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, 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.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Lost in Translation in Croatia: Bears, Acid, and Worm Appetisers

August the 4th, 2019 - It's been a long time since I've done one of these, partly because these linguistic gems are getting more difficult to find and can be a little repetitive, and partly because more serious matters in Croatia have taken priority. The tourist season is in full swing, and now, amid the million and one ways to spell pomfrit, now is the perfect time to get Lost in Translation in Croatia once again.

This is a notice about the water being cut off as there will be works taking place. Please let the tenants understand, sure, but who is going to tell them if not this sign?

You can purchase an entire cafe here every single morning, and even get a bear or two to go with it. Not bad.

One of the things tourists love to take home from Croatia are original products, made in the country, and not cheap Chinese crap that falls apart after a week or two. Original products of Craotia are even more desirable. 

Ah, what could be better on a hot summer day than a fresh salad. There are many different types of salad on offer in Croatia, and each one tastes better than the last. I imagine it would be the experience of a lifetime to get a bowl of acid to take while in a restaurant.

The Church of St. Rock. The Church of St. Roll is just around the corner.

Who doesn't love a worm appetiser when you're starving and desperate for your main course? This is apparently a restaurant for blackbirds.

There's nothing worse than someone who doesn't ''kept a place clean'' following a long necessity. The sh*t emoji speaks volumes.

I'm not sure if you can buy bears here at Time Aut, but I've got a feeling you can... Not sure why...

The toilet key can be found by the cash register/checkout, not on the casing.

Well, at least you have some privacy and a seemingly gorgeous view while ''paring''. Have fun!

Where to begin with this one... You can go to Slsak (Sisak), Noralja (Novalja), Hvai (Hvar), Tucapi (Tucepi), or even the beautiful island of Mijet (Mljet), among several other strange places, including Poogora (Podgora). I don't know who manufactured this towel, but, well... You come to your own conclusions.


From paring to parkirking, you can do it all in private in Croatia.

This company doesn't like the letter ''r'' in any language. Perhaps the owner has a short tongue.

Both German and English are weak points for this exc(h)ange office!

Speaking of German, it might be wise to go and practice over in the beautiful, popular city of Fran(k)furt. You can get there for a fair price by bus!

Even the Croatian on this one is wrong. ''Prireme'' should be ''pripreme'' and in English, it's asking you to please use small change (coins) and not notes.

I'm not really sure where the word ''located'' has come from here, but what it is saying is that you can't bring unregistered guests to this apartment, that making loud noises after midnight is prohibited, so as not to disturb the peace, and that to register, you need to register with the police who deal with foreigners. Theirs is much funnier, however, despite the apparent shortage of peace and the need for the involvement of foreign police.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page for more language fails in Croatia, both by native Croatian speakers when speaking English and by foreigners learning Croatian. If you like the Lost in Translation in Croatia series, have a look at our others by clicking here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Croatian Mondays - Speaking, Talking, Telling and Saying

