While Croatian grammar is sometimes considered difficult to learn, correct pronunciation in Croatian boils down to one simple rule: every letter is pronounced the same, regardless of its position within a word.
In Croatian, each letter represents a single sound. In Croatian you won't come across consonant clusters pronounced as a single sound (e.g. as with th in English or sch in German). All this means that after a little practice, Croatian words are consistently very easy to pronounce!
Croatian Pronunciation basics
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
The Croatian alphabet has 30 letters, with 25 consonants and 5 vowels (a, e, i, o, u). Compared to the standard Latin alphabet Croatian has the following additional letters: č, ć, dž, đ, lj, nj, š and ž and doesn't feature the letters q, w, x or y.
The 'half vowel': r
In Croatian, the letter r is sometimes treated as a vowel and therefore referred to as a 'half vowel', or syllabic consonant.
This occurs most commonly with short, single syllable words which contain no vowels at all, like krv (blood), prst (finger/toe) and grm (bush).
There are also some longer words with more than one syllable which feature the syllabic r, e.g. srce (heart), brdo (hill) and milosrđe (compassion).
Double vowels and double consonants
Generally, Croatian does not have double vowels or double consonants, however there are some exceptions. These are almost always words which themselves are formed from two other words, or of the combination of a prefix and a word.
Here are a couple of examples:
– the strongest naj (prefix for superlatives) + jači (comparative form of jak (=strong))
– dark ochre (e.g. coloured) tamno (dark) + oker (ochre)
Exercise: Try pronouncing these difficult Croatian words!