Monday, 15 February 2021

People also ask Google: Do They Speak English in Croatia?

February 15, 2021 - Google knows what people are searching for, and there are clues in the 'People Also Ask' prompt. So let's answer - do they speak English in Croatia?

Do they speak English in Croatia?

Short answer: Yes

The majority of Croatians speak at least one other language. According to polls, 80% of Croatians are multilingual. Within that high percentage of multilingual Croatians, a huge 81% speak English.

The next most popular language spoken by multilingual Croats is German (49%) followed by Italian (24%). English is better spoken in Croatia than in any other country of southern and eastern Europe (except Poland).

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Regional differences: Do they speak English in Croatia on the coast and islands?

Yes. Along with the capital city of Zagreb, the coast of Croatia and the islands are where you'll definitely find Croatians speaking English. Tourism in Croatia has been developing since the 1960s. Even when the country was a republic within the federation of Yugoslavia, Croatia was visited by many international tourists.

Young people from all over Croatia travel to the coast to work jobs in hotels, bars and restaurants. Speaking English to a high standard is usually part of the job specification. It is almost impossible to imagine that you would visit any hotel, bar or restaurant on the Croatian coast and find that nobody speaks English. In Zagreb, over 80% of people speak English.

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The rest of Croatia - do Croatia speak English?

Proficiency in speaking other languages varies by region. It is true to say that the further you travel from the most popular tourist trails in Croatia, the likelihood of you coming across people who don't speak English (or who don't speak English well) increases. But, that's not to say they are not multilingual.

In Istria, northwest Croatia, a full 95% of the population speaks another language. Many young people in Istria can speak English, Croatian and Italian.

Over the course of its history, Croatia has existed under the influence of invading or occupying empires. You'll find Turkish words in the language used in Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, left over from the time the Ottomans were here. Italy once occupied much of Istria and Kvarner in the country's northwest and, here, you'll find Italian being spoken.

Similarly, Croatia is influenced by its neighbours. But, not all parts of Croatia have the same neighbours. Different neighbouring countries have had an effect on Croatia's different dialects and on the second language Croatians in these regions speak.

In Slavonia, eastern Croatia, and in other, more rural parts of the country's continental regions, you would traditionally find fewer people who speak English. This is because these regions weren't always visited by tourists. But, things are changing. Continental Croatia is opening up to tourism more and more. As a result, more and more people there are speaking or learning to speak English.

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Age differences: Younger and older – Can Croatians Speak English?

Well, yes and no. 95% of Croatians between the ages of 15 and 34 speak at least one foreign language. Bravo! English is by far the most common second language of Croatians in this age group. These days, Croatian children learn the English language continuously over an average of 8 years while at school. They also improve their fluency by playing online games with international players, listening to English language music and watching English language television and movies. Unlike Germany, where TV series and films are dubbed into German for broadcast on national television, in Croatia, British and American films and programmes are shown in their original language, with subtitles underneath in Croatian.

Do they speak English in Croatia if they are above the age of 34? Yes, many Croatians above the age of 34 do speak English, particularly those who have been educated since Croatia gained independence and those who work in tourism-related activities or bigger city businesses. With Croatians who were educated prior to independence, their second language may depend on just how old they are and in which geographical region they live and have worked. In the country's northwest, Italian is the most common second language of the oldest multilingual Croats. Elsewhere, German is predominantly the second language of people in this age range. Some Croatians, depending on their age and education, may even have learned Russian (although you are much more likely to encounter Russian as the second most commonly spoken language if you instead visit Montenegro).

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Two very important things to remember if you're asking “Do they speak English in Croatia?”

If you're asking the question “Do they speak English in Croatia?”, it's probably because you're thinking of visiting the country. Or, you might be thinking about doing business here. If so, here are two handy tips.

1) Don't be put off from going anywhere in Croatia for fear they don't speak English

Often, the further away from the tourist trail you travel, the more authentically Croatian your experience will be in Croatia. Croatia's less well-known regions are a goldmine of incredible gastronomy, breathtaking landscapes and fascinating culture, traditions, arts & crafts.

