Wednesday, 2 November 2022

Zagorje, Međimurje, Samobor and More - The Northwestern Kajkavian Dialect

November the 2nd, 2022 - Iva Lukezic, an expert in the Croatian language and in dialects, states that what's known as the Zagorje-Međimurje dialect or the Northwestern Kajkavian dialect is one of the main dialects of the wider Kajkavian dialect. This manner of speaking is primarily characterised by the preservation of what's known as ''basic Kajkavian accentuation''.

We've looked into enough dialects and subdialects of the Croatian language to realise there's much more to the language spoken in this country than what's now known as standard Croatian. From the Dubrovnik subdialect with its Florentine and Venetian roots, and learning about Kajkavian and Chakavian, to old Dalmatian which is sadly dying with the last generations to speak it, the regional way of speaking across Croatia is extremely varied for such a small country.

Did you know that in some cases it gets a bit more complicated than the three ''main ways'' of speaking (Kajkavian, Chakavian and Shtokavian)? There of course regionalities and variations within each of those, too, and let's not even get started on the words only spoken on certain islands. Let's take a look at the Northwestern Kajkavian dialect, which encompasses several areas of modern Croatian territory.

It is spoken in the border areas of Croatia from Slovenia and Hungary (around Kotoriba below Nagykanizsa and in Prekodravlje) all the way to the City of Zagreb. The Northwestern Kajkavian dialect can be divided into several sub-dialects; spoken in Samobor, Međimurje, Varaždin-Ludbreš, Bednjan-Zagorje and Gornjosutlan. There are some linguists and other experts in the Croatian language and in dialects who consider each of the ways of speaking in the aforementioned locations to be dialects in their own right, and not merely subdialects.

Veering off to be even more specific for a second, it's worth mentioning that the local Bednja(n) dialect is considered to actually be the oldest form of the Kajkavian proto-dialect. 

The Bednjan dialect is spoken by the inhabitants of the municipality of Bednja, which, in addition to Bednja itself, encompasses the areas of Pleš, Šaša, Vrbno, Trakošćan (which you'll likely know of thanks to its stunning castle), Benkovec, Rinkovec, Prebukovje, and so on. The Bednjan dialect isn't completely isolated, and most of its main features are also found in certain neighbouring areas like Lepoglava, Kamenica, and especially in Jesenje.

In scientific circles, Bednja speech is unfairly neglected, which makes it all the more important to mention the professor and dialectologist Josip Jedvaj, born in Šaša, who published the most precise and comprehensive study on the Bednjan speech so far in the Croatian Dialectological Collection, which is considered one of the best descriptions of one of the organic forms of speech of this part of the country. The people of the municipality of Bednja named a district school in Vrbno and a street in Bednja after him as a thank you for his efforts to preserve the Bednja language and not let it be lost to the often cruel hands of time, as has been the case for many words spoken in old Dalmatian.

Given the fact that the Northwestern Kajkavian dialect encompasses a fair few places, some (if not most) of which will have variations in their own locally spoken words, we'll look at some more standard words used in this dialect, some of which are still used, and some of which might well be being forgotten in areas like Međimurje and beyond. Some can still be heard in Zagreb, even. I'll provide their standard Croatian and English translations.

Astal - table/stol

Bajka - a thick winter coat/deblji zimski kaput

Cafuta - a prostitute/prostitutka (kurva)

De - where/gdje

Eroplan - plane/avion

Fajna - good looking or pretty/lijepa, fina ili zgodna

Gda - when/kad(a)

Harijada - when something is busy, unorganised or overcrowded/guzva, nered ili cirkus

Jagar - hunter/lovac

Kalamper (kalampir) - potato/krumpir

Laboda - ball/lopta

Marelo - umbrella/kisobran

Nemorut - someone who is useless, lazy or good for nothing/beskoristan ili lijen

Ober - above/iznad

Palamuditi - to talk shit or say stupid things/pricati gluposti

Raca - duck/patka

Senje or senji - dreams/snovi

Tolvaj - thief/lopov

Untik dosta - more than enough/vise nego dovoljno

Venodjati - to have sex or make love/voditi ljubav

Zajtrak (sometimes zajtrek or zojtrak) - breakfast/dorucak

 

For more on the Croatian language, from learning how to swear in Croatian to learning about the various dialects, subdialects and history of the language, make sure to keep up with our language articles in our lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 11 October 2022

Swearing in Croatian - The Always Handy, Adaptable S Word

October the 11th, 2022 - So far, our swearing in Croatian series has looked into the dark but always creative depths of the J word, the P word and the K word, and with so many letters still left in the alphabet to explore, I thought we'd look at the S word, which is slightly tamer than some of the rather more eye-opening ones above.

