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There are around 7 million Croats in the world, yet only one half of that number lives in homeland of Croatia. The reason behind such huge scattering around the globe can be traced to fact that Croats are a naval nation, and having long trips abroad is not something uncommon for them. In last few centuries, scarcity of means and turbulent political background triggered a massive migration of Croatian population abroad. After a few generations, the proficiency of Croatian language in these families dropped significantly, leading to a dreadful question.

Photo courtesy of: Judit Szucs
Photo courtesy of: Judit Szucs

Is Croatian Language Facing Extinction?

Croatian is a South Slavic language structured around Shtokavian dialect. To an average ear of western citizen, it sounds like a variation of Czech and Russian. However, these languages are very different, and people speaking them can’t understand each other at all. Yet, Croats can communicate in their language with Serbs and Bosnians with no big issues in conversation. Certain Croatian dialects, such as Chakavian (present in Dalmatia) and Kajkavian (native to Zagorje region) are so different that their speakers might find difficulties while talking to each other.

But despite such large disparity and aforementioned issues with population living abroad, Croatian language is still quite stable. Experts do note that number of speakers is lowering as decades pass by, but at this moment, the language is still pretty alive.

Savudrija svjetionik Croatian Holidays

UNESCO to the Rescue

That being said, certain dialects of Croatian are indeed threatened with extinction. In order to prevent their complete eradication, UNESCO has added them to the list of critically endangered European languages.

Two dialects have been enlisted. The first one is Istro-Romanian, a mixture of Istrian and Romanian language. It can be found in hamlets of Istiran peninsula, usually surrounding the mountain of Cicarija. UNESCO estimates that this dialect is spoken only by 300 people.

The situation is slightly better with the second dialect. It is Molise Croatian, spoken in Italian province of Campobasso, and numbers around 3000 speakers. The language was formed as Croatian settlers emigrated from their home due to Ottoman invasions. Molise Croats are considered to be Italian citizens and have no relations to Croatian state.

Hopefully, these languages will pass the test of time and regain their vitality. In the meantime, consider learning Croatian. It can be difficult at start, but being one of official languages in European Union, it will definitely have a positive future.

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