Maybe you've noticed that for some time now, I haven't written a single word about the Croatian language, Croatian life, Croatian ways... or about anything, to be honest. I must say that I was a bit taken aback by the fact that my emails weren't exactly cluttered up with fan mail inquiring about an obvious absence of my profound thoughts in the media!
I did get one complaint through email though... but that one was from my editor who was kindly inquiring if inspiration had paid me a visit yet and, perhaps more to the point, will it ever visit me again? So, I'm not entirely sure that that one counts. Either way, it's nice that someone notices that you're actually being quiet when you are.
Why didn't I write?  It's very simple. Believe it or not, I just didn't have anything wise to say.
I'm not one to keep quiet usually. You know that person at your workplace that everybody is always nudging with their elbows under the table to speak up at the staff meeting and to tell the boss that obvious thing everybody is thinking, but nobody wants to say out loud? Well, I am that person, at least I was. As the years have passed by, I have learned that sometimes I just have to keep my big mouth shut. Well, I'm still in the learning process anyway...
If we exclude the conversational conflicts in which the average Croat might confront his boss, we might say that Croats really like to talk. That's why, I presume, we have so many different verbs which describe talking itself. If you're learning Croatian, you might find yourself a bit puzzled and slightly irritated with the number of verbs that are in some way connected to such a simple thing, such as making conversation.
Govoriti / to speak, to talk
Reći, kazati / to say
Pričati / to tell a story
Razgovarati / to converse, to talk to each other
All of these verbs are pretty similar in meaning, but in standard Croatian, they aren't used with the same purpose. For example, the verb govoriti can be used to say: Ja govorim nešto, a ti me ne slušaš / I'm talking/saying something and you are not listening to me! which is a very useful and multifunctional sentence in parenting one-on one.
But, if you're talking to another person in the sense of holding a conversation with them, you need to use the verb - razgovarati. Ja razgovaram s prijateljicom. It is uncommon to say: Ja govorim s prijateljicom. In standard Croatian there's a difference beetwen the verb pričati / to tell a story and the verb govoriti / to talk, so it wouldn't be proper to say: Ja dobro pričam hrvatski, (which many Croats wrongly say, just by the way), you should instead say: Ja dobro govorim hrvatski.
However, when you find yourself wandering through the Croatian streets or going somewhere on the tram, these verbs often do get mixed up, so, as mentioned, you will often hear people say: Pričam s nekim, which is not proper, as well as: Razgovaram s nekim, which is correct, meaning: I am talking to someone. That is if you actually ever even happen to see anybody actually talking to each other on the tram and not writing an essay on their smartphones.
Croats like to converse, a lot, to each other. But even better, they like to talk to themselves or to an audience. Do you think I'm exaggerating? Try to walk through the streets of Zagreb on a busy Monday afternoon. Every few metres you will see a person vividly explaining to themselves why they didn't come for coffee yesterday or having an argument with their boss. Who is not at the street at that exact time.
Giving monologues to an audience in which the other person can just nod their head and slide in an occasional Mhm... Ma nemoj mi reći! / You don't say! is also a very Croatian thing to do. Just look at the back mirror of your car while waiting for the green light, usually there is a woman giving a monologue and the guy with a completely lost look in his eyes, just phlegmatically nodding his head during all the wrong times throughout the monologue.
We just love to have an opinion on everything, from the weather forecast to football, to Severina's new husband, to the national GDP, the current political situation in the Middle East... We have an opinion on everything and we are not afraid to talk about it. I'm guessing that is a consequence of all those political decades during which we weren't supposed to have (or share) our own opinions on anything relevant.
However, a strange thing happens to all those loud ''opinion providers'' if you remove them from their favourite coffee place and put them in a conference room instead. If you happen to see a bunch of Croats in a conference and the lecturer asks: Does anyone have a question? All you will hear is a mix of silence and that annoying fly buzzing around the light. The clock is slowly ticking, the lecturer is sweating through his shirt and then some poor soul from the last row raises her hand and asks something in a quiet and timid voice.
At that time, you'll see all of  the Croatian audience turning towards her with the same angry yet astonished  look in their eyes: How dares she? Who does she she think she is? Hah, I could have though of that stupid question myself! Not standing out in a group, keeping a low profile and being just the same as anybody else is part of the ''heritage'' of our colourful political history.
The verbs mentioned earlier are far from the whole selection of verbs connected to speaking or talking.  Let's see what else we have:
Nagovarati / to talk into
Pregovarati / to negotiate
Ogovarati  / to badmouth
Prigovarati / to nag / to make a fuss about
Dogovarati se / to agree on or arrange something
As far as that last one is concerned, it is one of the most commonly used verbs in the Croatian language and one of the favourite verbs of my mother.
Mum, can I go to the store with my sister and buy an ice cream? asked five-year old me with her eyes full of hope.
Dogovorit ćemo se! / We'll have to arrange it! / We'll sort something out! mum would reply with a conspiritive smirk on her face.
Mum, can I  go to the New Kids on the Block concert with my sister this weekend? (Yes, yes, New Kids on the Block was a huge hit when I was growing up, I know, I'm old, no need to remind me!) - fourteen-year-old me asked my mum, filled with a sense of naive hope and some tears, prepared just in case...
Dogovorit ćemo se! / We'll have to arrange it! she  gently smiled at me.
Mum, can I borrow your car on Friday night? nineteen-year old me ambitiously asked mum that hot summer afternoon. Dogovorit ćemo se! / We'll have to arrange it! mum answered patiently, grinning at me.
As time passed by, I realised that the answer dogovorit ćemo se! is a secret code for no way, kid! / nema šanse, mala! I hated that sentence like nothing else. In time I completely forgot about it and all those promised arrengements with my mum which never took place, until one evening a few months ago, my daughter approached me asking: Mum, can I invite my friend for a sleepover this weekend? and I replied: Dogovorit ćemo se! She slammed the door and yelled: You always say that!
Later I realised that dogovorit ćemo se! is not only the favourite ''mum sentence'', but also a favourite sentence for any kind of meeting business deal. Every business meeting in Croatia ends with a handshake and those three words: Dogovorit ćemo se!  
And as for these other verbs like ogovarati, prigovarati, nagovarati - I don't think we should waste any time in writing about them! You see, we people in Croatia never badmouth eachother, we rarely ever fuss about things and we never ever let somebody to persuade us to do anything that we don't want to do, right? We'll leave that one up to you!
If you want to learn more about Croatian language courses, click here.
Monday, 4 February 2019

