How to Learn Croatian with Disney Songs (Or Any Song That You Like)

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How to Learn Croatian with Disney Songs (Or Any Song That You Like)

Written by AkitaRopiquet a

How do you picture your next trip to Croatia? Do you want to meet native Croatians and share local mealsOr you want to flirt in Croatian while spending an afternoon at the beach? And maybe you want to get honest recommendations from the locals?  

“Yes, sure, but the problem is that I can’t speak Croatian!! It’s too hard!”

Too many vocabulary lists, obscure grammar rules, and endless hours in school. 

But language learning doesn’t have to be boring. Language is music. And music can help you learn Croatian. Let me show you how.

Bibbidi-Bobbidy-Boo

The first thing you need to do is tune your mouth to the Croatian system. Each language has its own sound system, with particular features. For example, English has the th sound, Spanish has the trilled R, and French has nasal vowels.

The reason why most people have a very thick accent is because they use their native language system to speak a foreign language, so their mouth is tuned to their mother tongue when they should instead make an effort to move their tongue forwards, or to round their lips, to make these new sounds.

Take a look at this Wikipedia page. You don’t need to learn the meaning of all the scientific words and weird symbols. Just take some time to read their description. You can also click to listen to audio samples.

Spend some time reproducing the new sounds you are not used to. Record yourself and compare with the original recordings. If you are having trouble, you can go to YouTube and look for “Croatian pronunciation” to find tutorials for example.

The Croatian language has only five vowels, and they are similar to English vowels, so you don’t need to spend much time on that. The consonants are not that complicated either. There are only a few sounds that don’t exist in English, such as the trilled R. Focus on the sounds that you are not used to.

Your goal is not to sound like a native Croatian. Your goal is to have a decent pronunciation to be able to communicate. If you don’t take time to focus on pronunciation first, you will end up butchering the words. And people will have a hard time understanding you. A little effort at the beginning will go a long way.

A Whole New World Opens up to Learn Croatian

Now your choice is simple. You can take the blue pill, and use textbooks to study Croatian. Or you can pick the red pill, and use songs to learn Croatian.

I’m going to assume you just chose the red pill. If you took the blue one, you might as well close this page, Agent Smith will take it from here.

You can use whatever Croatian song you want. Personally, I like to use Disney songs when I start learning a new language. I’m not a huge fan of the franchise, but I already know the melody of the most popular songs, so it makes it easy to focus on the new language. And the vocabulary and grammar are pretty simple since the songs are made for children.

Go to YouTube and type in “disney songs croatian subs trans”. You will find Disney songs in Croatian with lyrics (in Croatian) and their translation. If there are no lyrics, you can try Lyrics Translate or Musixmatch. These websites have a lot of lyrics with translations.

Here’s what to do once you pick a song:

  1. Listen to the song several times (with or without lyrics, it doesn’t matter yet)
  2. Repeat what you can hear (without lyrics)
  3. Take a look at the lyrics and their translation
  4. Focus on the chorus first, it’s usually the easiest and most catchy part of the song
  5. Take time to repeat several times a same line: You take a line, listen to it, repeat what you hear, look at the lyrics, play the song and repeat again reading the lyrics, then read the translation to get the meaning and learn new words, and sing along again with the meaning in mind.

You will absorb the vocabulary and grammar (thus the language) naturally by repeating over and over again the same lines and songs. If you want, you can spend time committing the lyrics (or only the chorus) to memory. Only do that if you enjoy it. I tried it myself, it’s efficient, but way too boring for me, so not sustainable.

The goal here is to set up a system (like a workout program) where you’re learning and enjoying the process at the same time. That’s why I use songs at the beginning.

If learning lyrics by heart sounds dreadful to you, then no problem. You will naturally listen to the songs you like the most. And reviewing the lyrics everyday, or every other day, you will gradually learn the song.

Focus on simple words and simple sentence structures when you start this process. There’s no need to start by learning “the dark horses neighed at the sight of the blossomed untangled shiny roses.”

The goal is not to remember everything. Your goal is to start learning simple vocabulary you already use in your native language on a daily basis. Then you can build up over time.

learning croatian greetings

Also pay attention to verbs like can, must, need to, should, may, … They are called modal verbs. And they are powerful tools. The verbs following them are in their infinitive forms, so you don’t have to learn conjugation patterns. You only need those of the modal verbs, which means only a few.

Keep in mind that your main focus is audio. Unless you’re into linguistics, or part of a grammar sect, I assume you are learning Croatian to travel and communicate with Croatians. That’s why building your ear right from the beginning is vital. Work on your ear and your mouth.

Writing and reading will come naturally over time (especially with lyrics), so don’t put the emphasis on that. Text and lyrics are only crutches to help you while training your ear.

How Far Will You’ll Go Learning Croatian?

Here’s an example of this approach with Što dalje (Croatian version of How far I’ll go, from the movie Moana/Vaiana). You can find the Croatian lyrics with their English translation here.