If you're heading to a less well-travelled region, people may show slightly more surprise in hearing English spoken because they're not used to it. A small percentage of younger people in continental Croatia may take a little persuasion, patience and kindness in speaking English with you. This is probably because they are shy or not confident about their spoken English. The teaching of English in Croatia is generally very good, but there are some educators who prioritise grammar and pronunciation above the general understanding that is more important to you as a visitor. Perfect grammar and pronunciation don't come easily to every single student of English, which is why you may encounter reticence to speak English from a very small minority of young Croatians. But, almost all will have learned English and will speak the language to some degree (usually, to a much better standard than they believe they do!)

2) Politeness goes a long way – if you're in Croatia, you're a guest in someone else's country

The high level of multilingualism in Croatia and the widespread ability to speak English is indicative of efforts by Croatians to welcome and accommodate visitors. Any reciprocal efforts made by visitors to engage with Croatians in their own language will be met impressively, with surprise and with warmth. You'll endear yourself to Croatians by learning some basic words (maybe even a couple of phrases) before you visit. Dobar dan (Good day), Molim (Please/Excuse me), Hvala (Thank you), Dobro Jutro (Good morning), Imate li... (Do you have...?), Može (May I/Can I/You may/You can/Can do!) are easy, obvious and useful places to start. Do they speak English in Croatia could easily be answered with "Well, do you speak Croatian in Croatia?"

Conclusion: Do they speak English in Croatia?

Yes. They do speak English in Croatia. Most places you will go in Croatia, you will be met by people who can speak English. The vast majority of these speak English extremely well.

If you have any suggestions to add to this resource, please send a mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Subject: English speaking in Croatia. 

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

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Croatia EU Ambassador: 'Good Riddance' UK Becomes English School Billboard

“Good Riddance, UK!” After Irena Andrassy, Croatian ambassador to the EU, delivered her side-splitting parting statement to the UK; one English language school in Zagreb, Croatia used the ambassador’s English language fail to their advantage. She emitted the Freudian slip (?) while chairing the last meeting between the envoy of the United Kingdom and the European Union.

‘Good Riddance’ Becomes Croatia Ad Campaign

To widespread amusement, Andrassy told British Ambassador to the European Union Tim Barrow "Thank you, goodbye, and good riddance" which means "Thank you, goodbye, good to be rid of you", according to JutarnjiList on February 6, 2020.

The Američki institut (American Institute), a private English language school based in Zagreb, ​posted a photo of the new jumbo roadside billboard promoting the ambassador’s gaffe. The poster says: “Good riddance", and attributes those apparent no love lost parting words to the Croatian ambassador. The American Institute logo and message follow below along with the slogan: “Rid yourself of bad English”.

"Tree tousand young people" | Irena Andrassy

Croatia Ambassador Scrambles for Control of Runaway Gaffe

The Brexiting British and English speakers around the globe have enjoyed many laughs at Ambassador Andrassy's expense. After realizing the joke was on her, she rapidly responded in a Twitter post implying that her apparent gaffe was intentional, but that she was only kidding.

This isn’t the first time the American Institute has used the poor English skills of celebrities for its advertising campaigns. In 2017, the language school advertised English lessons with a photo of Melanie Trump on a roadside billboard: “Just imagine how far you can go with a little bit of English.”

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First Lady Dispatched Legal Team to Threaten Language School

The First Lady of the United States was displeased with this representation of her considerable accomplishments and command of the English language. Through her legal team, the she demanded that the school remove the billboards within 24 hours or face severe legal consequences. The American Institute bowed to the demands of Trump's powerful legal team. However, because they had already leased the advertising space, they replaced the poster with another clever billboard; this time without Melania’s image.

On their Facebook page, the American Institute posted a photo of a new billboard with the caption “Take 2": “Invest in your English and billboards. People love a good billboard,” the new billboard sign advised.

