How the Professor of Hvar Dialects Helped Preserve Croatian Culture & Tradition

Total Croatia News

Photo credit Vivian Grisogono

May 7, 2020 – What a lovely email! How a fun YouTube series in the early days of TCN became a national phenomenon. It is all thanks to Professor Frank John Dubokovich, Guardian of the Hvar Dialects.

It started out as a joke, something to fill some content in the first month of my new portal, Total Hvar, way back in November 2011. It became such a cult hit that it soon hit national television, then British reality TV,  and now – so I learned today 8.5 years later, a catalyst to preserve some of Croatia’s dying culture forever. 

My good friend from Jelsa, Frank John Dubokovich, was born in New Zealand but moved back to Jelsa at the age of 8, the Hvar town where his family are from. So he grew up bilingual, actually trilingual. 

For Frankie spoke Jelsa dialect, which is a whole linguistic sub-species of its own.

An idea was born, to do a short video series of the differences between Jelsa dialect and standard Croatian, looking at different aspects of life – food, months of the year, articles of clothing – to demonstrate the differences. It started with the infamous Dalmatian Grunt, a video which is sadly no longer available online currently (but which I am trying to find), and which amassed almost 100,000 views on YouTube when I saw it last year. 


As his flock grew, so did Frankie’s authority, and he became the self-styled Professor Frank John Dubokovich, Guardian of the Hvar Dialects. Here is one of the original lessons, in which he investigates parts of the body in Hvar dialect, including a live demonstration of shaking his ass. 

His fan base was truly international. The then assistant coach of the Australian football team jetted in from Sydney to meet with The Professor.

So impressed was Ante Milicic with The Professor that he even had his voice on his ring tone and wake up call. 

It was only a matter of time before national television came calling.

HRT asked us to record a special lesson on dialect words for wine, which featured on their promo video ‘Susur’ in July, 2015. The Professor makes his entrance at 04:18 in the programme, above. 

With such colossal talent, it was not long before the international talent scouts were in touch with TCN, and The Professor and his Hvar dialects were soon starring on British television reality shows. 

How to get a bunch of chavs into Dalmatian grunting – genius!

So brilliant was The Professor that he even taught us how to speak Hvar dialect using only vowels on a guest appearance in Split. 

And that is where I thought the story ended. A lot of fun on the way, and a lot of beautiful women falling at The Professor’s feet, and the occasional Australian football coach waking up to the dulcet tones of The Professor each morning. 

Until today.

Until the loveliest email of the year. 

From Grgo. 


Hey Paul! We haven’t met in person but you’ve had a huge influence on me and what I have been doing last couple of years. It took me long time to finally contact you haha. 

I want to thank you for the Hvar Dialect Lessons you started posting on YouTube 5-6 years ago. I was in shock, just like the rest of my friends from Zagreb and the area. It was super entertaining but also educational. It made me think (and the rest of us) how our authentic local heritage was fading away. General unawareness of this local universe we have across Croatia. 

What happened next is I started recording the “Kajkavski lessons of Marija Bistrica” on YouTube with my local native speaker…in the end I spent most of my University along with my master project all about preserving and promoting local dialects and values in Croatia. 

I graduated as a visual communications designer so I wrote and illustrated a tale in Kajkavski idiom, then posters and picture books for children…

Following that I started recording other people along the coast. Just last year spent two weeks on Dugi otok island recording the locals stories and their dialects. The project started connecting the locals across Croatia raising awareness. Schools and parents are calling me for the presentations… it’s just crazy.

And all of it kind of started when I saw the first “Hvar Dialect Lesson” you posted. ?

Cheers from Zagreb!


Love it. And so will Professor Frank John Dubokovich, Guardian of the Hvar Dialects, when he learns that we will be taking him all the way to Marija Bistrica to meet Grgo and do a Mother of All Dialects lesson when all this madness is over. 

I can’t wait, even though I probably won’t understand a word. 


Professor, we salute you. Your infamous grunt has inspired the preservation of more Croatian culture that the uhljebs in the ministry in an entire mandate. 

I can’t wait to hear how the grunt sounds in Marija Bistrica. 

You can follow Grgo’s excellent YouTube channel here


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