Some common mistakes to avoid
Two vowels means two syllables!
Don't be tripped up by familiar-looking words such as Europa. It's easy to fall back on pronouncing the double vowel (in this case eu) as a single sound, but remember the simple rule we mentioned in our post on basic pronunciation: 1 letter = 1 sound ... so: 2 vowels = 2 sounds!
The letter r is never silent in Croatian
Take note: there’s no such thing as a silent r in Croatian. The letter r in Croatian is pronounced similarly to in Scottish or Irish English.
Correctly pronouncing r is often important to being understood. For example, the final r distinguishes the word kuhar (a cook) from the word kuha (he/she cooks), or slikar (painter) from the word slika (he/she paints). In words such as ormar (wardrobe/closet) or bravar (locksmith) both r sounds can be heard quite clearly.
The letters g, j and u
- The letter g in Croatian is always pronounced like the g in “guy”, and never like the g in “gym”. Don’t let familiar-looking words like general (general, n.) and energija (energy) fool you!
- The letter j is pronounced like the y in “yes”. Again, avoid the English way of pronouncing words like Japan or Jupiter!
- Another common mistake is u at the beginning of a word. The Croatian word utopija (utopia) is pronounced differently than its English counterpart. Make sure you pronounce the letter u the same wherever it occurs in the word, for example: ulica, buka, tabu!
Pronouncing long words in Croatian
Whenever you come across a long, complicated Croatian word, the first step is to break it up into syllables.
The number of vowels in a word determines the number of syllables, so for example, the word industrijalizacija comprises 8 vowels and therefore consists of 8 syllables: in-du-stri-ja-li-za-ci-ja. Don’t be ashamed to use this method – it really helps!
Officially the longest word in Croatian
So are you ready to test your knowledge of Croatian pronunciation by attempting to pronounce what is officially the longest word in Croatian?
Ready, steady, go!
... and to put this in some context:
The longest word in English refers to a lung disease that is otherwise known as silicosis and has an impressive 45 letters:
And we have Germany to thank for what is unofficially the longest word in the world, which translates as beef labeling supervision duties delegation law and boasts a staggering 63 letters:
And to briefly split some hairs:
- The names of big numbers can each be written as single word, and hence be endlessly long
- Technically, prijestolonasljednikovica can be further extended by making a diminutive form, then putting it altogether in an adjective ...