Sunday, 10 January 2021

Learning Croatian: the Dialect Words of Hvar Wine (VIDEO)

January 10, 2021 - Continuing our alternative look at the Croatian language through Hvar dialects, some essential vocabulary relating to Hvar wine. 

One of my favourite features over the last ten years writing about Croatia is a language series we started soon after the launch of Total Hvar way back in 2010. 

Sitting in The Office in Jelsa one quiet November lunchtime, I decided to film my friend with some typical Dalmatian greetings.

The unique phenomenon that is the Dalmatian Grunt hit the Internet and a new online start was born. The linguistic colossus that is Professor Frank John Dubokovich, Guardian of the Hvar Dialects, quickly amassed 50,000 views on YouTube, and a fascinating series of lectures followed, until they were inexplicably removed from YouTube a few years ago. 

Thankfully, I came across some of the offline originals recently and have been publishing them again.

Today's lesson focuses on the dialect words for Hvar wine. In some ways, it is a landmark lesson, since it was the first to be independently commissioned by someone else. 

The Professor's fame had spread so far that national television came calling, and they requested that we record an exclusive lesson for them about Hvar wine for a forthcoming primetime feature on tourism in Jelsa. 

The Professor was eager to please and was eager to expand his ever-expanding flock. We thought that the best place to record was at Artichoke Wine Bar and Restaurant in Jelsa, which became the first place the island to offer Hvar wine by the glass soon after it opened several years ago. 

You can check out the Professor's latest foray into the world of Hvar wine above, as well as checking out the entire feature on Jelsa, the only time in my life I have ever been recorded eating blitva.

You can catch up with The Professor's teachings on our TCN Talks YouTube channel

For more news from Hvar, check out the dedicated TCN section

 

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.
Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Learning Croatian as a Foreigner: A Croatian Teacher Speaks

November 7, 2018 - Learning Croatian as a foreigner is tough, but it is a task made easier with a Croatian teacher with humour, patience, experience and understanding. The Croatian language learning experience through the eyes of a teacher. We caught up with Mihaela Naletilić Šego, prof., Croatian language teacher and occasional TCN contributor to learn more about the Croatian language learning experience through the eyes of a teacher.

1. People say that Croatian is one of the hardest languages to learn. What are your thoughts?

 I absolutely agree that Croatian is a very difficult language to learn, but you know what  I say to this -

 So what if it is?

 When someone tells me that something is difficult to accomplish, or better yet, gives me my favourite sentence:

- You cannot accomplish that – it cannot be done! -  I always think of it as a challenge:

- Oh, you think so? Well, let's try!

2. Tell us about the typical experiences of foreigners who come to you to learn Croatian as total beginners.

The most typical thing I've learned is – that there is no typical story!

Every person that came to CRO to go to learn  Croatian has their own, interesting and unusual story and reasons why they are learning Croatian.

Sometimes it's love. They want to learn the language of their loved ones. But also love towards their heritage. We are working with a lot of Croatians living in the diaspora whose only knowledge of the Croatian language is the one their grandmother or grandfather gave them in their childhood.

And now, as years have gone by and grandparents live only in their memories,  they realise how important it is that they pass on that knowledge to their kids.

Some people feel better if, living in a new country, they can understand what people around them are talking about – in this exotic language!

Others just want to communicate with their employees – and sometimes maybe secretly hear what they are talking about!

But all of our students tell us this:

I want to use Croatian in everyday situations- on the market, in a restaurant, ordering coffee or just making small talk at a party.  And this is exactly what we are doing at CRO to go –  getting people to speak Croatian in everyday life!

3. So many foreigners seem to have a mental block about learning Croatian. How do you 'unblock' that mentality

A few years ago we had a family visit from our Australian relative.

Joanna was a 30-year-old beautiful and talented actress whose mother and father, both Croatian, moved to Australia before she was born. This was her first visit to Croatia and she spoke no Croatian whatsoever.

At least that was what she tried to convince me for the first two days of her stay at our house.

- Do you know any word at all?  - I was curious.

- Just a few, maybe…  but not enough to make a sentence – she sounded insecure.