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Click here for more Total Croatia News articles on the First Lady, her accomplishments and English-speaking skills. Follow this link for TCN articles on prominent Croatians speaking English. Check out the Američki institut’s Facebook page for more amusing promotional imagery and an illustrated array of vocabulary builders.

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Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Croatian Political Language Brilliance Strikes Again: 5 to Match 'Good Riddance, UK'

February 4, 2020 - Croatia's Permanent EU Ambassador Irena Andrassy makes history with the latest linguistic gaffe from Croatia's esteemed leaders - she is in good company. 

The level of spoken English in Croatia is excellent overall, and TCN recently reported on a study which showed that Croatians were the second-best English speakers in Central and Eastern Europe, and indeed were improving quicker than anywhere in the world after Portugal. You can read the report here

So, in a normal country, it would not be too much to expect the country's top diplomats and politicians to speak fluent, or at least close to fluent, English, especially if they are dealing with major international events. 

Such as the last official words, recorded for posterity, exchanged between the ambassador to the EU of the country presiding over the presidency, and the departing UK ambassador. 

Croatia is not a normal country. 

So it comes as no surprise to many here that the Croatian ambassador to the EU, representing the entire European Union with the last official words to her UK counterpart, could not even manage to get a simple message right, such as "Goodbye and Good Luck."

Instead Irena Andrassy sent her British counterpart, Tim Barrow, with "Thank you, Goodbye, and Good Riddance", according to the Financial Times.  

Which is possibly a message that several MEPs might have passed on to Nigel Farage, but hardly the send-off one would expect for a partner with 11 months of trade negotiations ahead. 

Irena Andrassy tried to make light of the incident later on social media, which was a nice attempt to cover up the gaffe, whereas the FT reports that she had mistaken the meaning of good riddance for good luck. 

Ordinary Croatians have become used to the linguistic genius of their political representatives on the international stage speaking English.

Ingrid Anticevic Marinovic set the bar very high in early 2013, preparing the EU for what might come next with her infamous 'People Must Trust Us', which made her a household name overnight in Croatia. 

Not to be outdone, Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor redefined the concept of time in 2011, telling a Hungarian tourist that she had visited Budapest 'the day after yesterday.' To Kosor's credit, she saw the funny side, subsequently naming her excellent blog Dan Nakon Jucer (the Day After Jucer).

New PM Tim Oreskovic took linguistic genius to new heights during his first public appearance in 2016. A Canadian-Croat, Oreskovic was plucked from pharma company Pliva at short noticed and installed as a compromise Prime Minister. Few Croatians had heard of him, and they were slightly bemused to hear their new leader refer to them as 'buildings' rather than 'citizens' as he got his words mixed up (the words for building and citizen are similar in Croatian). 

The accidental State had reached a new level with a Prime Minister who could not speak the language, it seemed. 

So what of the future? Sadly, that doesn't look too bright, either. Deputy Commissioner for Democracy and Demography Dubravka Suica raised some eyebrows with the level of her English, especially as she is a former English teacher. 

But if there is one politician who knows his linguistic limits, it is man who usually knows no limits, embattled Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic. He may will wish certain people good riddance, especially those who start copying his name, but you can guarantee he will not say so in English... 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Croatian Politicians Speaking English: Top Ten Review

Having a working knowledge of the English language is probably not necessary for all Croatian politicians. But for Damir Krstičević, who negotiates major international arms deals, or Dubravka Šuica, who represents Croatia in the European Parliament, the ability to communicate effectively in English would seem essential. And they make up the foundation of the image Croatia presents to the world.

A recent video of Krstičević, Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia, struggling through a speech in English at an event in the United States went viral. It was then rapidly incorporated into a spoof advertisement for a "Basic English For Dummies" language course on a local Croatian comedy TV show. And Index recently posted a video montage of Dubravka Šuica, HDZ member of EU parliament and Vice President of the European Commission, attempting to communicate to her audience in English, even though she obtained a college degree in the language.

