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Frequently asked questions about the Croatian language
Croatian is the official language of Croatia and one of three official languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition, Croatian is one of the six official minority languages in the autonomous province of Vojvodina in Serbia. Furthermore, Croatian is of course also spoken by Croatian emigrants worldwide (most of whom live in the USA, Chile, Argentina and Germany).
As you would expect, Croatian - the national language of Croatia - is also the most popular language, and 95% of citizens declare it as their native language. Despite Croatia being a relatively small country, Croatian has three main dialects: Čakavian (spoken along the Croatian coast, on many islands and in the Lika region), Kajkavian (spoken in northern and northwestern Croatia)m and Štokavian (spoken in the rest of Croatia). In addition, the following minority languages are in official use in various local government units: Czech, Hungarian, Italian, Serbian, and Slovak.
In Croatia, English is widely spoken. According to polls, 65 percent of the population speaks English as a second language, while 80 percent of the population is multilingual in general. As a result, speaking English with anyone under the age of 50 should be no difficulty in the main tourist regions, particularly along the shore. Nonetheless, we recommend that you learn some Croatian before visiting the country, as it will provide you with a much more intense experience of your holiday - plus it's a lot of fun when you learn how to speak Croatian with us!
Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian are closely related linguistically, a fact that leads many to consider them as one language (Serbo-Croatian), although throughout history they were occasionally considered separate languages. Either way, if you learn Croatian, you will be able to also communicate with people from Serbia and Bosnia. Serbo-Croatian belongs to the Slavic branch of Indo-European languages (like Russian or Polish) and is most closely related to Bulgarian and Slovenian.
Although the question of how a language sounds is very subjective, many foreigners describe Croatian as a fluid and playful language that is a pleasure to listen to. Some also think that it sounds softer and clearer compared to other Slavic languages. However, we encourage you to find out for yourself and listen to some pronunciation examples.
The Croatian alphabet has 8 letters that do not exist in English: č, ć, dž, đ, š, ž, lj and nj. Especially for beginners who want to learn Croatian, these can be a little confusing when reading or writing Croatian - but with a little support, you will master them in no time.
In Croatian there are seven different cases: Nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, vocative, locative and instrumental. Not all of them are equally important, as some are used much more frequently than others, but of course we teach our students all the cases so that they can use them without mistakes.
While learning a new language is always worthwhile, if only to challenge your intellect, Croatian is a particularly enjoyable language to learn and speak. It will undoubtedly enhance your holiday in Croatia or facilitate interaction with Croatian friends and relatives. Apart from that, the Croatian language also serves as a gateway to comparable languages such as Bulgarian and Slovenian, but because it uses the Latin alphabet, it is one of the best starting languages for English speakers.
In a study on the difficulty of learning different European languages (from the viewpoint of English speakers like Americans or people from the UK), Croatian was ranked in the middle (learning Croatian is therefore somewhat more difficult than learning German, but easier than learning Finnish or Hungarian, for example). But don't be put off - we really do have very good teachers :-)
The main reason Croatian is considered by some to be difficult to learn is its use of cases, articles and genders. In fact, the Croatian language has seven cases, while English has only three. Also, unlike in English, articles don't exist, and there are three genders (masculine, feminine, and neutral) to consider when learning. Still, Croatian is one of the easiest Slavic languages to learn - and a lot of fun, too!
Of course, it always depends somewhat on your own eagerness to learn - in general, we assume that an absolute beginner with average skills will reach an A1 level in Croatian after completing two 12-week courses of 90 minutes per week (this means that you can communicate in a simple way if the person you are talking to speaks slowly and is willing to help).
While Croatian grammar is sometimes perceived as difficult to learn, correct Croatian pronunciation boils down to one simple rule: every letter is pronounced the same, regardless of where it is placed in the respective word. Our teachers are happy to help you perfect your own pronunciation.
We believe that the best way to learn Croatian is a combination of learning with a teacher and self-study. Therefore, we offer Croatian language lessons in a group setting, individual one-to-one lessons as well as free learning tools to practice with. Apart from that, it's all about practicing regularly, e.g. by talking to Croatian friends or visiting the country (for this purpose, we also offer guided language holidays in Croatia).
While we believe that the best way to learn Croatian is to take a Croatian language course with a real teacher, the Internet now offers a wealth of free resources such as Croatian YouTube videos, Croatian books in PDF format, or Croatian podcasts and songs. On our website we also offer our own free tools for learning Croatian.
The big providers like Babbel, Duolingo or Rosetta Stone do not currently offer apps for learning Croatian, but there are smaller providers that do. At Školica, we believe that the best way to learn a language is through direct dialogue with real people. However, our teachers will be happy to discuss with you which multimedia options you can use to further support your learning. Furthermore, you can use our free Croatian vocabulary trainer and grammar trainer to practice your Croatian.
"Hvala" means "thank you" and is the basic way of saying thanks in Croatian. A lot of foreigners have problems with the pronunciation of words that start with "hv", so - as a way out - you can omit the "h" and pronounce it as "fala" for now (and then take a Croatian class with us :-). In our blog post about basic phrases in Croatian, you can also listen to an audio clip with the correct pronunciation.
"Volim te" means "I love you" and is - well - the basic way to tell someone in Croatia that you love them. If you're ready to educate yourself further, you can read more about pet names and the proper grammar behind them in our blog post about saying "I love you" in Croatian.