The S word is in Croatian what it also is in the English language, it's shit. Quite literally, shit. It doesn't cross into the threshold of sheep or mouse genitals like the K word does, and it doesn't blow p*ssy smoke quite like the P word does (don't even ask, just click the link above), but despite being rather tame in comparison, it's just as diverse.

Let's begin with the most basic use of this word when swearing in Croatian - sranje, which means shit. Not, under any circumstances, to be confused with ''stanje'' (which is how you'd describe how something stands, such as how much data you have left on your phone plan, what the situation is, or what condition a car you're selling is currently in). Let's delve deeper into just some of the more common ways in which sranje can be used and modified to fit just about any situation.

Sranje - As highlighted above, this is just your basic ''shit''. You'd use it in the exact same way you use it in English. Dropped your phone? Sranje. Lost your debit card? Sranje. Perhaps you're wondering why you're talking all this sranje like I am right now (Ponekad se pitam zasto pricam sva ta sranja). Stepped in... well, shit? Then yeah, sranje.

Usrati se - To use the toilet. You figure out which number this involves, and whether you even need to discuss it with others at all... Alternatively, if you'd prefer not to discuss your bowel movements, you could say something like: Now this is all going to go to shit (Ovo ce sad sve usrati), or, if you're not into surprise parties, you might worry how today is your birthday and you're shitting it (rodjendan mi je i zelim se usrati od straha).

Sasrati se - Go back to being sixteen and attempting to sneak your mum's vodka out to go and drink on a park with your friends and thinking you're the next criminal mastermind because you filled it back up with tap water and she'd never be able to tell, but then she pours herself a glass... Or how about when your boss asks you whether or not you actually did that thing he asked you to do four weeks ago. Or maybe you're a business owner who has failed to declare a few kuna here and there... You might say ''Sasro' sam se kad...'' (I was shitting myself when...) and enter the situation as you see fit.

Srati na veslo - This is that phenomenon when, while performing an action, you or someone else performing said action unknowingly and unintentionally messes something up that has nothing to do with whatever that action was, but the initial action had the misfortune of being in the immediate vicinity of what followed. 

Let's say you went to move a heavy table across the floor and in doing so you damaged the tiles. Maybe you moved something closer to you and knocked something else over in the process. It can be used for a variety of situations. If you're a fan of the legendary British sitcom Only Fools and Horses, you'll know of the scene with Rodney and Del Boy and the chandelier. That's one good example.

Nasrati se - To say something stupid or inappropriate and then feel the instant burn of shame or embarrassment in your cheeks. An American tourist once asked if ''they fold the walls back in at the end of the tourist season'' in Dubrovnik. Needless to say, this is a perfect example of where this term fits like a glove.

Srati kao vidra - This one is so funny for me as someone who has celiac disease. You'd use this if you (for some odd reason) want to showcase just how proud you are that you have zero issues with erm... going to the toilet. Never been constipated and are very regular? You'd use this. Had an Indian that you thought you had the stomach lining to handle but it turns out your European internals aren't all that experienced? Definitely use this. Got chronic stomach issues? Salmonella? Norovirus? You get it. This one is for you.

Usrati se k(a)o grlica - You'd use this if you were particularly anxious about something, like you're shitting yourself out of fear or worry to the point where you might (proverbially of course) die of fear (umrijeti od straha). Let's say you remembered something you urgently needed to do and you felt your stomach drop... you might say something along the lines of Ajme, usro sam se k(a)o grlica.

Srati - This could be one of several things. Perhaps you are indeed, using the toilet and have no problem discussing the nature of that experience with a crowd. If expelling some of the content of your guts isn't a topic you tend to talk about all that much, you could use this to say how someone (or perhaps you) is ''talking shit'' or going on about nothing. 

Posrati se sam sebi u usta - To end up doing something you said you wouldn't. Let's say your friend who said she would absolutely never go out with that arrogant guy but then you see them together at a fancy restaurant, I guess she posrala se sama sebi u usta.

Prosrati se - To come out with something rather shocking or even unacceptable in a certain situation that really, really doesn't call for it. Let's say you're having dinner with your other half's family and you start talking about something not exactly family friendly. Maybe you told a mildly sexist joke to your boss and the laughs are painfully non-existent. We've all done something embarrassing in front of someone who absolutely shouldn't have seen or heard it.