Croatian Mondays - Molim, Hvala, Izvoli, Oprosti

If you're trying to learn Croatian, you will probably realise that Croatian language, as beautiful as it is, can represent quite a challenge and a daily struggle with its often unpredictable and various changes. So, we asked prof. Mihaela Naletilić Šego, a Croatian language teacher from the Croatian language centre CRO to go, to help us help you out with the little secrets of the Croatian language.

Molim? Hvala! Izvoli! Oprosti!

Prodajemo karte za tramvaj – This was handwritten with a black marker on a wrinkled piece of paper and taped to the glass of the little news stand which I was approaching that cold Wednesday morning a couple of days ago.

I was just about to open my mouth and ask: Oprostite, imate li karte za tramvaj? Excuse me, do you sell tram tickets?

But then I spotted that sign, so instead I just said:

- Jednu kartu, molim Vas! One ticket, please!
- Izvolite! There you go! – said the sales lady.
- Hvala! Thanks! – I replied – Oh, and you have a nice sign! – I smiled at her and wanted to leave, but that little sentence opened up Pandora's box.

- I know! – the sales lady was obviously very upset – Can you believe every f*cking five minutes a person comes up to the f*cking news stand and asks me if I sell f*cking tram tickets!? Well, why don't you ask me for the f*cking ticket and i will I sell it to you if I have it! I mean it's just f*cking unbelivable! – she was yelling and frenetically waving her hands.

- Oprostite što sam nepristojna! I'm sorry I'm being so rude ! Hvala što ste me saslušali! Thank you for listening to me! Have a nice day! - she suddenly realised that she was talking to a customer, fixed her hair a bit and closed the little window in front of her.

It was nice of her to apologise, but in fact, if I put aside the swearing and yelling, she was actually quite polite and used all the little important polite Croatian words:

Molim? - I beg your pardon?

Izvoli! - Here you go

Hvala! - Thank you

Oprosti! - Please forgive me or excuse me

Lijepa riječ otvara i željezna vrata. A nice word opens even iron gates, as one nice Croatian saying would advise us. It might open the iron gate, but it certainly doesn't open the gates of – Croatian bureaucracy!

I realised that one rainy January morning when I tried to get some information on the parking ticket that I'd received, by using – a telephone. You know, a telephone, that fancy new gadget that Alexander Graham Bell invented recently in order for people to get information they need by using a wire instead of walking to the other part of town on rainy Monday mornings.

I sat down that morning and dialled the Information centre of the city office.

- Molim? Yes? - A tiresome and utterly bored female voice answered my call somewhere in the wasteland of the city office after the phone rang for aproximately 45 times.

