Do People Speak English in Croatia?

Croatia is a Central European country that shares a border with Slovenia, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Montenegro. Croatia arguably has the prettiest coastline in the Balkan Peninsula with its turquoise sea, and beautifully preserved beaches, and most of its towns have impressive historic city centers.

Croatia’s population is about 4.6 million people. Out of the total population about 2.2 millions or about 49% of Croatians speak English. While traveling around the city, and gazing at the cities unique blend of architecture styles, it seems important to note that while only half of Croatian demonstrate an English competency, it is important to learn some Croatian phrases to truly experience the country’s wonders. In the context of other central and southern European countries the Croats speak pretty good English. The young, rich and urban types tend to speak better English. 

Let’s dive in further to this fascinating country.

English Use in Major Cities in Croatia

  • Zagreb – Zagreb, the northwestern capital of Croatia, stands out for its Austro-Hungaria architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries. Upper Town is the site of the Gothic, twin-spired Zagreb Cathedral, and St. Mark’s Church of the 13th century, with a colorfully tiled roof at its center. Nearby is the pedestrian-friendly Tkalčićeva Street. Lower Town features the main city square, Ban Jelačić, plus shops, museums, and parks. Zagreb is Croatia’s most significant transport hub, where Central Europe, the Mediterranean, and Southeastern Europe converge, making the Zagreb region the center of Croatia’s road, rail, and air networks. It is a city renowned for its vibrant culture, high living standards, museums, sporting activities, and entertainment. English speakers are concentrated in Zagreb and the coast as most of the coast relies on the tourism industry. English is the predominant foreign language spoken by people aged between 15 and 34. When traveling around Zagreb, it seems unlikely that you will have a hard time when only using English.
  • Dubrovnik –  Dubrovnik is a town located on the Adriatic Sea. It is famous for its distinctive Old Town which was built in the 16th century and encircled with large stone walls. Its well-preserved buildings range from the baroque St. Blaise Church to the Sponza Renaissance Palace and Gothic Rector’s Palace, now a history museum. The pedestrian street Stradun, or Placa, is paved with limestones and has many shops and restaurants. Popular for its stunning location on the Dalmation Coast and combined with its evocative and historic Old Town, Dubrovnik is home to Croatia’s artistic and intellectual elite. Of course the primary language in Dubrovnik is Croatian, but due the high number of tourists each year, most locals have a good English competency. It seems that while traveling around Dubrovnik, that you will not have a hard time when only using English.
  • Rijeka – Rijeka is a port city on the Kvarner Bay in the northern Adriatic Sea. It is known as the gateway to the islands of Croatia. The main promenade, Korzo, is lined with buildings from the Habsburg period. The Zajc Croatian National Theatre has ceiling paintings by Gustav Klimt. Trsat Castle hilltop complex, which includes a religiois shrine, provides panoramic views of the Kvarner Bay. Historically, the city has been fiercely contested due to its strategic position and its excellent deep water port, particularly among Italy, Hungary, and Croatia, which has changed hands and demographics several times over the centuries. Linguistically the city is diverse. Other than Italian and Croatian, the city has its own unique dialect of the Venetian language. When traveling around this city, the unique blend of Italian and Croatian stands out. While it is important to experience this aspect of the culture, here is a city where it might be more useful to learn some useful Croatian phrases.
  • Split – Split is considered Croatia’s second largest city on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, and specifically on the Dalmatian coast. The Archaeological Museum of Croatia is the oldest Croatian museum. The museums houses over 150,000 artifacts that span the Greek colonization of the Adriatic, Roman provincial and early Christianity during the Middle Ages. Split is home to another museum the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments. It is the only museum in Croatia dedicated to researching and presenting cultural artifacts of the Croats in the Middle Ages and early Medieval Times. Split is also home to a vibrant music scene, and a highly regarded sports team. As a tourist city, you can expect locals to possess some English competency.
  • Osijek – Osijek is the economic and cultural center of the eastern region of Slavonia. The city holds various cultural events festivals throughout the year. The most popular festival is the Croatian Tambura Music Festival attended by numerous tambura orchestras from all over Croatia and the Osijek Summer Nights which is a series of open-air cultural and entertainment events, accompanied by great food and fairs. Osijek is a popular tourist destination for its baroque style, open spaces, abundant recreational activities. Ante Starčević Street is one of the most popular tourist sites. Other important tourist sites include an 18th century baroque citadel, the Drava promenade, and a pedestrian bridge to Baranja.

What Languages are Spoken in Croatia?

