Quick Croatian Class: Tongue Twisters

It’s finally time for another Quick Croatian Class. A lot of you wrote to me saying that  you had a great time listening to the first Quick Croatian Class that was published as Ep08 of S01. In fact, it’s been the second most popular episode so far, believe it or not. That’s why I decided to prepare as much as two of those for this season.

With this one, I’m raising the bar for you. Now that you successfully mastered how to say Croatia in Croatian, I’m dedicating this entire episode to Croatian tongue-twisters. As if the entire Croatian isn’t tongue-twisting:)

In other words, this episode might be the least useful thing you’ve listened to in a while. However, I promise to prepare another one by the end of this season, hopefully, a much more useful one:) Enjoy listening to it, or scroll down to continue reading:

A lot of people ask me what my name means. Iva, so short. If you listened to the other Quick Croatian Class, you might know by now that reading is quite easy in Croatian. All you need to do is memorize how to pronounce each letter and then simply read each letter out loud always using the same sound. We will always read our letters the same way.

My name sounds very similar to Ivana (which could be translated to Joanna, the female version of Ivan – John). That can get quite annoying as Ivas are growing up because a lot of people call us Ivanas. I still don’t know why, but that used to happen to me a lot, especially when I was a kid. Out of the blue, certain persons would call me Ivana. No matter how much I tried to correct them, they stuck to it.

However, it’s not a similar name when it comes to the meaning. Iva is not short for Ivana. It’s actually a type of a willow tree – the goat willow or pussy willow in English. You know, it’s the one with furry flowers. Its flowers are one of the first signs of spring. In Croatia, we call the flowers cica-mace, which literally means pussy-cats, so we obviously have a similar association to the fuzzy flowers in both English and Croatian. The famous Tweety line “I think I saw a pussy cat” is “mislim da sam vidio cicu-macu” in Croatian.

By now, you might have already noticed that our words change endings. First I told you we call it cica-mace. Then I ended another sentence with cicu-macu. There is something different, a different ending! That’s right and that’s because we decline nouns. Good luck to anyone who tries to learn Croatian!

Let’s not go there right now. It would be too much for a single podcast episode. Let’s instead go back to willow trees.

The actual word for any species of willow is vrba!

Oh, no, you got that right. It’s another one of those words with too many consonants in a row. It’s not so easy for our youngsters to get a hold of so many consonants. This is why there is a famous tongue twister that involves a willow tree:

Na vrh brda, vrba mrda!

You could translate it to “willow moves on top of the hill”.

If you’re not doing well with that r, let me assure you that a lot of locals can’t pronounce it, either and they often go to speech therapy to help them deal with that by the time they go to school. There is another famous tongue-twister to help you with that r, and it goes:

Riba ribi grize rep.

A fish is biting another fish’s tail.

Riba is a fish.

Grize is bites.

Rep is a tail.

Another group of special Croatian sounds is Č, Ć, DŽ, Đ, Š, Ž. People often say that they sound really cute and make the whole language sound soft and gentle.

These particular sounds are another thing that’s very troublesome for Croatian kids as they grow up. It’s not so easy to learn how to produce all those sounds and how to make them distinctive to a plain c or s or z.

Another tongue-twister is here to help!

Na štriku se suši šuštavi šosić.

If it makes you feel any better, at least the word for a tongue-twister is nice and easy. We say jezikolomka. In literate translation, it’s tongue breaker, not a twister, so please forgive us if we sometimes call such phrases tongue breakers even in English.

I hope you gave yourself a chance and tried out the pronunciation of these crazy jezikolomke.

There are many more, such as:

Petar Petru plete petlju.

Ture bure valja, Ture bure gura. Brže Ture bure valja, nego Ture bure gura.

Cvrči, cvrči cvrčak na čvoru crne smrče.

Svraka svraku preskakala, svaka svraka skaka na dva kraka.

Listen to the podcast episode to make sure you’re reading it well. Have fun trying out the most difficult of Croatian reading! Once you master the tongue twisters, you can proudly and confidently say that you read Croatian perfectly!

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