Croatian is the official language of Croatia, with over 90% of Croatian citizens claiming it as their native language. German, Italian, and Serbian are common second languages. It’s important to note that though Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin are very similar and were once (and often still) referred to collectively as "Serbo-Croat", they are recognized today as separate languages. The distinction is more political than linguistic. There are some variations in vocabulary and grammar, but if you understand one language, you will understand them all.
Croatian has three standard dialects, but there are actually several more. Croatian is a very colorful language that relies heavily on regional slang, and it seems that almost every small town and island has its own linguistic idiosyncrasies and special vocabulary.
Though most residents of Croatia speak at least working English, learning the language will help you navigate everyday life with greater ease and better connect with locals. Enrolling in a language course is also a great way to meet people.
There are several language schools in Zagreb that offer Croatian language courses for foreigners. Programs vary in length and number of sessions per week, so it’s a good idea to shop around to find the course that best fits your schedule and the level of intensity you desire.
Affiliated with the University of Zagreb, Croaticum is one of the most well known and respected Croatian language programs in Zagreb. Classes are paired with social activities and lectures, and students receive ECTS credits for completing semester courses. Croaticum also offers a three-week summer school.
Other Croatian language schools in Zagreb include:
Private lessons are another option for students who want individualized lessons and one-on-one practice. Private lessons are generally more expensive than group lessons, but they may also be more effective, depending on your learning style. Most of the language schools above offer individual lessons and they may also be combined with group lessons for supplemental instruction.
Another option is to find a private instructor through Moje Instrukcije or simply by word of mouth. Working with a private instructor independently is usually less expensive than working with one through a language school.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed approach to learning Croatian, consider participating in a language exchange. With such an arrangement, you have the opportunity to practice Croatian with a native speaker, who in turn has the opportunity to practice English (or your mother tongue) with you. Another advantage to this arrangement is that your language partner can answer cultural questions, show you around your new city, and perhaps even become a friend. You can look for a language exchange partner on EasyExpat's forums.