I ramble on about without my caffeine kick!

A passionate approach to everything connected to black coffee actually runs in my family.

A legendary story involves my aunt Branka or teta Branka. Teta Branka is a very tall and strong red-headed woman, and a passionate coffee lover, by occupation, she's a nurse. You know how these people who work in the health care system tend to sometimes be the most stubborn patients? Well, teta Branka was no different. Once she was feeling really ill, with a high fever, a serious cough and was unable to get out of bed that morning. Her daughter came to take care of her.

''Do you need anything, anything at all?'' she asked her.

''Nothing... thank you I'm fine, I told you!'' teta Branka coughed in response, adding that there was no need for her to have come.

''Mum, you're trembling, we need to get you to the doctor!'' her daughter stated in a concerned manner.

However, teta Branka was determined she wasn't going to see any doctor, despite her shivering and coughing.

''Can I get something for you then, before I go to work?'' her daughter asked.

''Nothing'' coughed teta Branka, until she stopped and said... ''Oh, wait ...just one thing...''

Her daughter asked if she needed some tea, perhaps a warmer blanket...

''Please... if you you can just get me... samo malo crne kave / just a bit of black coffee!'' teta Blanka uttered with a broken voice.

I'm aware that all around the world people are in love in this dark hot liquid that, as the legend says, was found by coincidence, when some shepherd in a land far, far away let his goats eat some berries. The goats stood up late partying all night long, and the rest is history.

But, there is a certain special connection between Croats and coffee. I'm not just talking about all the business meeting taking place in local cafes, or those people with huge sunglasses sitting for hours and hours over one cup of coffee on one of Zagreb's many little squares just enjoying the sun. I'm talking about a real coffee ceremony that takes place in these parts.

Growing up in Croatia, some of the first scenes from your childhood involve a bunch of people gathered around the table, around a little steaming coffee pot with a tail. Usually that image is accompanied with the jingling sound of little spoons and cups, and you just knew that meant that it's coffee time. Some nations have their tea time, some have whole ceremonies developed around a simple action such as drinking a cup of tea. So why wouldn't we have coffee time here in Croatia? Well, we do. But it seems that in Croatia, any time is coffee time.

In the morning, after breakfast, before lunch, after lunch, in the evening, any time a visitor approaches your doorstep, it's time for coffee.

Being a kid, I thought that this coffee drinking ceremony was wrapped up in some sort of great secrecy. Women sitting around the coffee table would hold their cups, their heads would get closer to each other, they'd lower their voices, whisper and giggle occasionally. I would try to get closer to hear the conversation and be a part of this great coffee conspiracy ceremony, and ask if I could drink just a little bit with them, but my grandma would just look at me and yell: ''Children aren't allowed drink black coffee! You'd grow a tail on your back!''

I didn't believe her one bit. None of them had tails, and as far as I could see, they were drinking gallons of coffee every day.

At the age of 10, they realised that we weren't really buying this whole tail story and they'd usually ask you if you wanted to join them for a cup of coffee.

And, well.. everything else is history.

My grandma was from Bosnia, where the whole coffee drinking ceremony was even more developed. It included pretty little cups called fildžan, cubes of white sugar, little spoons and of course, fildžan viška, an extra cup put on the side of a tray for an extra guest who might just pop for a cup of coffee that afternoon.

I know a lot of coffee admirers in this country, but one of these is absolutely my sister. She can literarily drink coffee at any time of the day. The story goes something like this. She comes for a visit with her kids and mum at around 19:00.

''Coffee, anyone?'' I ask.

''Oh, no, I couldn't! I had five already today!'' my sister says.

''Five? Are you insane!? You need to stop drinking so much coffee... It's not good!'' mum retorts.

''It's seven... but shhh! Don't tell her, she'll go crazy!'' my sister whispers to me behind mum’s back.

The culture of drinking coffee in Croatia can mean having an espresso by yourself in a local café. It can mean starting and ending every business meeting with the question: Jeste za jednu kavicu? Fancy a coffee? Or drinking coffee to go on your way to work. We adopted that culture along with so many things from Western culture.

