Croatian language basics: dialects, alphabet and pronunciation

Croatian language basics: dialects, alphabet and pronunciation

Who speaks Croatian and who can understand it?

The Croatian language is a South Slavic language and is the official and literary language of Croatia. It is also one of the official languages of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The majority of Croatians speak – and understand – standard Croatian, which can also very easily be understood by Bosnians, Serbians and Montenegrins.

Does Croatian also have dialects?

Despite being a relatively small country, Croatian has three main dialects which means that practically speaking a villager from northern Croatia might have problems understanding a fishermen from the farthest populated Croatian island Lastovo, because they speak completely different dialects of the Croatian language!

Čakavian – spoken along the Croatian coast, on many islands and in the Lika region

Kajkavian – spoken in northern and northwestern Croatia

Štokavian – spoken in the rest of Croatia

The basics on the Croatian alphabet

The Croatian alphabet has 30 letters in total, and differs from the standard Latin alphabet in the following ways:

  • The Croatian alphabet has the following additional letters: č, ć, dž, đ, lj, nj, š and ž
  • The Croatian alphabet doesn't have the letters: q, w, x and y

Did you know?
Although nowadays Croatian uses the Latin alphabet, Croatian was originally written in Glagolitic, the oldest known Slavic alphabet, which was invented in the 9th and commonly used until as late as the 18th century!

Pronouncing Croatian letters and words

In Croatia, each letter represents a single sound, which means that after a little practice, Croatian words are consistently very easy to pronounce.

When speaking Croatian:

  • Every single letter must be clearly enunciated
  • There are no silent letters
  • There are no special combinations of letters that together create one sound
  • Letters are pronounced the same, regardless of which their position in the word

The Croatian alphabet

Here's a guide to pronouncing each letter in the Croatian alphabet:

Letter Pronunciation and Example Croatian wordListen

A

/a/ past centar – center

B

/b/ bat baka – grandma

C

/ts/ hats bicikl – bike

Č

/tʃ/ chalk čokolada – chocolate

Ć

/tɕ/ church noć – night

D

/d/ day dan – day

/dʒ/ fudge džep – pocket

Đ

/dʑ/ schedule
in American English
đavao – devil

E

/e/ let meso – meat

F

/f/ film film – film

G

/ɡ/ game garaža – garage

H

/x/ heaven duhan – tobacco

I

/i/ east internet – internet

J

/j/ yes jabuka – apple

K

/k/ cut kino – cinema

L

/l/ love mlijeko – milk

Lj

/ʎ/ million ljubav – love

M

/m/ mice more – sea

N

/n/ nice novac – money

Nj

/ɲ/ canyon Njemačka – Germany

O

/o/ opera opera – opera

P

/p/ pick prst – finger

R

/r/ Fritz
rolled, rhotic "r", as in Scottish,
Irish & some rural English dialects
prst – finger

S

/s/ sound salata – salad, lettuce

Š

/ʃ/ shut škola – school

T

/t/ time tišina – silence

U

/u/ shoot uho – ear

V

/ʋ/ vest vrijeme – time, weather

Z

/z/ zest zima – winter

Ž

/ʒ/ pleasure žaba – frog

Exercise: How would you pronounce the following words?

We chose some really difficult words for you ;-)

– finger – bushes
– man – Easter
– bat – death
– pink – square

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This blog is about Croatian language, culture, history and literature.

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Upcoming course dates

Zagreb – Easter language holiday
13/4/19 - 20/4/19

Šibenik – Spring language holiday
01/6/19 - 08/6/19

TBA – Summer language holiday
10/8/19 - 17/8/19

Zagreb – Advent language holiday
7/12/19 - 14/12/19

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