- Yes, hello - I opened my mouth enthusiastically - I wanted to get some information about the parking ticket I received...
- Gospođo, Madam - the voice said slowly - You can pay your parking ticket in any bank or you can do it here in person…
- No, no, no, I don't want to pay it, i just need some information…
- Where would I be if I gave out information to every person that rings here? asked the bored voice, interrupting me.

Erm… in the information office, I thought to myself, but out loud I just took a deep breath and said:

- Could you put me through to someone who can give me the information that I need?
- Of course. You should have said so in the first place, the bored voice replied utterly apathetically.
- Hva… I wanted to say thank you, but a sudden loud sound interrupted me.

La la la la. la la la. Ah, its Tchaikovsky, symphony No.3.

I was just about to fall asleep daydreaming to the nice music, when I finally got connected.

- Dobar dan! Good day!
- Yes, hello – I began happily - I was so happy I finally reached someone who I can ask…
- You reached the talking machine of the city office – the voice goes on - for citizen's advice call on work days from 13:00 until 14:00...

I checked my watch. It was 08:15. So I redailed Miss Bored Voice and firmly decided to be a bit more tough with her this time!

La la la la. La la la. La laaaaa....

- Dobar dan! I want to talk to someone about my parking ticket, I don't want to pay it, I don't want to be put on hold and I don't want to talk to a talking machine and if you don't connect me to someone this second, I will…
- Nema problema, gospođo! No problem, Madam! – the new, male voice said - Samo polako! Take it easy!
- What do you mean, nema problema? – I asked with absolute mistrust.
- I will put you through, replied the voice

And so he did.
La la la la. La la la. La laaaaa...

- Moooolim! Hello! - a fluttery soft voice twitted to my handset a few seconds later - How can I asist you?
- Oprostite, sorry, is this still the city office?
- Yes, of course! Izvolite? What can I do for you? - This new, fluttery voice was music to my ears.

In the next few seconds I explained my parking ticket situation to the nice lady with the fluttery voice.

- Let me see what we can do about it. I'll check on my computer.
- So, I don't have to go down there in person? - I asked the nice lady rather timidly.
- Molim Vas! Oh, Please! Why should you have to? We're all connected now you know! – she laughed candidly to me.

- However, I am with a client now, so if you could please just call back in ten minutes, we will solve your problem!

- But wait! Who should I ask for? - I yelled down the phone frantially. Too late. She was gone. Still, I waited politely for twelwe minutes and called the nice lady again.

La la la la. La la la. La laaaa...

- Molim? Yes? - Miss Bored Voice phlegmatically answered.
- Yes, I just called ten minutes ago and your colleague connected me to the lady who…
- Oh, it's you again - Miss Bored Voice sighed. What colleague? I don't have a colleague. I work alone.
- Well, maybe a ghost connected me then, how do I know? - I was getting a bit tired of this whole thing at this point, but Miss Bored Voice showed no reaction to my open provocations.
- Wait a minute - she sighed again.

Miss Bored Voice was obviousley on to something now.

- Maybe the doorman answered the phone while I went for a glas of water. My tooth hurts like crazy. Joooža! Jooooža! Did you answer the phone?! - Miss Bored Voice yells.

I could hear the poor doorman Joža minding his own business and just shrugging his shoulders all the way across town.

- Gospođo, Madam, the doorman doesn't have a clue about any nice lady who gave you any kind of information. Hold on, I have another call. I'll put you on hold...

- No, no, don't put me on hold, I just need to talk to the nice lady!

La la la la. La la la. La la. Tchaikovsky. Symphony No. 3.

- Yes, Mirjana, yes - I could hear Miss Bored Voice geting much more excited about a cake recipe after some ten minutes of listening to the wonderful but repetitive Tchaikovky - Just put the flour in before the eggs, that's the trick! Hahahahah yes, yes, what can you do! A kako je Damir? How is Damir? Pozdravi ga! Tell him I said hi!

- Molim? Yes? - she said as she finally addressed me - Oh, it's still you... - the voice sounded pretty disappointed that I was still there.

And then I snapped.

