English language in Croatia

Ante Vuckovic

January 16th 2018

A lot of clients on our private tours ask me about the language used in Croatia. Obviously Croatian is the native language spoken by everyone, but they really want to know what is the level of English spoken on an everyday basis.

After they arrive in Croatia, I try to meet up with them and one of the most common comments after spending a few days here is that almost everyone speaks English really well in Croatia.

In my option there are a few reasons why is that so.

Croatia, even as a part of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was always westward facing republic (along with Slovenia) when it came to culture, trends, and daydreams about the shiny Western world reality as we pictured it then.

So in Croatia English was being taught in elementary school even when I was a kid in the eighties. Back then English would be introduced to the kids in the fourth grade. On top of public schools it was really popular to learn a language in a private language school ( I guess that in a Yugoslav society which made a giant leap from the end of World War 2 and an almost agricultural society to the eighties when Yugoslavia was one of the most modern socialist countries in the world parents had a lot of overcompensating to do so their kids would be true citizens of the world).

On top of the whole positive attitude towards everything coming from the west we had one other thing working in our favour when it came to learning English - public TV stations ( I could have just written: TV station - as the only tv channels available ones back in the day were national TV channels controlled by the government). Looking back now I do really think that people working in Television Zagreb (that was the official TV operator for the Socialist Republic of Croatia, as for the other republics format when naming it was television followed by the capital of any give republic) had a great programme, a lot of educational Tv shows, high-quality cartoons and subtitled foreign movies.

This, in my opinion, is why English is on a surprisingly good level in Croatia these days. We would actually get to hear how the language sounds and get to see people pronounce it while being spoken.

At one point in the late eighties with an antenna strong enough in the coastal regions of Croatia, we could “catch” Italian Tv stations signal. What was frustrating is that we did not understand anything as they dubbed everything which was not originally Italian, as the Germans and Austrians do as well which was witnessed by people living in continental parts of Croatia.

I always thought what a bad deal those folks were getting, could you imagine never actually hearing Sean Connery speak, or Arnold Schwarzenegger for that matter (can you imagine someone in Germany and Austria dubbing Arnold trying to speak with more of a German accent). I remember that in Italy when a person who dubbed Sean Connery died in the nineties there was a big debate how will Sean Connery sound like in his newest film.

Croatia had none of those issues. We knew to differentiate English accents even.

To get back to the story and conclude it for future clients and for people that have not visited Croatia still. Almost everyone in Croatia speaks English, not everyone on the same level, but with the combination of pigeon English and a few hand signals it is possible to communicate even with older people here while younger generations speak on the good levels, but with different accents (you’ll get a lot of Russian villain from James Bond type of accent in the hinterlands and more of American style English in the cities).

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