“MULTILINGUAL COUNTRIES” COLUMN. SEASON 1 – EPISODE 7 “CROATIA”

Today’s episode can be considered the finale of our first season of the “Multilingual Countries“ column. After having discussed ItalyFranceSpainSwitzerland and Belgium, today we’ll examine Croatia and the languages spoken within its borders.

CROATIA: THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE

The official language in Croatia is Croatian, which is one of the four standardised varieties of the Serbo-Croatian languages that uses the Roman alphabet. After joining the European Union on 1 July 2013, the Croatian language automatically became one of the 24 official languages of the EU.

The South Slavic language is spoken by about 95% of the population throughout the Croatian territory. There are diatopic variations within the language which are capable of forming dialects separated based on geographic region. There are three dialects:  Shtokavian, Kajkavian and Chakavian. However, these variations still allow the inhabitants of the various regions to communicate, as they are all dialects of the same language.

THE MINORITY LANGUAGES

Croatia has always been one of the countries with the lowest population growth rates, which has precipitated as a result of the many victims of its struggle for independence. With the aim of increasing its number of inhabitants, Croatia implemented a plan to welcome immigrant ethnic minority groups to its territory, which currently represent 10% of the Croatian population.

These groups are mostly ItalianSerbian and Czech.

This welcoming policy gives rise to the various laws and decrees protecting minority languages, whose fundamental rights are set out in Article 7 of the Constitutional Act on the Rights of National Minorities.

The only officially bilingual region of the Republic of Croatia is Istria, located in the Adriatic peninsula. Many of its municipalities were part of the Republic of Venice decades ago, and Croatian is accompanied by the second official language here, Italian. This Italian-Croatian bilingualism is founded on the presence of a considerable Italian community, historical and political events, as well as geographical proximity to Italy.

The Istrian region makes Croatia part of the three European nations in which Italian is an official language, together with Slovenia and Switzerland. For more information about the Italian language outside its national borders, I suggest learning more about the work carried out by the REI, (Network for the Excellence of Institutional Italian).

And with this we end the first season of our column. In the new season we’ll expand our borders by travelling to the Americas, exploring new Multilingual Countries.

Stefano Gaffuri

English translation and adaptation by Sarah Schneider