Što dalje (How Far I’ll Go Croatian)
Zašto stalno mene vuče to more?
Još od prvoga dana čujem samo pučinu
Želim mirna biti tamo gore
Ale mir moj ruši more
I vraćam se uvijek tuI kad lutam čak vidim tajni znak
Moj je korak lak jer je jasan trag
Shvaćam isti tren put svoj zabranjen
Kamo žudim poćGledam gdje ljubi se mora rub sa nebom!
Što dalje je to ne zna se!
Vjetar jak dat će mom jedru smjer kada krenem!
Da saznam sve!
Tajne te ja ne znam kamo to vode meJa znam, svima nama ovaj otok pruža sreću
Jer je otok siguran i dobro znan
Svak zna što da čini za svoj otok
Pa se be brinem o tom
Zadatak ovaj dobro znam!Biti tu za vas, snaga, mač i štit
Svima donijet spas, bit što moram bit
Al svoj pravi glas ja ne mogu krit!
Zašto teško je?Gledam trag koji sja svaki dan i blješti!
Što dalje je to ne zna se!
Svaki val ko da zove mene van na to more!
Da saznam sve!
Iza linije što se krije te!

Gledam gdje ljubi se mora rub sa nebom!
Što dalje je to ne zna se!
Vjetar jak dat će mom jedru smjer kada krenem!
Da saznam sve!
Gdje zove me!

Why is that sea constantly calling me?
Ever since the first day I hear only the sea
I want to be in peace up there
But my peace is getting crushed by the sea
And I’m always coming back hereAnd even when I’m wandering around I see the secret sign
My way is easy to pass because the trail is clear
I realize right away my forbidden path
Where I want to goI’m watching where the sea is kissing with the sky!
It’s unknown what’s further away!
Strong wind will give the direction to my sail when I’ll go!
To get to know everything!
I don’t know where are those secrets leading meI know, this island provides happiness to all of us
Because the island is safe and well known
Everybody knows what to do for the island
So I don’t worry about that
I know this task very well!Be here for you, power, sword and shield
Bring salvation to everyone, be what I have to be
But I can’t hide my real voice!
Why is it so hard?I’m watching the trail who is shining everyday!
It’s unknown what’s further away!
It’s like every wave is calling me out to that sea!
To get to know everything!
What’s hiding behind that line!

I’m watching where the sea is kissing with the sky!
It’s unknown what’s further away!
Strong wind will give the direction to my sail when I’ll go!
To get to know everything!
Where it’s calling me!

Spend a few minutes reading the lyrics and their translation. Be a detective. What simple patterns can you spot?

I know nothing about Croatian, but here’s what I just learned with the lyrics:

  • “and” is “i” in Croatian,
  • “I” can be omitted, but apparently it also appeared as “ja”, and the first person is indicated by a letter m at the end of the verb,
  • “jer” seems to be “because”, and “zašto” is “why”,
  • there are both “I know” and “I don’t know”, which tells us what is “I know”, and how to construct a negation: “ja (ne) znam”=”I (don’t) know”.

You may be wondering: How can you be 100% sure of this? Simple: I’m not. I can’t be 100% sure. But I saw “and” and “i” appearing together in the lyrics. Same for “why” and “zašto.” 

The thing is you can never be 100% sure. And you will make mistakes at some point, no matter what. Yet it doesn’t matter. It’s part of the process. Make mistakes, and learn some more to correct them. Maybe “zašto” actually means “when.” It could be. But that is something I’m going to correct naturally when I review this song, or when learning more with other songs.

Sometimes you will be able to learn a lot just by identifying words, or lines. And sometimes you will need a dictionary (personally, I use wiktionary) to unlock a song, especially at the beginning. You will barely need any dictionary after a while. For you will be able to rely on context, once you get some momentum.

Go the Distance

Repetition is the key to become an efficient language learner. Learning Croatian (or any language) is like working out. We all have to start somewhere. But at the end of the day, what matters is what you do consistently. Is it better to do 20 push-ups every day, or 1000 push-ups once a year?

The same goes for Croatian. It’s better to review one song over and over again than to work on 10 different songs at the same time and only once. And once you are at ease with that one song, move on and pick another song. Clear, rinse & repeat.

Croatia Travel Blog_Things to do in Croatia_How to Learn Croatian with Disney Songs

 

 

“But I hate Disney!”

I understand, not everyone likes Disney songs. No problem though, you can use the same approach with any song. Now you only need to look for Croatian music. And here is how you can do it:

  1. Search for “croatian billboard” in your favorite search engine. Click on the first links and you will find lists of the most popular songs in Croatia at the moment.
  2. Set up your content location on Croatia when you go to YouTube. Then use the trending section to find Croatian music videos.
  3. You can search for almost any kind of music you like on Lyrics Translate, and you will also get translated lyrics.

The first two methods will get you mostly mainstream pop music. And with the third approach you can find almost any kind of music you want with lyrics and translation.

Sing, Sweet Nightingale

You now have everything you need to start learning Croatian on your own. Just pick a song, and get started. Remember: Audio, and repetition. And off you go!

And again: It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes. You know why? Because you are going to make some, no matter what. It’s a natural process. Make mistakes, fall over, get back up, and learn some more. And if you make an embarrassing mistake speaking Croatian in Croatia, you will end up with a funny story to tell all your friends. So go make a fool of yourself!

If you have any question, let us know in the comment section.

Mr. and Mrs. Chasing the Donkey have enjoyed Croatian Language Lessons via Skype. For more information about learning Croatian online, fill out the contact form below.

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