Monday, April 25, 2016

Country Profile: The Languages of Croatia

So far this April, we've looked at the languages of New Zealand, Georgia, and Liberia. Today we're ending the month with a look at the linguistic landscape of Croatia, a beautiful country in Eastern Europe.

The Official Languages

Croatia has just one official language, Croatian. As we've mentioned before, Croatian is one of four standard varieties of Serbo-Croatian, a Slavic language. It is mutually intelligible with the three other standard varieties, which are Serbian, Bosnian, and Montenegrin. Given its status, it should come as no surprise that Croatian is the country's most important language, and is the native language of over 95% of the population.

Minority Languages

St. Mark's Church in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.
While most Croatians speak Croatian, several other languages are used by the country's various minority populations. These include Slavic languages, Romance languages, a Uralic language, and about 14,000 native speakers of Sinte Romani, a language used by the Romani people.

In addition to Croatian, seven other Slavic languages are spoken in Croatia: Serbian, Bosnian, Ukrainian, Slovene, Czech, Slovak, and Rusyn. Serbian is used by about 60,000 people, while Bosnian is spoken by around 16,000. There are also about 9,000 Slovene speakers, 6,000 Czech speakers, 3,000 Slovak speakers, and around 1,000 Ukrainian and Rusyn speakers.

In terms of Romance languages, there's Italian, Venetian, Istriot, and Istro-Romanian. Italian is the native language of about 18,000 Croatians, and is also widely used as a second language, with over 600,000 speakers. Venetian is also quite popular, with about 50,000 speakers. While Italy officially considers it to be a dialect of Italian, most linguists agree that it is a separate language.

Then there's Istriot and Istro-Romanian, which are both endangered languages spoken primarily in the region of Istria, which borders the Adriatic Sea. There are only about 400 remaining native speakers of Istriot, and about 300 remaining native speakers of Istro-Romanian.

Finally, there's the country's one and only Uralic language, Hungarian. It is spoken by about 10,000 people in Croatia.