- Look here, I had enough of this treatment. I want to talk to your supervisor this minute! - I screamed at her.
- Well good luck with that! I've been wanting to talk with him for days about my overtime working hours - I could even feel Miss Bored Voice smirking slyly over the phone.
- I'm not joking! - Now I was yelling. Put me through to your supervisor this minute!
- Nema problema gospođo! Izvolite! No problem, Madam! Here you go!

Of course, I was greeted with Tchaikovsky and symphony No.3 once again.

If you happen to see (or hear) the nice lady with a fluttery voice from the city office, please tell her I said hi!

If you want to learn more about Croatian language courses, click here.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Croatian Mondays - How Are You? Kako Si?

If you're trying to learn Croatian , you will probably realise that Croatian language, as beautiful as it is, can represent quite a challenge and a daily struggle with its often unpredictable and various changes. So we asked prof. Mihaela Naletilić Šego, Croatian language teacher from Croatian language centre CRO to go, to help us help you out with the little secrets of the Croatian language.

Kako si?

A wise man once made an excellent remark on Croatia and Croatian people after spending some time here: Croatia is such a beautiful land, but I have never seen as many sad looking people on the streets as I did in Croatia.

If you ever took a ride in one of Zagreb's blue trams you might wonder: Could these worried and agitated looking people with mobile phones in their hands be the same shiny happy people laughing and simply glowing from the photos posted on social networks?

If you look at it in general – as a nation - we carry around a big grey cloud of constant dissatisfaction over our heads. We did experience a short period of blissful and unspoiled national hapiness this summer during the World Cup, though!

In that short period of time, everybody was grinning on the street for no reason whatsoever, drivers weren't swearing at each other, mums weren't yelling at their children on playgrounds and there were a lot of random happy faces on the streets of Croatia.

But those days seem long forgotten now, and we just went back to being the unsatisfied nation with that big grey Croatian – nothing is good in this country - umbrella above our heads! I often find myself riding in a blue tram or walking through Zagreb streets with a grey cloud filled with thoughts over my head. And then I bump into an old acquaintese whom I heaven't seen for ten years. Actually – my ex boyfriend. Who of course happens to look amazing that morning. It's obvious that he'd spent quite some time in the gym since we broke up!

Thank God I went jogging yesterday and woke up a bit earlier this morning in order to apply a ton of makeup, I thought.

- You look great! – he says.
- Thank you! – I reply politely and twinkle my eyes.
- The same as when we were at college! – he goes on.

Well, he was always a bit of a compulsive liar, now that I think of it. And then he pops out the eternal question: Kako si? How're you doing?

How might one reply to the most commonly asked question in the world when its your ex boyfriend, whom you haven't seen in a decade, asking, one might wonder? While I was thinking about what reply I could give to absolutely dazzle him, I started to wonder how Croats approach this eternal question. There are a few possible answers you might get when you ask about other poeple's lives in Croatia.

The complete and noncensored life story. Some people just don't realise that kako si? is asked out of courtesy, and simply get an urge to tell you their entire life story. A bit like my neighbour.

- Kako ste, susjeda? How are you, neighbour? – I would ask her while heading to my work.

- Oh, I have been fine lately, thank you for asking! – she smiles happily to me.
- Good, I'm glad! – I reply quickly and start to move my feet since I'm already a bit late for work.
- Nice to see you! – I try to turn my back and wave a bit to her to say goodbye.

Try is the key word in this sentence.

- But you know what happened to us just last month? - she gently but decisively grabs me underneath my arm – Do you know that we had a burglar at our cabin in the mountains?

- Yes, that's very nice, I'm glad for you – I'm obviously not paying attention anymore, trying desperately to free my arm and catch that tram which is just around the corner - but I really need to go, I'm in a bit of a rush…

- Imagine the nerve of him! To barge into a house like that! – she completly ignores attempts to escape and continues with the endless burglar story, as I watch sadly how tram number 12 is leaving the tram station without me.

- Of course, we called the police – now she's yelling – But what did they do, I ask you? Nothing!

The interesting fact with these people who tell you their entire life story, is that when it's your turn to tell your life story story, suddenly they run out of time.