Srati kvake - This is once again a term you could use when referring to talking shit or perhaps more specifically bullshit. Oh come on, don't talk bollocks/bullshit/shit (Ma daj ne seri kvake!)

Usrati motku - You'd use this if you're referencing messing something up, doing something wrong, putting your foot in your mouth (not literally, unless you happen to do yoga), saying something wrong or something coming out in a way you didn't intend for it to. It is also very often used in situations where something has gone wrong (because of you), and now you've got some unpleasant consequences ahead of you as a result. I've gone and done it again! (Ufff opet sam usro motku).

For more on Croatian language (not just swearing in Croatian, I promise), make sure to keep up with our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 1 August 2022

Swearing in Croatian - The Curious Creativity of the K Word

August the 1st, 2022 - We've explored the infamous J word and the equally infamous P word, and as we make our way through the alphabet (in no particular order, might I add) in our swearing in Croatian series, we need to look at a letter that is just as diverse and creative as both J and P, the glorious letter K. 

K is the first letter of the word kurac, which, unlike the letter P which focuses entirely on the female sexual organ, focuses on the male one. And, just like the P word, swearing in Croatian and using the K word can be used in all sorts of situations, in fact, it wouldn't really be out of place in just about any situation your mind can think of. Let's delve deeper.

Isti kurac - Literally, ''the same dick'', but the correct English translation would simply be ''the same shit''. Bottled water and that free stuff you get from the tap? The same shit. All political parties? The same shit. 

Za misji kurac - Literally, ''for a mouse's dick''. Struggling to make sense of just when the sexual organ of a small, impossibly cute rodent might be used in a sentence? I'll help you out. ''God, that missed us by a mouse's dick!''. ''That was close! For a mouse's dick!''

Turski kurac - Literally, a ''Turkish dick''. You'd use this when describing someone who is pushy and/or aggressive in their approach. ''He came at me like a damn Turkish dick!''

Truli kurac - Something worthless, useless, a waste of time and energy. Something might also mean someone in this case, too.

Boli me kurac - This is a funny one, it literally translates to ''my dick hurts'', but not in the sense you're thinking. Context is important when it comes to swearing in Croatian. The best way to really translate this would be ''I don't give a shit'' ''Like I give a shit'' ''I couldn't care less'' or ''I'm not bothered at all'' about whatever the issue at hand is.

Pun mi je kurac - ''My dick is full''. No, really. But it doesn't mean it in the literal sense. This is used when you're describing to someone just how much you've had enough of something. It's a bit like saying you're at the end of your rope or you've had enough of something (negative) to last you a lifetime. It can also be used how the Brits use the bizarre measurement of a ''f*ck tonne'' of something. ''She has a f*ck tonne of shoes, surely she can lend you a pair'' would be ''Ona ima pun kurac cipela, valjda ti moze posuditi jedne'' in Croatian.

Kurac od ovce - Quite literally, ''a sheep's dick''. In British English, you'd probably translate this as ''easy peasy'' if you were using the child friendly version, or if you're speaking freely in a room of adults, you'd probably say ''it was a piece of piss'' (which is a very amusing British English term, because urine is a liquid, and I'm not sure how one obtains a ''piece of piss'', but I digress). It's used to describe something very easy, something that was a piece of cake, and sometimes if something (or even someone) was worthless or a waste of time. Again, context is the best thing to look at when dropping sheep genitals into any given conversation.

(S)kurcan - To be listless in some way. To be neither here nor there.

M(a)rs/goni se u kurac - To put it politely, to go forth and multiply. To return to wherever you came from, or to get lost/to piss off.

Kurcina - Something went horribly wrong or in a way it definitely shouldn't have.

Za kurac - Literally ''for the dick''. It's a bit like saying something has ''gone to the dogs'' in British English terminology. It's when something is worthless, pointless, meaningless, or something that has gone to hell/to rot.

Ici na kurac - Used when something is getting on your nerves or irritating you.

Evo ti kurac - ''You're getting nothing.''

Kurac cu to napraviti - ''There's no way I'm going to do that.''

Kurcic - Literally, ''a small dick''. This is used to refer to an unimportant person, particularly in cases when said person thinks they're something special.

Koji kurac? - ''What the f*ck?''

 

For more on Croatian language and of course, swearing in Croatian, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Friday, 29 July 2022

Swearing in Croatian: The Remarkable Diversity of the P Word

July the 29th, 2022 - Swearing in Croatian isn't quite the same as swearing in English. What makes you sound like an uneducated idiot with a poor grasp of proper vocabulary in the English language is quite the opposite in Croatian. Swearing in English is likely to make the pearl clutchers blush and the Karens come out in full force. Swearing in Croatian is much more acceptable, speaking generally of course, and it is used extremely creatively in many cases.