Until the third day. That night we made her a great going away dinner party with some fish and nice red wine.

The atmosphere was very relaxed. We were laughing and making jokes all night long.. At one point I made a joke in Croatian. And she started laughing.

  • Ti razumiješ?/You understand? – I asked her in Croatian.    ?
  • Da/Yes! – she answered.

That evening she realized that she can make some simple sentences in Croatian, that she knows a whole bunch of words and she in fact understands Croatian a bit. Her mother and father never talked Croatian to her, but as a child she often listened to their conversations in Croatian.

This story was not meant to encourage students to drink red wine in order to start talking Croatian, but for them to realize that they know so much more Croatian than they think they do! Language is imprinted in us and we just need to conquer our fears and get it out on the surface. 

5. Some of the most common mistakes by beginners?

The first fifty are always connected to the cases and genders!  Kuća je lijepa./The house is nice. – that works fine. But Imam lijepa kuća – not happening in Croatian! It has to be: Imam lijepu kuću. / Imam lijepu kuću.

 When you accept the fact that word kuća can be also kuće, kući, kuću, kućom, then – the plural hits you:

kuće, kuća, kuće, kućama…

I will not even start to talk about the adjectives!

The one mistake that a lot of people make is putting the short form of the verb to be, like je/is in the first place of the sentence. I can see some of my students rolling their eyes as they are reading this, because they heard it so many times…

 It's sunny. – functions well in English.  Je sunčano. – however doesn't function in Croatian.  

Sunčano je. /Sunny it is. – is the way to say it in Croatian.

learning-croatian-mihaela.jpg

5. Language errors can be hilarious. Tell us a couple of the funniest you have encountered. 

Handling the words pisati/to write and pišati/to pee is a classic mistake that can always put a smile on your face! 

Sentence Jučer sam pisao… /Yesterday I wrote…   will not have the same effect at a dinner party as the sentence the sentence Jučer sam pišao… /Yesterday I peed…

Answers to the questions Kako si danas? /How are you today? can also be tricky!

Ja sam dosadan.  /I am boring.    instead of      Dosadno mi je. /I am bored.

Ja sam dobar.  / I am a good person.     instead of  Ja sam dobro. /I am good.

and the one that can really  get you in trouble:

Ja sam vruć. / I am hot!/meaning attractive   instead of    

 Vruće mi je! I  feel to hot – it's too hot in this room!

6. Language learning is a serious business. Tell us why CRO to go is the best choice, and what is on offer with your language school?

You have to love something in order to be excellent at it. We really love to teach Croatian at CRO to go. And we are sincerely happy to see that our students are talking Croatian and knowing that we helped them to adjust better to everyday life in Croatia.

In CRO to go we are offering courses ONLINE and courses in person - individual /or courses in pairs in our school in Zagreb centre. Also, there is a possibility of having a course in your office or at home.

The course I would like to mention is CROchat – our 3-day short and fun course of Croatian, held inour school in Zagreb.

7. Now show you are human - your worst mistake speaking English?

Luckily I never had to go on any kind of spelling competition. My students are obviously too polite to tell me  that there is a difference between word  meat and verb to meet

By now I've learned that it's in English, not on English, that you cannot lift the money from your bank account, but withdraw it . And what puzzled me the most –

that in English you cannot be angry on someone, but with someone!

8. Your best advice for people learning Croatian? 

Pričajte, pričajte, pričajte… i još malo pričajte! /Talk, talk, talk, and talk some more!

Talk to your partner, to your kids, to the waiter, to the sales lady or to your housekeeper. 

One of the biggest obstacles foreigners in Croatia encounter is best said in the sentence that I hear often:

Everybody speaks English here and everybody wants to practice their English by talking to me!

Don't let them! Instead, you practice your Croatian - on them!

For more information on CRO to go courses, check www.crotogo.hr 

Mihaela Naletilić Šego, prof., Croatian language teacher  

The struggle is real, but there are those who refuse to give up. Here is one of Mihaela's foreign students on 25 tips for those trying to learn Croatian - from a foreign perspective.

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