- A kako si ti, draga moja? And how are you, my dear? – she finally remembers that I might have something going on in my life as well.

- Well, you know… I start talking, but in that moment she experiences an instant Eureka-moment.

- Oh, no! I forgot I have to be home in five minutes to let the dog out! Nice seeing you! – and just like that, she's gone.

Nisam baš dobro. I'm not so good.

A lot of people will tell you: Nisam baš dobro. And some aren't very good at that point in their lives, and it's therefore nice that someone can listen to them and maybe make them feel a bit better. But then there are those people who are simply always dissatisfied.

- Oh, I'm not so good. You know I won a lottery last month. We bought a new car and paid off all of our debts. My daughter got a new job and we're going skiing this weekend. But, the weather is really lousy lately… This jugo (type of southerly wind) is killing me!

The weather is a huge ''mood issue'' in this beautiful country. Somehow it seems that there is always something wrong with the weather. And there is! it's so warm in the summer you have to wear short sleeves. The rain just won't stop falling in autumn and sometimes it gets so cold in winter that it actually snows. Not to mention all the wind in spring time! Ah, the wind. One of Croatia's unresolved mysteries.

Growing up in a big house in a cold and foggy little town on four rivers with my grandmother who moved there from warm and sunny Dalmatia, I soon realised that the wind is a higly important life issue. Grandma Marica was eternally worried about the weather, and the the posibilty that some day, somewhere, somehow you might just simply freeze. She was especially concerned about the wind situation.

- Put a sweater on your back, there's some nasty north wind outside! – she would often warn me. The worst enemy of all possible winds was, of course, the propuh (draught).

- Put some clothes on those children! she would anxiously yelled to my mum while our old car with no air conditioning was leaving the backyard melting in the tropical summer heat.

- You have no idea how draughty it can get on the ferry boat!

Lately I have realised that the mood of lots of Croats depends on the type of wind that is currently blowing outside. And that biometeorogical weather report every night after the evening news is certainly not helping the nationwide situation of unhappiness. You just had a great day and you're feeling happy and good about yourself and your life and then you watch the evening weather forecast.

Some very educated looking and serious looking guy tells you that the weather conditions will not be good at all tomorrow, and that sensitive people can expect headaches, dark thoughts, severe moping and in short – they will have a crappy day.

Tako – tako. So – so.

A wise and a good diplomatic answer that makes your friends interested in a discussion over a beer, and your acquintances, just a bit confused.

But, you know what the best answer to kako si? would be? Dobro sam, hvala! Good, thank you! or Odlično, hvala! Great, thank you!

Dobro sam! I'm fine! or even better Odlično! Great! – with a smile on your face. It makes your friends happy and your enemies miserable, and we sure need some more smiling faces in Croatia. After all, the World Cup wasn't such a long time ago!

If you want to learn more about Croatian language courses, click here.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Croatian Mondays - Life and Language in Croatia

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to learn Croatian, you'll probably realise that Croatian language, as beautiful as it is, can represent quite a challenge and a daily struggle with it’s often unpredictable and various changes. So we asked prof. Mihaela Naletilić Šego, a Croatian language teacher from the Croatian language centre CRO to go, to help us help you out with some of the little secrets of the Croatian language.

Oprostite, koliko je sati? Excuse me, what time is it?

For a lot of people who move to Croatia, after a few weeks of living in their new country, Einstein's postulates on the relativity of time suddenly get a whole new meaning. That usually happens the very first time a newcomer encounters an urgent pipe problem in their household and has to call – the plumber.

That exact thing happened to my friend Anna just a few weeks after she moved to Croatia. It was one warm Sunday evening when she came home from town to find her bathroom completely flooded. Anna grabbed her phone, and quickly found a number on the Internet.

Hitne intervencije / Emergency repairs – it was written. She explained her problem to the man on the other end. He didn't seem overly impressed by her bathroom flood situation. He yawned a couple of times and just mumbled:

''Yes, yes, madam. We'll be there tomorrow morning, no problem.''
''What do you mean tomorrow?'' Anna was confused. ''My entire bathroom is flooded!''
''Gospođo/Madam, it's a holiday weekend. Tomorrow morning is the best I can do,'' the plumber replied indifferently.