We're going to take a look, letter by letter, at some ways swearing in Croatian differs quite extremely from swearing in English, and try to explain (in the most politically correct way we can manage), what some of these mean, and in what type of situation they are usually used. 

First, let's delve into the P word. We've already looked at the J word in the past, with it being perhaps the most versatile of all Croatian swear words. P is a close second, but then again so is S, and so is K... but we'll look into them all in time. So, back to the P word... The P word is a term which centres itself around the female sexual organ, usually to refer to something bad happening, or as an expression of a negative emotion.

Pizdarija - This is used if ''netko je napravio pizdariju'' (if someone has well and truly f*cked something up) or when something going badly or something unwanted is happening. It can also be used to describe something toilsome that can't be dealt with or fixed very easily, or indeed the opposite of that. Context is your friend here.

A u picku materinu! - Oh God, what have I done?! Oh for f*ck's sake! It can even be ''Ouch!'' when you drop something on your foot. (I won't include the direct translation of this, it's much too vulgar. If you're curious, do Google it).

Ona picka materina - Something you're supposed to fix, deal with or do that you can't do now for whatever reason and the thought alone is irritating to you, particularly if you can't remember something about it.

Dobar u picku materinu - Something that is just great.

Pickotehnicar - A gynaecologist. 

Razbiti pizdu - When something collapses, falls, breaks or is in some other way destroyed.

Dobiti po picki - To be beaten up or to get into some sort of (usually) physical altercation in which you lost.

Pizdin dim or pickin dim - Something very easy. It can also be used to describe something useless, worthless, or of very little of either of the aforementioned. If you want to use the much more child friendly term, you could say that something very easy is ''macji kasalj'', which literally translates to ''a cat's cough.'' In British English, these terms would be ''a piece of piss'' (non child friendly) or ''easy peasy (lemon squeezy)'' (child friendly).

Ma idi u picku materinu! - In kinder terms (and if you're actually saying this to another person) it means to go back to wherever you came from, to get lost, to p*ss off, to go forth and multiply. If you're saying this to yourself, it can be an expression of surprise, or anything from ''holy shit'' to ''damn'' to ''f*ck me!'' to ''get out of here, no way!'' to ''jeez!''. Context, as ever, rules.

Mrs u picku materinu - Much like the above, this one has a much clearer intention as it is said to someone else. So, read the first line of the above explanation to catch my drift.

Pizdjen/a - To be in a foul mood, or in some other way defeated and not feeling very positive.

Pripizdina - A similar term to vukojebina, which is literally ''where the wolves f*ck'', meaning some God forsaken, middle of nowhere, rural area that nobody has ever heard of. It's commonly used when you really can't remember the name of the place you're referring to.

Pickarati - To be vulgar, unpleasant, to pout or be in a mood. This term originates from Rijeka, but is more widely used.

Pijan 'ko picka - To be extremely drunk.

Popizditi/Popickati - To lose your mind, to go crazy, to be extremely angry, to lose your sh*t.

Placipicka (sometimes plasipicka) - Someone who is easily scared or spooked. An anxious person who is always worried that something is going to happen to them, or that something bad is going to unfold in general. 

Popickatari se - To argue or get into a heated situation with someone, especially in a stupid and primitive way, with vulgar expressions and swear words (such as all of these) being used. 

Strasipicka - A coward.

Spickati se - This one has multiple meanings. It can be in reference to how someone has got dressed up (scrubbed up well), or if they've met some sort of misfortune, such as crashing their car into a road sign or falling off their bike into a puddle. 

For more letters and to learn more about swearing in Croatian, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 25 July 2022

Speaking Dalmatian - A Little Dictionary of (Mostly) Forgotten Words

July the 25th - Speaking Dalmatian isn't the same as speaking Croatian. For some people, ''speaking Dalmatian'' begins and ends with using the Split dialect, saying ''a e'' when in agreement with something, swapping the letter ''m'' for ''n'', dropping a ''j'' here and there and throwing in ''i''. I am goes from ''Ja sam'' to ''Ja san'', summer goes from ''ljeto'' to ''lito'', and a man saying I was goes from ''Ja sam bio'' to ''Ja san bija''. Speaking in a vague Split way is far from speaking Dalmatian, so let's look a little bit at just how varied Croatian in general really is.

For such a small country which uses it as their official language, Croatian is diverse. What are usually called ''dialects'' here are often almost entire languages of their own. Put someone from Brac and someone from Zagorje alone together in a room and watch them flounder in their attempts to understand each other when they speak naturally and you'll see what I mean.

