Ten months of Croatian

Sup Doods and doodesses?

Today it’s time to sit back, take stock and give  all of you an update on my Croatian after ten months, and if you are sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin.

Before the update, let me set the scene:-

I had as an aim the intention of learning  Croatian to a low B1 level from scratch this year (ready for a holiday to Croatia).

I naively thought that this would be achievable by spending around an hour a day on focused study, a lesson a week (carried out almost entirely in Croatian) and listening to Croatian audio while commuting to work.

I haven’t managed this and my realistic level is somewhere within the A2 range (currently).

In other words, I have put in a fair amount of effort to be able to string together some basic sentences.

The reason I am mentioning this, isn’t to discourage potential Croatian learners but rather to encourage them.

I’m writing this as an antidote to the language learning apps and blogs that promise fast results.

In my experience, the brain takes time to absorb new words and structures and it is not a quick process.

You may be different but I doubt it.

I am an average language learner, and you probably are too (by definition), and therefore our experiences are likely to be similar. I’d say it’s important to forget the geniuses and outliers for the purposes of this argument or you are likely to be disappointed by your slow progress and give up.

The internet is chock full of ‘fast learning strategies’ for languages and anything else that you can imagine,  but in my experience (I have several degrees and post graduate qualifations) learning anything to a decent standard takes time.

There are strategies that can help improve progress and obvious ones (as I am talking about language learning) are:-

Memorise responses to common questions (which is not a bad approach). This will help initial conversations (but you won’t understand the responses).

Learn common phrases that are relevant to you (but you won’t understand the responses).

Learn frequently used vocabulary which is relevant to you.

So, there are things that you can do which help initially and definitely help with motivation, but I am not convinced that these make much difference in the longer term.

You can also have a conversation of sorts quite rapidly (with a willing victim such as I am doing in my lessons), but this doesn’t equate in my mind to having  much of a grasp of the language.

The fundamental point is that learning anything (including languages) takes time, and by way of illustration let’s look at a Croatian words grad ‘city’, zena ‘woman’ and selo ‘village’.

Croatian has three genders, masculine, feminine and neuter and these three words are masculine, feminine and neuter respectively.

In English, we form the plural by adding an ‘s’ to a word (I know that there are exceptions), but in Croatian we have the following possibilities depending on the gender of the word and it’s function in the sentence:-

gradovi, gradove, gradova, gradovima, zene, zene, zenama, zena, sela, selima

I’m not saying this to put you off, as I think Croatian is a cool, chic and generally awesome language, but as a reality check.

It takes time to internalise grammatical structures.

You (if you are like me) are not going to do this quickly.

It takes time.

Your brain needs time to do this. I don’t know why or how this is the case, but it does.

As the somewhat cliched phrase tells us, it’s the journey not the arrival that matters, which is lucky in this case, as the journey will be a long one. If you carry on putting one foot in front of the other eventually you will get to where you want to go (if you are aiming in the right direction).

So, what about me and my Croatian?

I have already decided :-

hrvatski jezik je šik i nastavit ću ga učiti!!!

Baci and besos.


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2 Responses to Ten months of Croatian

  1. Mark says:

    I agree that language learning is not all that easy but did you learn enough to use it usefully on your holiday?

    • moonface says:

      It was useful twice (possibly a bit like your Greek), as most people in tourist areas speak very good English, and it was encouraging to know that I could make myself understood when necessary although there was no real need.

      That is, off course, both the advantage:) and disadvantage:( of being an English speaker – it really isn’t essential (in general) to bother learning other languages, although that doesn’t bother me particularly.


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