Friday, 4 December 2020

Learning Croatian: Comparing Kiwi Croatian to Hvar Dialects with Professor Frank John Dubokovich

December 4, 2020 - Croatian has a reputation for being a difficult language to learn. It doesn't have to be, you just need the right teacher or dialect. A look at Kiwi Croatian compared to Hvar dialect. 

One of my favourite all-time interviews on TCN was with the two fabulous Aussie Croat ladies behind Zinfandel, Brasserie on 7, Split Hostel and Charlie's Bar. Apart from documenting Korana and Maria's phenomenal story over the past almost 20 years in Split (which you can read here), one thing I remember about the interview was asking if they spoke Croatian before they moved to Croatia.

"We thought we did," they answered simultaneously, before bursting into laughter. 

I can imagine how shocked they must have been at the difference in Croatian spoken back in the Homeland compared to what they were exposed to back home. Over the years, I have spoken to many people from the Croatian diaspora. Some speak better Croatian than the majority here, others have just a few words, and the majority are somewhere in between. As such, there are different levels of Croatianness in the language spoken. 

I became aware of this first several years ago when I was recording our very popular YouTube series, Learning Croatian with the Guardian of the Hvar Dialects, Professor Frank John Dubokovich. 

The series became an instant hit after the first impromptu episode. As I explained last week, The Professor's iconic Dalmatian Grunt was watched over 50,000 times before YouTube removed the channel for reasons I can't figure out. Having found some of the lessons on the original camera recently, I am starting to repost them again - here is the article on the first - and the best - lesson of all

The Professor was born in New Zealand, where he lived for 8 years before his family moved back to Hvar. During the summer, he has several Kiwi visitors from his younger days, and The Professor suggested a lesson with his schoolfriend Michael, who is proficient in Kiwi Croatian.

A great lesson with Michael on Kiwi Croatian, Vivian in standard Croatian and The Professor in his inimitable Hvar dialects on important topics such as fishing, cooking, getting married, getting a job, and taking the kids for a walk. 

I think even I could master this Kiwi Croatian version. Perhaps there is hope. 

Learning Croatian? Here are 25 common mistakes foreign students make, and how to fix them.

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Learning Croatian with the Professor of Hvar Dialects: Lesson 1 - The Dalmatian Grunt

November 28, 2020 - Learning Croatian is very easy if you have the right teacher. And it doesn't come any easier than Lesson 1 - the Dalmatian Grunt. 

Just over nine years ago, a few weeks after I started the Total Hvar blog which was the founding digital stone of TCN, I was having a coffee with my good friend, Frank John Dubokovich, at the Total Hvar HQ at Cafe Splendid on the main square of Jelsa on the island of Hvar.  

It was November, the square was quiet, and a long Dalmatian winter was ahead of us, somewhat devoid of entertainment. Frankie had his video camera with him for some reason, and I suggested that we record a Croatian language series over the winter, with him as the Croatian language professor, to alleviate some of the boredom. 

An impromptu idea, which we decided to start that very moment, with no planning whatsoever, and with only one rule - there would only be one recording for each lesson. The pressure was on to get it right first time. What happened next was hilarious. 

The first lesson in the series was called The Dalmatian Grunt. Like every other lesson in the series, it was almost totally unplanned but it became an instant YouTube hit, amassing more than 50,000 views all over the world before YouTube removed my channel a few years ago for reasons I am still trying to ascertain. As the camera started rolling, I had no idea even what I was going to ask, but within seconds, a new Internet star was born - Professor Frank John Dubokovich, Guardian of the Hvar Dialects. 

His perfect rendition of the Dalmatian Grunt brought an army of adoring new followers (mostly female for some reason), and many more were attracted by his fantastic teaching methods which made Croatian look incredibly easy to learn. Check out the iconic first lesson above. 

The Professor's fame spread, and it was not long before famous people were flying halfway across the world for the chance to have a 'kava' with The Professor, including then assistant coach of the Australian football national team, Ante Milicic, who even had The Professor's dulcet tones on his morning wake up call, as Ante explained in the video above. 


Ante's adoring fan dash across the globe even made the national media, in an age where I was better known as Tom Bradbury... 

As The Professor's fame spread, especially that iconic Dalmatian Grunt, I was fielding media requests for appearances on national television. And then international television came calling, and The Professor agreed to share his colossal linguistic ability with a British TV reality show visiting Croatia, schooling them in the art of the Dalmatian Grunt. As you can see above, they were excellent students. 

 As luck would have it, the original video recording of The Professor's first lesson was not lost once YouTube deleted the channel, and I found it on the original camera earlier this year. It has just been reuploaded to YouTube once more (see above), so that a new generation can appreciate The Professor's linguisitc genius. 

I am looking forward to the comments again. Last time, there were so many from all over the world in the Croatian diaspora. "This is hilarious and just how my Uncle Branko speaks here in Melbourne, even though he left Hvar 60 years ago."

We will be uploading more of the once-deleted videos to our TCN Talks YouTube channel if you want to subscribe for the latest