Happy Monday! Today we have a guest post from Shannon Kennedy, who runs the blog Eurolinguiste. And she may just inspire you to start a new language. New week, new language? Why not! I’ll leave you with Shannon…
We all learn languages for a variety of reasons – to advance our careers, to communicate with a loved one, to fulfill an education requirement, or best of all, because we’ve fallen in love with the language or language learning itself. Sometimes we choose to learn a specific language because we feel it’s practical or more useful over our other options, and sometimes we choose languages because we find them fascinating and they call to us.
I, personally, have decided to learn a language at different points in my life for both of the above reasons. Of the languages I speak, I learned two because I grew up with them (French and English), another two due to obligation (Italian and German), one because I thought it made sense (Chinese), and another because I just wanted to (Croatian).
“Croatian?” I’ve heard people say. “Interesting choice, but no one speaks Croatian.”
And so what? You’re probably right, it may not be a language one might often hear. And although it’s not up there with Chinese, Arabic, English or Spanish, there are about 6 million native speakers of the language. One of which was my grandfather. I never had the opportunity to meet my grandfather. He lived on the other side of the country and passed away before we had the chance to fly out to see him (and even if we did, I would have been too young to remember). Regardless, I heard countless stories about him growing up and the huge impact he had on my dad’s life.
One of those stories, one that always stuck in my head, was about the first time my father ever heard him speak Croatian.
My father was about ten at the time and they had traveled to visit family. Up until that point, for all my father knew, my grandfather was monolingual. The story, almost verbatim went like this: “I was in another room playing with my brothers when I decided there was something I needed to ask my dad. I remember opening the door to the room where he was with some other people, sitting around a table. The other men were speaking another language and my father was sitting there silently. It didn’t occur to me that he understood until I heard him say something to them in the language. I thought the reason he sat there so silently was because he didn’t understand. My jaw dropped. I had never heard my father speak what I would later find out was Croatian. I didn’t even know he spoke another language.”
The story always ended with the same regret – that his father had never taught him Croatian. And for some reason, that sentiment passed onto me. I didn’t want to miss out on learning my grandfather’s language the way that my father had.
When I began my studies at university, I discovered my first Croatian language learning books. Up until that point, I didn’t really know how to go about learning the language. The foreign language sections at our local bookstores had nothing of the sort to help me, and so, it went on the backburner while I dabbled in other languages. The book was a part of the Teach Yourself series and I borrowed as often and as long as I was allowed (which was only 24 hours at a time and every few weeks). Hearing the language for the first time on my computer only made my desire to speak Croatian even stronger.
Little did I know what I was getting myself into. Croatian Grammar. Not to deter you from the language, but Croatian is the most grammatically complex language that I have studied. Out of German, French, Italian, Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish, and English, its grammar is the one that I struggle through the most.
For one, it has seven cases. In comparison, English only has two (Hungarian has ten and German has four). That means, depending on how I’m talking to or about something, the words change. Names, things, and places… Yeah, it’s not as simple as learning just one word for each object or idea or person.
For another, there are three genders like in German – masculine, feminine, and neutral – and so everything has to agree with the gender. Yikes.
Croatian also has seven tenses. Present, perfect, future I and II are used in contemporary Serbo-Croatian, and the other three (aorist, imperfect and plusquamperfect) used much less frequently—the plusquamperfect is generally limited to written language and some more educated speakers, whereas the aorist and imperfect are considered stylistically marked and rather archaic.
There are regular and irregular verbs and there are always exceptions for everything. But don’t let that discourage you if you’re thinking about learning the language. Here are a few ways the language is easy.
Croatian Isn’t All That Bad
Once you learn the sounds for letters, the pronunciation is consistent and therefore, pretty easy. Think about English in comparison, I’m sure you’ve all seen some variation of this somewhere.
Consistent pronunciation also means that spelling is pretty easy.
Flexible Word Order
Even though the word order is typically S-V-O, it can be pretty flexible so you don’t have to worry about the exact order of words in your sentences as much as you would for something like German.
Learning Croatian gives you access to Serbian, Bosnian, Montenegrin, Slovenian, Macedonian, and Bulgarian. Although they are not the same (this is a real touchy point for speakers of the above languages), they are essentially mutually intelligible.
I know this one is highly subjective, but I find the sound of the language beautiful. I briefly highlighted my opinion on this in Lindsay’s 9 Reasons to Learn Croatian video, but I thought it was worth mentioning again. Rolling r’s are just too fun to say. Plus, words with no vowels? A challenge, but an entertaining one. I do enjoy laughing at myself as I work through unfamiliar words.
On finding resources for the Croatian Language
The biggest problem is that many of the resources available are either 1) not that great OR 2) repetitive, using the same core vocabulary as just about every other book on the language. There may be more material available than some other languages, but I’ve found that they seem to cover the same basic vocabulary and grammar points.
Finding resources when you get to a more advanced level feels as though it is near impossible. And finding native language material from the US… Ouch (I’ve been trying to figure out how to get a copy of the first Game of Thrones book in Croatian for more than a year).
Even in France I’ve had a hard time finding resources that I don’t already have (Assimil). But maybe I’m not looking in the right places.
Since I’ve spent the better part of two years searching, I started to assemble this page to help others find resources for learning the language and I’m always open to suggestions for new resources.
In the meantime, here are a few of my favourites:
There are only a few Croatian teachers on iTalki as of today. Even I am studying with someone from Serbia (and using Teach Yourself Serbian as the text for my lessons), but my teacher is familiar enough with the language that it works for me.
I’ve been through each of their videos several times and have learned several useful, day-to-day expressions. I’m eagerly awaiting more videos!
There are several Croatian stations available for your listening pleasure. I am still working through them to see if I have a preference for any single station, but I enjoy listening to music in the language.
Le Croate from Assimil
I like the combination of text and audio that they put together as part of their lessons and how they slowly teach you grammar.
I spend a lot of time in the car and found Pimsleur an irreplaceable asset when I was just starting out with the language. It is quite expensive, and so, it might not be an option for everyone. They do occasionally offer their products on sale though.
So there you go! Thank you to Shannon for this guest post. You can find out more about her and her language learning, travel, and more over at Eurolinguiste.
Are you learning Croatian? What tips do you have? Share in the comments!