''U koliko sati dolazite? What time will you be here? she asked naively.

''Gospođo, odakle da ja to znam? Imamo posla preko glave! Računajte da bi između sedam i dvanaest bi mogli biti kod Vas. Madam, how can I know that? We're up to our necks in work! We should be there between seven and twelve,'' the plumber seemed agitated.

The next morning Anna got up early, dressed up, made some coffee – and waited. And waited. And waited.

At 12:00 she started to suspect that the words between seven and twelve in fact meant between seven and midnight - and she decided to call the plumber once more. The plumber apologised and once again very vividly explained how they are fully booked and up to biiip work and biiip…

''Sutra dolazimo, gospođo, sigurno! Nema problema! We're coming tomorrow, Madam, no problem (or perhaps more accurately in English - no worries)'' he sounded cheerful and promising.

I'm not going to go on with this story, because, to be honest, I have no idea how it ended. Last time I heard from Anna, she was still waiting in her kitchen. I'm sure they will be there tomorrow, though. The plumber promised her just a few days ago!

That Monday, Anna realised that the word tomorrow in Croatia has a metaphorical meaning. It could mean a number of things, such as: later this week, sometime this month, this year, in February or in spring time… but it never, ever means – tomorrow.

Croatian is a really interesting language. You can find at least ten different words for such an ordinary thing as a ladle: grabljača, grabilica, kutljača, kaciola, palj,paljak, šefarka, šeflja, kutal, kačica…

And then you find out that Croats use one word that describes ten different things at the same time!

Let's take a look at the Croatian word SAT, for example. Sat is a word that translates to watch, as in the watch you'd wear on your wrist. Imagine you're going out with a friend in Zagreb. You are all dressed up and have your new watch/sat on your wrist. Of course, you're heading out to the main square, because your friend said:

Nađemo se kod sata! Let's meet by the clock! (Yes, sat is also a clock).

If you're meeting someone in Zagreb, that sentence most commonly means only one thing – that you are meeting by the clock on Trg bana Jelačića (Ban Jelačić square) or the main Zagreb square, or simply - Trg.

Meeting someone by the clock can get a little tricky if the person you are meeting is from Dalmatia. I've had my fair share of experiences freezing under the clock on Trg waiting for my dear friend from Split who promised to be there right on time that windy January evening. U pola sedam (half past seven). I had been standing there for at least forty five minutes until I realised that down in Dalmatia, time goes by a bit differently.

7.30 in Zagreb is pola osam (as in, half an hour to eight), while in Split is referred to as sedam i po (seven and a half). From that time, whenever I set an appointment with my Split friend at, let's say 10:30, I always doublecheck – That’s deset i po, right?

You might have noticed that Croats often say: Vidimo se za sat vremena! See you in one hour!

Although this sentence also sometimes has a metaphorical meaning, the word sat in Croatian also has another meaning – hour.

None of these sentences should create a confusion in your mind. But if you text your Croatian friend and ask him to go to out with you, it might confuse you when you get the reply: Na satu sam! I'm on the clock!

Although Croats can be a bit peculiar on occasions, I assure you that this sentence doesn't mean that that your Croatian friend is currently sitting on that main square clock we mentioned earlier just waiting for you! It does mean that they are currently in some kind of a lesson and cannot answer your question.

Na satu sam. I'm in a lesson.

And of course, if you get lost in time wandering through the many charming little streets of Zagreb while waiting for your friend, you can always ask: Oprostite, koliko je sati? Excuse me, what time is it?

If you want to learn more about Croatian language courses, click here.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Language, Jobs, and Coffee with Milk as Dalmatia and Zagreb Clash

27th of December, 2018 - Of life and language in Dalmatia and Zagreb.

After having spent eight months trying to find a job in Croatia, I had decided to pursue happiness abroad. Since I have found out that I am not exactly the kind that can just pack her stuff and hit the road, I needed some kind of assurance before I left.

