If you are planning to travel to Croatia, you may want to know would you be able to use English or you would have to learn some Croatian instead. Is English spoken in Croatia?
- YES. More than 60 percent of Croatians speak English. Croatia ranks among top 14 countries IN THE WORLD with VERY HIGH PROFICIENCY IN ENGLISH
- Croatians just LOVE subtitles. You will be able to watch (the re-runs) of your favourite shows or sitcoms on Croatian TV.
- Most road signs and inscriptions in shops, restaurants and museums come with an English translation
- Some 20 percent of Croatians do not speak ANY foreign language, including English. You will most likely be able to communicate with them, too.
The fact that so many Croatians speak can tell you a lot about them and about Croatia in general.
More Than 60% Of Croatians Speak English
According to a survey, Croatians are VERY HIGHLY PROFICIENT IN ENGLISH. They are among the Dutch, Swedish, South Africans, Norwegians, Danish, Germans and Polish as the best speakers of English in the world.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that all Croatians speak a perfect English (some estimates say that just 30% of Croatians speak English WELL).
But still, it’s quite impressive.
One of the reasons why Croatians speak such good English is that it is taught in school from the very beginning, from the first grade. Sometimes even at kindergarten kids learn how to speak English.
English has been taught in Croatian schools for more than 60 years now. My father, who is now 74, had English in primary school.
Even though Croatia was then part of Communist Yugoslavia, English nonetheless prevailed over Russian as a foreign language.
When I went to school, English was introduced around the age of 10, and we had 3 hours of English per week. You could go for extra English program, which I did, and have as much as 5 hours or English per week.
Some of the Croatian linguists lament that Croatian language has been negatively affected by the prevalence of English in Croatia. The subtle influence can be discerned in the way sentences are formed and the idioms that are used, which were clearly caused by the English language.
Of course, other nations (if not all of them) have English as part of the mandatory education. Still, they don’t do so well in English. Why?
Croatians Just Love Subtitles
(As far as I know, it’s similar in some other counties highly proficient in English, like the Netherlands or Norway)…
Subtitles are much cheaper and easier to produce than dubbing. This may have been the initial reason why subtitles became commonplace in Croatia.
And since film and TV production was dominated by the English language, the sound and rhythm of English started to subconsciously influence Croatian viewers.
Peyton Place, an American soap opera from 1960’s, had a tremendous impact on cultural and social trends. Across former Yugoslavia, starting from Titograd (now Podgorica), the capital of Montenegro, over Dubrovnik and Korčula to Sarajevo, suburbs were named after the popular American model: “PEJTON”. A word “pejtonizacija” came to describe an atmosphere of superficial peace and harmony, hiding deeper problems.
And it goes on: Santa Barbara, Dynasty, The Thorn Birds…
Today, subtitles continue to be the norm in Croatian media. There were attempts to introduce dubbing, but they failed. Croatians like to LISTEN to native speakers.
Couple of days ago (September 2020) I was surprised to see one of the cheap morning commercial advertising programs (about vacuum cleaners or pillows) broadcast with Croatian subtitles. These would usually be dubbed. But not this one! Apparently, Croatians have more confidence in someone speaking English rather than Croatian.
The only exception are cartoons and some children’s shows. The reason is that the parents don’t want to bother with READING the subtitles to their kids. And BTW, some of the dubbed cartoons are really great. So, it IS possible!
Anyway, if you happen to have a TV set in your room, feel free to browse through Croatian programs. Re-Re-Re-runs of popular sitcoms and comedy shows are ALWAYS shown in prime time TV. So, Friends, Everybody Loves Raymond, Only Fools And Horses, King Of Queens, Mike And Molly – they will all be waiting for you in Croatia.
Most Road Signs And Inscriptions In Shops, Restaurants And Museums Come With A Translation In English
I don’t know if there are “Cat Feeding Houses” where you live, but I was really surprised to find one in Cavtat (near Dubrovnik).
Not only cats got an official feeding area from the local authorities, but their abode has a sign IN ENGLISH, too!
Many parts of Croatia have been visited by tourists for more than a century now. Gradually, English has become widely used, since it is the modern lingua franca. Most of Croatia’s visitors speak English, including the Germans or the Polish. So expect most, if not ALL public signs and information notices to come in English, too.
Some 20 Percent Of Croatians Do Not Speak ANY Foreign Language, Including English.
Well, some Croatians speak German. Germany has always been a promised land to Croatians. Those who worked in Germany or have relatives still working there might have picked up some German.
German is a very popular SECOND foreign language in Croatian schools. Historically,German was one of the official languages in Croatia. Hence, German words have found its way to the Croatian language (the same thing is happening with English now).
Apart from German, Italian is almost equally used as Croatian in some parts of Istria, again because of historic and cultural reasons and the presence of Italian national minority there.
Spanish is an exciting addition to the Croatian cultural heritage, mainly due to the MEXICAN soap operas that, as you surely expect, come with SUBTITLES. You would be surprised how many Croatians don’t even know that they speak Spanish!
Nevertheless, there are some 20 percent of those who, despite studying English in school for years, constant exposure to the sound of English at TV and the Internet, popular songs, thousands and thousands English-speaking tourists they have met so far- DON’T SPEAK ANY ENGLISH!
I have two friends who worked as bus or taxi drivers. They are relatively young. And yet – they don’t speak English.
It seems, however, that it was no obstacle to their professional career since they still keep those jobs. Obviously, they find a way to communicate their thoughts to others and to understand what their clients want from them.
I believe it has again something to do with subconsciousness.
A close member of my family, even though he doesn’t speak English (despite having English at school), CANNOT watch a subtitled movie that is not in English. It seems that, as in sigh language, the intonation of English, the rhythm and the syntax adds MEANING to the Croatian subtitles.
Consequently, expect almost EVERYONE in Croatia to understand you when you speak English.
Do you need to learn some Croatian expressions? In this article I will give you some hints.