Foreign Service Institute Ranks Difficulty of Learning Croatian Language

Lauren Simmonds

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Many people struggle endlessly with it, many native Croatian speakers also get quite confused with certain rules, oh, and not to mention the sheer amount of dialects there are… Try putting someone from Brac and someone from Zagorje in the same room alone together and see how they manage. The Croatian language is, for most people, extremely difficult.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the FSI ranking system consists of five categories, ranked from easiest to hardest based on how many hours of study it would take a person to achieve a professional skill in a particular language.

Category I, as reported by N1, covers the languages ​​that typically require about 24-30 weeks of study, or 600 to 750 hours of instruction, in order to reach the S-3/R-3 level, which is roughly equivalent to the B2/C1 level. This group includes languages ​​such as Danish, Dutch, French, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish.

The German language requires about 30 weeks or 750 hours and is classified in a separate category (category II).

Category III includes languages ​​that require 36 weeks of study, or 900 working hours in total. These are languages ​​with linguistic and cultural differences compared to English, such as Indonesian, Malaysian and Swahili.

The Croatian language is among the more difficult languages…

Category IV refers to those languages ​​with even more significant linguistic and cultural differences compared to English, which requires about 44 weeks or 1100 hours of study.

This category includes: Albanian, Amharic, Armenian, Azerbaijani/Azerbaijani, Bengali, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Burmese, Croatian, Czech, Estonian, Finnish, Georgian, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Khmer, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian , Mongolian, Nepali, Pashto, Persian, Polish, Russian, Serbian, Sinhalese, Slovak, Slovenian, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Uzbek, Vietnamese, Xhosa (Niger-Congo language), and Zulu.

Category V, also the last, contains languages ​​which are extremely difficult for English speakers and require 88 weeks, or 2200 hours of study. The most effort is needed for Arabic, Japanese, Korean, Cantonese (Chinese) and Mandarin (Chinese) languages.

The Croatian language is far from easy, but it isn’t impossible to learn. It’s by far the most phonetic language I have personally come across, and as a translator who uses both languages professionally and casually on a daily basis, the differences between Croatian and English structure, syntax and grammar continue to interest me. I’ve no idea how it’s somehow easier to get out an extremely (and needlessly, honestly) long sentence in Croatian without taking a breath, but if you attempted that in English, you wouldn’t get far without needing to shove a comma somewhere in there.

Try telling someone from outside of Dalmatia about how you once lost your wallet (Croatian: novcanik), but use the Dalmatian word ”takuin” or better yet, ”portafoj” and see a blank expression returned to you. Better yet, ask for a glass (casa) of something strong in a Zagreb cafe, but say you want your rakija in a zmul, and be met with that same expressionless glance. It’s best we don’t even get started on the Dubrovnik dialect (Dubrovacki dijalekt/govor), and as for how people understand each other in Zagorje goes… well, that’s another story.

The Croatian language is varied, difficult, and there are people from all different regions of the country who have an incredibly difficult time understanding each other, so if you’re getting a bit tongue twisted, don’t worry – you’re far from the only one. If you want to learn to swear, which is actually more colourful than it is vulgar, click here.

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