RTL Direkt created a video montage of Croatia’s top politicians speaking English on January 10, 2020. And TCN included a video of attempts by RTL Direkt to interview Croatian politicians in English, which occurred on the same day, and also revealed mixed results.

Here’s a closer look at ten of the most powerful Croatian politicians giving speeches or interviews in English, from best to worst, plus a surprise bonus at the end. Politicians' English-speaking abilities are rated on the following four criteria: fluency, grammar, vocabulary and accent.

#1 Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović

The current Croatian President’s English-speaking skills are flawless. Not only does she deserve a number one ranking, but she’s in that number one spot by far. Grabar-Kitarović spent a year in Arizona in the 1980’s as a high school exchange student and speaks English with a strong Southwestern American accent. Her confidence in the language is obvious and well-deserved. In this interview with Good Morning Britain, she discusses her views on Brexit and the challenges of being a woman in Politics.

Fluency: 5
Grammar: 5
Vocabulary: 5
Accent: 5
Total: 20

#2 Andrej Plenković

The current Croatian Prime Minister is proficient and confident in English. He speaks with a slight Croatian accent with palatalized t’s and rolled r’s. He pronounces Theresa May’s first name with a “th” rather than a “t”. In this interview with France 24, he discusses Brexit, Catalonia independence and other EU topics.

Fluency: 5
Grammar: 5
Vocabulary: 5
Accent: 3
Total: 18

#3 Zoran Milanović

The former Croatian Prime Minister and current President-Elect also shows a strong command of English. He pronounced “th” with a soft “d” or “t” and misses some a’s and the’s in his sentences. He discusses the 2015 Migrant Crisis in Croatia in this video with France 24.

Fluency: 5
Grammar: 4
Vocabulary: 4
Accent: 3
Total: 16

#4 Ivo Sanader

The former Croatian Prime Minister, who is serving a 6-year prison sentence for corruption, also appears to have a strong command of English. He rolls his r’s and missed some the’s and a’s. In this video for AP, he provides a brief summary of his meeting with former US President George W. Bush.

Fluency: 5
Grammar: 4
Vocabulary: 4
Accent: 3
Total: 16

#5 Ivo Josipović

The former President of Croatia speaks a more heavily palatalized version of Croatian-English. His delivery is slower, with short pauses. Like others, he misses some the’s and a’s, and pronounces th’s with a very soft “d”. In this interview for TRT World, he discusses his return to music and plans to compose a musical about John Lennon.

Fluency: 4
Grammar: 4
Vocabulary: 4
Accent: 3
Total: 15

#6 Davor Bernardić

The current President of SDP speaks a slightly palatalized English and his sentences also miss the’s and a’s. He pronounces the word happy “heppy” and his speech at the International Crime and Punishment Film Festival, as recorded by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, was very brief, which suggests a limited working vocabulary.

Fluency: 3
Grammar: 4
Vocabulary: 3
Accent: 3
Total: 13

#7 Dubravka Šuica

The current HDZ member of EU parliament, Vice President of the European Commission and former Mayor of Dubrovnik, received a degree as “Professor of English” according to media reports. Her Croatian-English, as compiled in a recent Index video, is so heavily accented that it’s almost intelligible. In addition to heavy palatalizing and missing the’s and a’s; she comes up with several humorous sentences and word segments including:

“I don’t need anyone’s emotions here.”

“This is closed circle.”

What’s even more humorous about her “massacre” of English is her disproportionately confident delivery. Her behavior suggests that of a very senior esteemed college professor casually gifting her vast pool of knowledge to a group of eager students, who hang on to her every word. Not only is that not the case; she doesn’t seem aware that the joke is on her. Simply not understanding what she was trying to say wasn’t the only reason EU parliament members might have appeared perplexed or unimpressed.

