Before You Start to Learn Croatian Here Are 10 Things To Know

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Post author Ana

Written by our local expert Ana

Croatian born Ana is an avid traveler who is always looking for the next travel story from the Balkans to share. Her passion is creating travel itineraries and in-depth guides.

So, you want to learn Croatian from the beginning or brush up on what you learned as a kid, huh? Here are seven things you need to know before you embark on your Croatian language adventure, as written by language professor Mateja Horvat.

What Language Is Spoken In Croatia

The language spoken in Croatia is Croatian. That one was easy, right?

What Language Is Hrvatski

“Hrvatski” means Croatian in the Croatian language. 

Reading And Writing Is Easy

Croatian Alphabet

Every letter in the Croatian language has only one sound, only one way that it’s supposed to be pronounced. So, after 15 minutes or so of learning the alphabet, you are actually able to read Shakespeare in Croatian! Not bad for only 15 minutes of studying, huh? :)

It’s not like you will understand it, but if a Croatian were to hear you reading, they would understand you without too much trouble.

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You’ll Break Your Tongue

Balkan Flags_Croatia 2

Or maybe you can just think about it as an excellent exercise for your tongue and facial muscles! :) Your tongue will end up doing tricks unlike anything else it is used to doing – no need to go to the gym.

Just think of all the cosmetic surgeon’s fees you can save by saying things like: “Još jednu čašu vina i srdele, molim!” No facelift is needed afterward!

Learning Croatian Won’t Happen Overnight

When starting to learn a new language, most people will say that their goal is to be able to have a conversation in the new language they intend to learn, and my students are always interested in knowing how long it will take them to get there. According to CEFRL (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages), one becomes an independent user after achieving at least a B1 level of knowledge – which takes approximately 400 hours of learning.

A very unpopular piece of information is that the number of hours needed to achieve a B1 level varies A LOT from person to person – but, hey, that might mean it could take you a lot less.
Learn How to Speak Croatian - Croatia Travel Blog

There Are so Many Weird Endings

If you have ever heard a Croat speak, you will probably notice that Croatians do all kinds of funny things with the endings of words. Sometimes they will refer to you as Anna, but other times you’ll be Anne, Annu, or Annom.

That’s because the Croatian language has three genders and 7 cases. If you want to say that you are behind Anna, you’d say “iza Anne” of if you want to say you are with Anna, you’d say “s Annom.” 

As you can see, you’ll actually have to change some word endings. In fact, you will need to focus on listening to the word endings to know who is doing what with/for/to whom. But, who knows, maybe you start enjoying it and discover a new, unusual pleasure.

Be Prepared To Un-Learn Your English

Applying English language logic to learning the Croatian language won’t get you very far. So you’ll need to be open to an entirely new way of thinking.

Sometimes if you use a literal translation from Croatian to English (and the other way around), your sentence won’t make sense at all. For example, the Croatian phrase, “Nikad nećeš ništa reći” literally translated to English would be something like, “You’ll never not say nothing.” which basically makes no sense. What it actually means is: “You’ll never say a thing.”

There are hundreds of ways in which the Croatian translation seems illogical from an English language perspective if it is any consolation, Croatians who learn English experience the corresponding problems.

Croatia Travel Blog_7 Things to Know Before Learning Croatian

It Won’t Be Easy To Talk With Your Grandmother

Balkan Flags_Croatia 1

Most schools for learning Croatian as a second language and the majority of learning materials will teach you standard Croatian language.

It’s quite likely that that standard Croatian is quite different from the Croatian that your grandmother speaks. Officially, there are three dialects of the Croatian language, and each of them has many sub-dialects. Virtually every village speaks a bit differently from the neighboring one. So, when you choose a place to learn Croatian, make sure they can provide you with what you want and need.

You Think You Have No Talent For Learning Languages? Maybe It’s Not You

Croatian Flag

Many people who start to learn Croatian after some time conclude that it’s too hard to learn, or they decide they are just not talented for learning languages and choose to quit. Well… before you put all the blame on yourself or the language, make sure that you have detected the real cause.

Ensure that your teacher is a native speaker with a university degree in teaching Croatian and with a decent amount of experience in teaching Croatian as a second language. ALL of that is very important.

Why? As you may know, the Croatian language is not among the simplest ones to learn, and most Croatian universities teach teachers how to teach Croatian as a first language. Still, very few (almost none) teach teachers how to teach Croatian as a second language.

The difference between these two skills is HUGE. So, the fact that your teacher is a native speaker and has a university degree to teach Croatian might not be enough. Not to mention that there is a huge lack of good quality learning and teaching materials and methodologies. If you are not happy with your progress, just continue searching for a better teacher. Learning Croatian actually CAN be simple and enjoyable once you have found the right match teacher.

Learn Croatian Online

If you want to give my team a try just like Mr. & Mrs. Chasing the Donkey do, we offer your first class free so that you can see if we are a great match. You can contact us below.

Click Here To Learn Croatian Online

Comments (16)

    1. Hello, my family and I will be moving to Croatia in September. We plan to live in Croatia, most likely Zagreb for at least a year but possibly indefinitely. We were able to get by speaking English with 90% of those we came in contact with last year when we came for 3 months. We will be doing volunteer work full-time and speaking English predominantly but still want to learn Croatian as a courtesy to those who don’t speak English. Any suggestions?

  1. This is basic swearing they don’t touch the more complex religious blaspheming such as Jebi ti gospe and other variations.

  2. Here I go! Hi SJ, I went on Facebook, which has been torturing me for years – my children just laugh when I make an attempt. I love your humour, I’ve never really read a blog – yours is quite wonderful. Now, as I said, I attempted to contact you on Facebook; I don’t know if it worked. My husband and I are coming to Croatia in July, staying on Korcula for four days and then, after reading your blog, want to stay in Rakalj next. We know how to get to Split, but from there I’m having trouble. We want to travel along the coast, and relax while getting there. Then we need to figure out how to get to Krakow, Poland which is where my husband is from. If you have any ideas I would be so appreciative of your help. Kind Regards, Joanne

    1. Rakalj is in Istria, so you’d have to drive or take a private transfer (we suggest Octopus Transfers Croatia) as the bus would be a nightmare. Then to get to Krakow you can fly from Zagreb (via Austria).

  3. Hello,

    My partner is Bosnian and we will be moving there next year. I am determined to learn the language and I’m stuck on where to go. We currently live in Chicago. Oh yes and I speak Spanish and English fluently. I’m giving myself 6 months to know conversational Bosnian , since my partner speaks it all the time. I’m also considering taking classes at the university here, but not sure yet.. I will say, I am someone who needs accountability, so me learning through an app is out of the question. I’d rather have a teacher I can talk to and ask questions when needed.

    Please advise… thank you,


  4. Thank’s for the sharing. I started with Croatian a month ago and I am happy. The grammar is similar to ours! Hurray! But the vocabulary! They have many similar words, yes, but the meaning is usually totally different. “False friends”. It will be very interesting! But maybe it will be easier than English for me. It really motivates me. I would like to know… which foreign language is the easiest one for an English native speaker?

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