But, enjoying a cup of coffee in Croatia generally means that someone will take out that funny looking coffee pot with tail out from the kitchen closet, that maybe they'll bake the coffee for a few minutes, then pour steaming water over it, that they will serve all of this in some nice cups, maybe they'll even put that extra cup on the side and get involved in some serious, interesting, meaning of life type conversation, or a highly confidential conversation which usually starts with the words: Između nas... Just between the two us... making that special bond between the two people built on trust, the scent of coffee and the steam from those little cups.

Because that's what coffee in Croatia is really all about.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Picture Book Launched in Bid to Preserve Istro-Romanian Language

ZAGREB, April 6, 2019 - A group of researchers and enthusiasts have recently joined forces in their efforts to preserve two varieties of the Istro-Romanian language that is on the brink of extinction in Istria, and published a picture book under the title "Scorica de lisica si de lupu” ("A Story about the Fox and the Wolf)" in those dialects called Vlaški and Žejanski.

The picture book was launched within the week-long campaign promoting children's books in Rijeka, and the project about the preservation of Istro-Romanian is being led by linguist Zvjezdana Vrzić who collects material about this endangered language and is the director of the project called "Preservation of the Vlaški and Žejanski Language". She is also president of Traces, a non-profit organisation which promotes the documentation, description and maintenance of the languages and dialects of her native Istria and Kvarner.

Also, in recent years an enthusiast Adijana Gabris has been conducting language courses for children in the Istrian villages where these dialects Vlaški and Žejanski are still spoken.

"The Vlaški and Žejanski language (Vlashki and Zheyanski, also, Istro-Romanian) is spoken in two separate areas in the northeast of the Istrian peninsula in Croatia: The first is the northern village of Žejan/Žejane, which is located in the mountains off the road leading from Rijeka to Trieste. The second comprises several villages with their adjoining hamlets south of Žejan/Žejane, around the northern edge of Čepićko Polje, just off the road leading from the Učka Tunnel to the town of Labin. The villages are Bardo/Brdo with several hamlets, such as Kostarčan/Kostrčan(i) and Zankovci, Letaj/Letaj, Nosolo/Nova Vas Sušnjevice/Šušnjevice/Šušnjevica, and Sukodru/Jesenovik," according to the information provided on the website dedicated to the preservation of that language.

In Europe, there are 24 languages right on the brink of extinction, and three of them are from Croatia, the British Telegraph daily reported in late 2014.

Among those 24 tongues that at risk of falling out of use, the three that are from Croatia are Istro-Romanian, with an estimated 300 speakers left, Istriot (400) and Arbanasi (500). They ranked 13th, 16th and 18th respectively on a list of critically or severely endangered languages, and this ranking was topped by the Livonian language used by some 50 people in Latvia as their second language, while the last person who had Livonian as her mother tongue died in 2013, according to the report the British newspaper published in November 2014.

Istro-Romanian, an Eastern Romance language, is spoken in a few villages in the north of the Croatian peninsula of Istria, while Istriot, a Romance language, is spoken in the west of Istria. Arbanasi, a dialect of Gheg Albanian, is spoken by some 500 inhabitants in the Croatian coastal city of Zadar.

Croatian philologist August Kovačec explained in an interview to Hina a few years ago that Istro-Romanian is a variety of the Romanian language, but this dialect has not had any contact with Romanians for nearly a century.

Apart from Istro-Romanian speakers in several villages in Istria, there are also people living in New York and some other parts of America and Australia who can speak this language. Their ancestors left Istria in the 1970s due to an economic crisis.

Istriot is used in the south-western corner of the Istrian peninsula, particularly in the towns of Rovinj and Vodnjan, and its roots date back to a period before Venetian rule. Istriot has been rather italianised, according to the Croatian linguist's explanation. The term Istriot was coined by the 19th century Italian linguist Graziadio Isaia Ascoli.

The Italian community in Istria has published dictionaries of Istriot dialect variants, Kovačec told Hina.

"Atlas of the Istro-Romanian Speeches" and "Atlas of Istriot" by philologist Goran Filipi have been published.

More news about Istria can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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