Being a Political Sciences graduate, I knew how competitive in the labour market I was – spoiler alert: very little.

So, one advantage I had, when looking at my CV, were the many languages I listed, some of which are Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian and Montenegrin. The first version of my English CV did not have all of those, of course, but my friend concluded that foreign employers don’t realize those are so similar, one could even say - variations of one language, with all due respect to our Prime Minister; so I kept them in the CV.

Nevertheless, the job I got the offer for required me to speak Croatian only, aside from English, and it was for a Czech company that was spreading onto the Croatian market. At this point, I feel the need to mention that I had gone through 3 interviews and had received a job offer within 3 weeks. Just for comparison, it usually took Croatian employers 2 months to answer my application/e-mail, if they ever did (90% never did), but that is a topic for another day.

Now that it was settled, I was to move in a few weeks to the Czech Republic, to a small town called Usti nad Labem, where they will provide accommodation for me for a few months and a refund for the travel expenses. I arranged everything, booked a train ticket and when the day came, kissed my friends goodbye and went on this new adventure.

Now, I haven’t been here for long but the first thing a foreigner will notice and will be annoyed with is the fact that people from Usti don't speak English. When I got here, I was supposed to open a bank account, buy a Czech number, a monthly ticket and all kinds of stuff in all kinds of places. And, wherever I went, the answer to my “Do you speak English?” question was a definite “No”. It was like they didn’t even feel bad at all, if anything, sometimes it felt like they were angry at me for not speaking Czech.

Luckily for me, Czech and Croatian languages have some similar words and I do know a bit of Czech from my time working in Gradac tourist office, so I manage. I don’t even want to imagine how my colleagues from the company, especially the Hungarians, go about. It’s not that most people won’t try to help you when you ask for directions, but they will have a hard time understanding what you need and I just can’t wrap my mind around the fact that young people can’t manage a simple conversation in English.

They do learn it in school, but why they refuse to use it is beyond me. I understand that Usti is a small town, not exactly a tourist destination, but they have a University, there are Erasmus students here and branches of international companies which employ people from all over Europe (myself included) so this, stubbornness maybe, is a true mystery.

Now that I’ve expressed my outmost disbelief regarding the non-English speaking citizens of my current residing town, let me make a small comparison to Zagreb, a big city where I had lived for 8 years. During that time, I had not lost my Dalmatian accent, nor had I picked up their words or expressions. I am not stating that in order to make myself look good or bad, it’s just a fact, important for the point I’ll be making.

A few days into moving to Zagreb, I went to a bakery where after I ordered bili kruv (“white bread”, ikavian), the woman asked me, in a condescending tone, if I had meant bijeli kruh (“white bread”, ijekavian); and remember, I was buying bread not defending my thesis. I didn’t make much of it at the time, but after it had happened on a few more occasions and with other expressions like kava s mlikon (“coffee with milk”, ikavian) instead of kava s mlijekom (“coffee with milk”, ijekavian) I started to get annoyed.

I wouldn’t say a word if those had been extremely different terms but if you understand me, why do you feel the need to correct my speech? I know the standard Croatian language, but I am not writing a book while ordering coffee so I don’t understand where the problem is. I have never told anyone who came to Dalmatia what the proper way to speak is, nor have I ever corrected someone’s kaj (“what”) or fakat (“really”, Zagreb slang) or their accent.

I believe that there are people in Dalmatia who do that, we are known for grintanje (grumbling) and 80% of us, 80% of the time are in grintanje mode, but I have never done that nor has anyone in my presence.

It is amazing when you think about it: people from Usti expect you to speak their language, but people in Zagreb expect you to speak their dialect! I will try to find out what is the deal with locals from Usti and their resentment for the English language, but don’t hold your breath; I still haven’t figured out why is there a feud between people from Zagreb and the Dalmatian dialect.


Article by Barbara Viskic

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Prize Lists, Cold Deposits and Viagra: Lost in Translation in Croatia

It's that time of year again. Grammar Nazis, this might hurt.

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