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Introduction

This is a simple introduction to the Croatian language, where you can learn the very basics easily. (At least I hope so.)

It’s currently under construction: some parts are completed, some are not even started.

Two warnings. First, I'm not a professional language teacher or linguist. Second, English is not my native tongue so you will probably find some bad English in this ‘course’. Feel free to correct me.

If you’re an expert in Croatian, or have read some book with very detailed descriptions of Croatian grammar, etc. and want ask me why something is not described here, please bear in mind that this ‘course’ is intentionally lightweight and focuses on performance and not learning all the details and formal rules.

What is Croatian? There's no single answer. Strictly speaking, ‘languages’ are a kind of abstractions and oversimplifications. There’s language on the public TV, but there’s also language on the streets, in movies, books and songs. People in Croatia don’t speak a ‘monolithic’ language, despite being portrayed so in many introductory, and even advanced texts. There’s a lot of regional variation, and in some parts of Croatia, extraordinary local diversity is found. This does not only affect language spoken at home, but also how people talk in public, certain words and grammar rules. I will attempt to give at least an overview of all such variations.

In this work, I’ll use ‘Croatian’ as ‘what is most common in use in Croatia’, especially in in everyday communication, e.g. at work, at university, in shops, at least in bigger cities, that is, how most people today speak (which is not uniform, as you will immediately see).

It turns out that the language most people in Croatia use is very close to what people in Bosnia-Herzegovina use, and similar to what many people in Serbia use. There are no sharp lines between Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian (defined as how people actually speak in these countries). Actually, the diversity within Croatia is much greater than e.g. difference between the standard languages you can hear on Croatian and Serbian public TV.

However, this means if you’re really interested in Bosnian or Serbian, this ‘course’ could be very useful to you; differences are small and I will summarize them at the end. Through this ‘course’, all important differences are marked: words that are really different are marked with a ® mark, and such differences are explained at the end of each chapter. What applies to Bosnian, usually applies to Montenegrin as well. If you are interested in Croatian only, simply ignore such remarks.

In Croatia, there are various manuals with rules for ‘standard’, ‘proper’ language. Not of them agree what is ‘standard’, and what is not. This ‘course’ will focus primarily on the everyday language: sometimes, there's a difference between formal (or ‘standard’) and everyday (‘colloquial’) words and forms, which are used in almost all circumstances, except in laws and textbooks. Such differences will be explained as well.

Depending on your background, you might find some features of Croatian a bit strange. For example, while English apple shows a simple variation (apple, apples) the Croatian jabuka has more forms (jabuka, jabuku, jabuci, jabukom, jabuko, jabuke, jabukama). Such forms will be introduced gradually, starting from more often used forms. Knowing any language beside English is really useful, since English is one of European languages most unlike Croatian. I’ve added examples in German and Spanish at various places, since they are more similar to Croatian.

Each chapter supposes that you have mastered all previous chapters. The aim of this ‘course’ is to enable you to produce and understand as many useful sentences as possible with the minimal knowledge of grammar.

Chapters 1-9 will introduce you to the very basics: alphabet, present tense, how to use nouns as objects. You’ll be able to say Ana is driving Goran to school, It’s warm today, My name is Ivan, The bus to Zadar is leaving tomorrow at three o’clock, and much more.

Chapters 10-19 will introduce you to gender in Croatian, use of adjectives, and useful words like this, that, my, your; you’ll be able to say Ana’s book is in this drawer, We’re eating in an expensive restaurant, and much more.

Chapters 20-29 will introduce you to plural of nouns, adjectives and verbs, ways of expressing what you feel (e.g. I’m quite cold), expressions like car keys, my sister’s friend, past tense, use of pronouns (I saw her), and more.

Chapters 30-39 will introduce you to more forms, ordinal numbers (first, second), more types of questions, expressing tools, company, conditional and polite expressions (e.g. I would like...) and more.

Chapters 40-49 will introduce you to measuring, counting things, expressing existence, future tense, expressing how long actions were, and ways to express accomplishments.

Chapter 50 and later will introduce you to various kinds of sentences and ways to communicate in various situations.

A small Core Dictionary is attached to this course. It currently contains about 1800 entries, with about 2900 most used words.

I would like to express my gratitude to all those who have helped me: my wife for sound clips, Blaženka for additional sound clips; Boban Arsenijević for drawing the boundary of the standard stress area in Serbia, Dušica Božović for details on language in Serbia, CJ for many ideas and comments, Conor O’Neill for fixing my English, Аня Немова for drawing my attention to parts of grammar I’ve overlooked, Viviam for many comments and comparisons with Brazilian Portuguese, and many others who helped me improve this work.

Feel free to use this material in any way, but if you copy it, quote it, or republish it, please acknowledge the source (or link to this, etc.)

You can download the blog as:

formatupdatedsuitable for
AZW3 2017-02-24 Amazon Kindle
PDF (A5 page) 2017-02-24 tablets, PC’s, printing
zipped HTML 2015-09-27 tablets, PC’s, etc.

This blog has a few sound files that can be played directly from it, but if that doesn’t work for you, you can download all sound files via this link.

You can also find this basic grammar cheat sheet useful.

Happy learning!

— Daniel N.

5 Easy Croatian: Introduction This is a simple introduction to the Croatian language, where you can learn the very basics easily. (At least I hope so.) It’s currently u...

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