5 more (happy) reasons to learn Croatian

Hi again. Sara here. Checking in. Sooooo, have you started learning Croatian yet? No? Not even after the first five reasons to learn Croatian? I know I was a bit harsh with the first five, but it was for the good of humanity.

If you are still unconvinced as to why you should invest time, patience, sanity, and possibly money into learning this complex language, then this post is for you.

I’ve got five more reasons to learn Hrvatski queued up and ready. Do not worry, these are the “feel good” reasons to learn Croatian. We’ve made it past the hard truths and now there are only sunshine and teddy bears ahead. Well, not teddy bears, but definitely discounts!

Ajmo….

Photo by Paško Tomić

1. It will make you feel good

Nothing makes me float on cloud nine like a Croatian thinking I’m Croatian in direct result of my speaking Croatian. It gives me a high that lasts all day.

On the other side, attempting to accomplish something and being stifled because my Croatian is crap is horrendous. It is stressful and scary, but it drives me to get better. Every mistake leads to another success.

Success makes you feel more confident, which means you’ll speak more, which means you’ll get more practice, which leads to more successes, which leads to more fluency.

2. It makes life easier

Life in Croatia will get infinitely easier the more your language skills improve.

It’ll be easier to find things you could never find before. Being able to search the web in Hrvatski will change your life. You’ll find so many things you didn’t know were available and just a click away. Tourism web sites are usually in English, but everything else is not so your English search is not going to reveal what you need if it’s on a site written only in Hrvatski.

Aside from the web, just walking around town you’ll come across shops and doctors you may have been looking for, but never knew how to find because Google Translate is generally crap when it comes to Croatian dialect. At one point, certain words click and you’ll see this country through a shiny new pair of glasses instead of the muddy, cracked ones you had on before.

You’ll be able to understand signs and notices. Your favorite restaurant is “na godišnjem odmoru”? Now you know what that means.

Misunderstandings and the associated frustration will decrease.

Photo by Michał Kołodziejski

3. Croatians will reward you

Croatians LOVE when you speak Croatian, even if imperfectly. In my experience, they are honored that you would a) want to live here and b) take the time to learn their language.

Since this country sees so many tourists, it is assumed that all foreigners will only be around temporarily. When you first arrive, you will be labeled as a tourist. Don’t let it get you down.

When you start to learn the language, show improvement over time, and don’t leave, the locals around you will take notice. With time, they will begin to pull you into their community. They will speak with you and be patient as you stumble and be supportive and complimentary when you succeed.

After some time and tenacity, they will recognize you as a local and that is a huge milestone. In my current neighborhood, there were three significant things that happened that made me realize I’d been accepted by my community:

  • The owner of my preferred caffe bar started bringing me my usual “bijela kava” without me having to order it.
  • One of the produce vendors gave me a nickname of “hobotnica” (which means “octopus”) because of the octopus tattoo visible on my back during summer.
  • I got the supermarket ladies to smile at me. Supermarket ladies are notoriously grumpy (understandably) and will rarely even make eye contact. It took nearly 2 years, but I cracked them with my persistence.

As an added bonus, there are restaurants in tourism-heavy areas that will give discounts to locals. If you speak Croatian in those places, they will assume you are a local and you’ll get a nice little “popust” deducted from your bill. Same goes for buying touristy stuff. Maybe you want to buy a magnet for a friend back home, or a pair of sunglasses at one of the pazar stalls, speaking Croatian will most likely earn you a discount here as well (as long as you pay in cash).

You may also get free stuff. Free rakija at a konoba. Free produce at the Pazar. A button sewn back on for free by the tailor. A jacket dry cleaned for free. All things that happen to me on the regular due to speaking Croatian combined with not leaving and being nice.

4. You’ll make new friends and new connections

When you don’t speak a common language with someone, it is near impossible to forge any kind of real connection with that person. Sure, you can just hang out with other English-speaking foreigners, but doing so will severely limit your experience.

The more you use the local language and dialect, the more often you’ll meet new people whom will show you new things. This will open up your world view while also helping you to immerse in the culture.

When you isolate yourself, you will inevitably miss out on an opportunity or experience that could prove valuable.

On top of that, we all need friends. Friends are there for us when we are having a hard time, they are also there for us when we’re experiencing great joy or success. It’s important to have friends on-the-ground, where you live that you can speak to in person.

A extra perk of meeting locals is that Croatian friends usually will help you practice your language skills. Croatia is filled with extremely kind, generous people and we should all feel lucky even if we only know one.

Happy reasons to learn Croatian
Photo by Barry McGee

5. It’s good for your brain

There is a super long list of mental health benefits associated with learning a new language, no matter which one it is.

You will:

  • Achieve higher intelligence
  • Improve cognition
  • Improve ability to plan, prioritize and make decisions
  • Be more perceptive
  • Improve ability to focus and concentrate
  • Be more creative
  • Have good listening skills
  • Delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • Increase blood flow to your brain
  • Increase the number of neural pathways in your brain

Sooooo?

After 10 big reasons to learn Croatian, I hope you are now thoroughly convinced and have already found a class or a tutor or an app to help you on this arduous journey.

Share your trial and tribulations in learning Croatian in the comments. If you’re using an app you like, which one is it?

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Expat in Croatia

Sara is an American expat based in Split. After globetrotting between New York, Amsterdam and California, she moved to Croatia in 2012. Sara's blog Expat in Croatia is a guide for foreigners living and traveling in Croatia.