Foreigners get their tongues twisted just hearing Croatian being spoken, members of the diaspora who think they can speak the language often arrive scratching their heads because the words grandma and granddad used are rarely ever spoken anymore, and when it comes to speaking Dalmatian, very many have no idea of all of the words which are sadly being lost to the cruel hands of time.

Even when it comes to speaking Dalmatian, there are words used in places on the island of Hvar that nobody would really grasp just next door on the island of Brac, and vice versa, and let's not even get started on the Dubrovnik dialect (Dubrovacki govor/dijalekt) in this article, or we'll be here all day long.

So, let's get to speaking Dalmatian by looking at some old and sadly (almost) forgotten words and what they mean. We'll compare them to the standard Croatian words and see how they differ - sometimes vastly. Let's start illogically, much like many of the rules of language appear to be to a lot of people - with the letter B.

Brav - A sheep or a lamb. In standard Croatian this is quite different, with sheep being ovca and lamb being a janjac.

Bravini konji - Nice looking horses, usually of the draft horse type. In Croatian, a horse is merely a konj, and draft horses (to which this term typically refers) are konji na vucu.

Brbat - To look for something with your hands. In standard Croatian, it would simply be to ''traziti nesto rukama'', but why bother with all that when you can use one word?

Breknut - To tap or knock on something. In standard Croatian, you'd say kucnuti, bositi or udariti.

Brgvazdat - To babble, be chatty and to jabber, or to talk a lot (to go on and on about something). In standard Croatian, this would be brbljati.

Britulin - A pocket knife or a small switch knife. In Croatian, this would simply be a noz, or a nozic if you want to emphasise the fact that it is small.

Bricit/bricenje - To shave and to be shaving. In Croatian, this would be brijati (to shave), or brijanje (shaving). You can also use this term in a context-based way if it's particularly blowy outside thanks to the harsh bura wind, for example.

Brik - A two-masted sailing vessel. In standard Croatian, this would be a jedranjak sa dva jarbola. Again, when speaking Dalmatian (or old Dalmatian), shortening it all is easier.

Briska - Olive pomace, or, in standard Croatian, komina od masline.

Brlina - A location within an oil mill used for the ''pouring out'' of the olives, or, prostor u uljari namijenjen za sipanje maslina.

Bmistra - The Dalmatian word for the Spartium plant (in standard Croatian this one isn't that much different - brnistra).

Brombul - A mix of everything and anything! In Croatian, you'd probably just say mjesavina svega i svacega.

Brombulat - This one ties in with the above as you can see with the similarity of the word used. This would be the act of mixing up that ''everything and anything'' mentioned above. In Croatian, you'd just say mjesati nesto. Isn't speaking Dalmatian so much more simple?

Brontulat - It's similar to the above to read, but it means something quite different. You'd use this if you were speak without any sense (govoriti bez smisla) or to just go on and on about something (neprestano govoriti) without a reason. You might even use this term for someone complaining (prigovarati).

Buhoserina - Literally, flea shit. In Croatian, this would just be izmet buhe.

Buherac - The Dalmatian word for the Tanacetum plant. In Croatian this is buhac.

Buganci - frost bite on the arms, legs or on the lips/around the mouth. In Croatian, this would be ozebline or smrzotine.

Bujer - A hat or cap (kapa, sesir).

Bumbit - To drink (Croatian: piti).

Bunetarka - A type of fig, in Croatian this would be bruzetka crna, or as the Italian is used by those who are into this, brogiotto bianco.

Butiga - This one is still very commonly used. A shop or a place/point of sale. In Croatian, this would just be trgovina. The person actually doing the selling, such as the cashier, would be a butigir.

Butat - The act of throwing something into a body of water, most likely the sea. Baciti nesto would be the standard Croatian version.

As you can see, speaking Dalmatian, or more precisely using old Dalmatian words, is quite different to speaking standard Croatian, and it doesn't begin and end with using a Split dialect. Some of these words (but not all) are rarely used anymore and are in danger of being lost forever - and we've only looked at the letter B so far. So imagine an entire alphabet of words like this which often sound absolutely nothing whatsoever like their standard Croatian equivalents?!

It's up to us to work to preserve this old way of speaking for future generations who want to claim being Dalmatian as part of their heritage and culture. Languages are enormous parts of cultures, and they open doors to connections which would otherwise remain closed to us. It's imperative we keep dying terminology alive.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Slovene Istria / Wikipedia

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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