What language do they speak in Croatia?


Unravel the intricacies of the Croatian language, exploring its historical roots, linguistic characteristics, and contemporary significance in a rapidly changing world.

In the vibrant mosaic of languages that adorn the European continent, Croatian stands as a testament to the cultural depth and diversity that characterize the region. Spoken by millions in Croatia and beyond, the Croatian language serves not only as a tool for communication but also as a vessel for the preservation of centuries-old traditions, customs, and stories.

From the dazzling Dalmatian coast to the fertile plains of Slavonia, Croatian dialects echo the regional diversity and cultural richness of the land. Despite this diversity, a shared sense of linguistic pride unites speakers across the country, fostering a strong sense of national identity.

It’s always a good idea to do a bit of research before visiting Croatia, which is why we’ve prepared this handy overview of the Croatian language for you. Enjoy and have fun on your linguistic adventure! 

History of the Croatian language

The history of the Croatian language is deeply intertwined with the broader narrative of Slavic migrations and the development of Slavic languages in the Balkans. Croatian, along with other South Slavic languages, emerged as a distinct linguistic entity during the early Middle Ages, as Slavic tribes migrated southwards into the region, developing unique phonetic, lexical, and grammatical features in the process.

During the Middle Ages, Croatian experienced significant influence from neighboring languages and cultures, particularly Latin due to the spread of Christianity in the region. This influence contributed to the development of the Croatian literary tradition, with the earliest known texts written in the Latin and Glagolitic script, a script devised for writing Old Church Slavonic, the liturgical language of the Slavic peoples.

Over time, Croatian began to diverge from Old Church Slavonic, resulting in the emergence of the Croatian vernacular as a distinct literary language. In the centuries that followed, it would absorb influences from various linguistic traditions, including Italian, Turkish, Hungarian, and German. In the 19th century, during the Croatian National Revival, efforts to standardize the language led to the establishment of modern Croatian.

Linguistic characteristics of the Croatian language

As a member of the South Slavic branch of the Slavic language family, Croatian possesses several key linguistic characteristics that distinguish it from other languages. Here are some of its most notable features.


Croatian uses the Latin alphabet with the addition of diacritics, which are symbols added to letters to indicate different sounds. These diacritics include characters such as č, ć, ž, š, dž, đ.


Croatian has a relatively straightforward phonetic system, with each letter typically corresponding to a single sound. This contrasts with languages like English, where letter-to-sound correspondence can be more complex. There are 30 phonemes in total: 25 consonants and five vowels.

Pitch Accent

Croatian is a pitch-accent language, meaning that the pitch or tone of a syllable can change the meaning of a word. It has four standard types of accents — short falling, short rising, long falling, and long rising.

Inflectional morphology

Like many Slavic languages, Croatian is highly inflected, meaning that words change form to indicate grammatical relationships. Nouns, adjectives, verbs, and pronouns all decline according to case, number, and gender.

Verbal Aspect

Croatian has a complex system of verbal aspect, which indicates whether an action is ongoing or completed. Verbs can be conjugated in either the perfective aspect (indicating a completed action) or the imperfective aspect (indicating an ongoing or habitual action).

Croatian dialects

Croatian exhibits significant dialectal variation, with distinct dialects spoken in different regions of the country. The three main dialect groups are Štokavian, Čakavian, and Kajkavian, each with its own unique phonological, lexical, and grammatical features.

Štokavian (Štokavski)

Štokavian is the most widespread dialect of Croatian, spoken in Eastern Croatia, as well as parts of Central Croatia, Dalmatia, and neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina. It serves as the basis for the standard Croatian language.

Čakavian (Čakavski)

Čakavian is primarily spoken in the coastal regions of Croatia, particularly in Istria, the Kvarner Gulf islands, parts of Dalmatia, and some inland areas. Its vocabulary is heavily influenced by linguistic contact with Italian and Venetian.

Kajkavian (Kajkavski)

Kajkavian is spoken primarily in Northern Croatia and the Gorski Kotar region. It’s characterized by unique vocabulary influenced by German and Hungarian, as well as  its recognizable intonation patterns.

Usage of Croatian

Croatian serves as the primary language of communication in Croatia, used in government, education, media, and everyday interactions. Moreover, its importance extends beyond national borders, with Croatian communities worldwide maintaining ties to their linguistic heritage. They can be found in Italy, Austria, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Czechia, Romania, Australia, USA, Argentina, Chile…

How to learn Croatian

Learning Croatian can be an enriching experience for language enthusiasts. Resources such as textbooks, language exchange programs, online courses, and immersion techniques are useful avenues for mastering the language. Of course, practicing with native speakers will also do wonders for your proficiency and cultural understanding.

Basic Croatian phrases

For those venturing into learning Croatian, mastering basic phrases can facilitate communication and cultural immersion. Here are a few essential phrases:

  • Hi Bok
  • Good day Dobar dan
  • Goodbye Doviđenja
  • Thank you Hvala
  • Please Molim
  • Yes Da
  • No Ne
  • Excuse me Oprostite
  • My name is _____ . Zovem se _______.

Minority languages in Croatia

In addition to Croatian, several minority languages thrive in Croatia, reflecting the country’s diversity. These include Serbian, Hungarian, Italian, Czech, Slovak, and others, each contributing to Croatia’s multicultural landscape.

Do Croatians speak English?

English proficiency is widespread among Croatians, especially among the younger population and urban dwellers. In tourist areas and major cities, English serves as a common second language, facilitating communication for visitors. However, proficiency levels may vary in rural or remote regions.

Are you ready to take on this Slavic gem?

Learning even a few basic Croatian phrases can enhance your travel experience and deepen your understanding of this captivating destination. Whether you plan on exploring historic streets, relaxing on pristine beaches, or savoring traditional cuisine, speaking Croatian can open doors to meaningful interactions.

The Croatian language encapsulates the country’s rich cultural heritage and serves as a vital link to its past. From its historical development to its diverse dialects and contemporary usage, Croatian remains a symbol of national identity and linguistic pride.

And there’s no better place to start your linguistic journey than the beautiful Camping village Šimuni, where nature and comfort go hand in hand. Check out the wide variety of options available and feel free to contact us to book your stay.