  • Croatian – As anticipated, Croatian is the country’s most common language, and Croatian native speakers comprise 95% of the population. Before the 19th century, Croatian was not the official language of the country. Latin was the official language. Between 1945 and 1991, a mix of Serbian and Croatian was used. Croatian is composed of three dialects: Shtokavian, Kajkavian, and Chakavian. Latin script is used in the language.
  • Serbian – Serbian is a minority language in Croatia, and is primarily spoken by Croatian Serbs. The Serbian language has strong ties to Croatian. Serbian is taught in a few schools, especially in Osijek-Baranja counties and Vukovar-Srijem counties. Through violent protests in 2013, Croatians firmly rejected Serbian as the official language. However, Croatian laws gave Serbs the right to use their mother tongue for official purpose. Unlike Croatian which uses the Latin alphabet, Serbian uses the Cryllic alphabet.
  • Italian – In the Constitution of Croatia, Italian is accepted as a minority language. Only 0.43% of all Croatians make up native Italian speakers. The largest group of Italian speakers is located in Istria county, where 6% of the population speak Italian. In Istria, Italian is the co-official language alongside Croatian. Some schools in the region teach Italian, and La Voce del Popolo is an Italian-language newspaper.
  • Czech – Croatia is home to about 6,000 Czechs who are mostly found in the county of Bjelovar-Bilogora. For official purposes, Czech people speak Czech. The Czech Ambassador to Croatia is a strong advocate for the protection of minority languages.
    Other Minority Languages – The Republic of Croatia recognizes the importance of official use of different languages, as well as in schools and media. Minority languages bring diversity to Croatia, and open the school to many different opportunities. Further more in the Constitution of Croatia, the protection of minority languages has led to unity and harmony in Croatia.

Is English Necessary in Croatia?

As a tourist traveling in Croatia, English is commonly spoken, with more than half the population possessing some form of English understanding. Accurate and up-to-date statistics are somewhat hard to find, but the main tourist regions, especially along the coastline, you should have no problem using English with anyone under fifty. In inland and rural regions, you might struggle to find a large amount of English speakers.

As a local, it is common in many countries to at least have one television channel dedicated to English media. The same is true in Croatia. High fluency rates are sometimes dictated by undubbed English language television and movies. Consuming this media source offers a great opportunity to pick up the language in a way that more traditional schooling might not offer. To learn English, younger people should be exposed to forms of English that are more than only the written and verbal form in a classroom setting.

English Teaching in Croatia

After being featured in the award-winning television show, Game of Thrones, Croatia has experienced a rise in popularity among both English teachers and visitors. Usually English teachers find jobs and start teaching by interviewing locally in Croatia during the big recruiting seasons in September and agin in January. Most contracts expire at the end of June.

For teachers who are interest in teaching in Croatia, a bachelor’s degree is necessary, and an internationally recognized TEFL certificate is necessary to qualify for most teaching positions. International schools require higher qualifications. For applicants, a postgraduate degree is required to qualify, and relevant teaching experience is necessary too. Due to higher requirements, the salary is usually higher for these jobs. Most jobs can be found in major cities like Zagreb, Split, and Dubrovnik.

There are many useful resources for people looking for jobs in Croatia. The first are services offered by the public employment agencies that are run by the Croatian Ministry of Economy, Labor and Entrepreneurship. They provide many useful jobs and can be found at the website (Croatian language). While most resources are Croatian language, there are some job portals that offer many English speaking jobs.

It is difficult to find a job in a foreign country. Using the job boards, or other websites to find a job is the most useful tool. Reaching out to people on LinkedIn or networking on social media sites is another useful tip for finding a job overseas. As long as you remain open-minded to new experiences, then it will be relatively easy to find a job in a foreign country.

Life in Croatia, a Confluence of Styles and Architectures

Due to its geographical location, Croatia influenced by four distinct cultural spheres. Croatia sits at a crossroads of Western and Eastern influences – since the schism between the Western Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire – Croatia has experienced a confluence of different styles. The Illyrian Movement was an important moment in Croatian history. It was a time when Croats developed their own national identity.

Language is a powerful tool to help recognize a country’s identity. Since the 19th century, historical events helped shape the Croatian language, and it gave many unprecedented changes in arts and culture, and the birth of many important historical figures.

Croatian architecture reflects influences from neighboring countries. In public spaces and buildings in the north and central regions, Austrian and Hungarian influences are present. Architecture found along the coasts of Dalmatia and Istria exhibit Venetian influence. In cities and towns, wide public squares are named after cultural figures, parks, and pedestrian zones are characteristic to the cities. In particular, wide-scale Baroque urban planning took place, specifically in towns such as Tvrda, Varazdin, and Karlovac. Later influence of Art Noveau is reflected in contemporary architecture.

The architecture along the coast exhibits a Mediterranean style, with a heavy Venetian and Renaissance influence in major urban areas exemplified by the works of Giorgio da Sebenico and Niccolo Fiorentino such as St. James’ Cathedral in Sibenik. The oldest surviving examples of Croatian architecture are churches from the 9th century, with St. Donatus in Zadar as the most prominent church.

Final Thoughts

Wow, what a country. Worth your time, and certainly a great place to travel and work. If you don’t invest time in the local language you should be able to easily survive with just English.

If you do have the time, then a local language would be useful.

Bonus – The Don’ts of Visiting Croatia

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