Fluency: 2
Grammar: 2
Vocabulary: 3
Accent: 2
Total: 9

#8 Jadranka Kosor

The former Croatian Prime Minister is clearly uncomfortable reading her speech in English at the 2010 Zagreb Annual Meeting and Business Forum as recorded by Radio Federacije BiH. At one point she stumbles on the name of an organization and reverts to Croatian. Her delivery is heavily palatalized and filled with most of the common letter mispronunciations including rolled r’s and separated g’s. Her struggle suggests that her knowledge of English is probably very limited and she seemed particularly eager to sit down at the end of her short speech.

Fluency: 1
Grammar: 2
Vocabulary: 2
Accent: 2
Total: 7

#9 Damir Krstičević

This is the viral video of Damir Krstičević, Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister of Croatia, speaking English at an event in the United States. It was later integrated into a spoof commercial “Basic English for Dummies” on the Croatian TV show Prime Time on N1. Like his HDZ contemporary, Dubravka Šuica, Krstičević comes up with several curious phrases:

“The same idylls we fought for in our honor war.”

“Keep in mind that every success is merrily a stepping-stone to new challenge.”

At the end of his speech, he suggests:

“You ask me great questions. Ah…probably I will speak in Croatia, and my advisor…she will translate, if you agree.”

Fluency: 1
Grammar: 2
Vocabulary: 2
Accent: 1
Total: 6

#10 Ingrid Antičević Marinović

A former member of Prime Minister Ivica Račan’s cabinet and current justice of the Croatian Constitutional Court, the Honorable Justice Antičević Marinović speaks English with a lovely Croatian-Italian accent. Many of her words and sentences end with an extra soft “a” syllable, which gives her diction an oddly pleasant lilt, even though her content is virtually unintelligible. In this 2013 video, she discusses the problem of corruption in Croatia.

“I think-a it’s a job-a that never-ending ending-a. It’s-a our permanent task.”

Fluency: 1
Grammar: 2
Vocabulary: 2
Accent: 1
Total: 6

#BONUS Milan Bandić

In this Index video, the infamous Mayor of Zagreb is asked “What are you wearing tonight?”

“Yes,” he answers a few times.

After a few more attempts by the interviewer, he answers “speaking Croatia.”

Fluency: 0
Grammar: 0
Vocabulary: 0
Accent: 1
Total: 1

Follow our Politics page for more information on the English language speaking skills of prominent Croatian politicians, and important developments taking place during Croatia’s six month EU presidency.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

VIDEO: RTL Asks Questions in English to Croatian Politicians

January the 12th, 2020 - Considering the fact that the level of fluency in the English language is incredibly high in Croatia, it's always amazing to see just how many Croatian politicians, ministers, public servants and other officials struggle to get their words out.

Many Croatian politicians do an excellent job of spinning the truth in their native language, so it seems a shame that those who don't understand Croatian can't experience the same level of sheer cringe as the rest of us get to on a daily basis.

English is a difficult language, especially when the rules and the grammar are so different from the rules typical of Slavic languages, so it isn't that absolute perfection should be expected, but one would certainly imagine that Croatian politicians, for all of their bluff and chest pounding, would do their best to learn as much English as they can, especially now that Croatia is holding the rotating presidency of the European Union, placing the EU's newest member state on a pedestal for all and sundry to gawp at.

We've had some funny examples in both English and Croatian, however, and we wouldn't want to come across like we're making fun of fails in one language only. Tihomir Orešković, the former Croatian PM, was from Canada, and one of his funniest linguistic blunders was referring to Croatian citizens as buildings in his speech on how he'll serve them (Služit ću hrvatskim građevinama) as opposed to citizens (građanima)

As for English cock-ups, we've had Ingrid Antičević Marinović and her classic line Pipl mast trast as (People must trust us) which was even remixed into songs. 

The list goes on and on, and RTL decided to take it one step further and pretend they were RTL from Germany and approach various Croatian politicians at Markov trg (St. Mark's square) asking them fairly simple questions in English. Some attempted a conversation, others didn't understand the question, some ignored the reporter, and some literally ran away from her. Yes, ran away.

Watch the amusing and extremely uncomfortable video from RTL Direkt below:

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics page for much more on Croatian politicians, politics and the Croatian EU presidency.

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