JenSop: The Singing Traveler!

Idealist. Dreamer. Singer. Explorer.

Learning a super hard difficult challenging language!

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During my most recent visit to Croatia this past summer for Miloš’ vacation, I noticed that I was starting to pick up a few more words, and especially recognizing the roots of words as they popped up in their different incarnations.

I also had a LOT of people asking me when I was finally going to start to learn Croatian. Not understanding makes you always feel like an outsider. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always made to feel welcome by Miloš’ mom and grandmother. And his friends have always been so nice to me. But without fail, group conversations that start in English inevitably often switch to Croatian and I’m left sitting there not having a clue.

So I’ve finally decided to go beyond knowing a few Croatian words to actually learning the language. It’s about time.  Come February, Milos and I will have been together for two years, and things are going great. So yea, I need to learn.

I did some research when I was looking on Amazon for Croatian course books. I chose one based on not only it’s description, but also on really good reviews, some of which mentioned how it did a good job of addressing aspects of dialect and common uses in the northern coastal areas of Croatia where Miloš is from.

I already knew how to pronounce Croatian, as Milos had taught me last year. Pronunciation is easy for me, as I’ve had years of extensive foreign language pronunciation study from all my opera training. In college and grad school I had to learn to sing in Italian, German, French, Latin, and obviously English. Our pronunciation was expected to be perfect – we had to learn ALL the rules. (French was obviously the most challenging, but I did it.)  Croatian is really like Italian. There are a few minor different rules, but they’re so close. Add in a few new consonants, and you’ve mastered the pronunciation of Croatian. (See my previous blog post if you’d like a go at it yourself.)

My initial thought was, okay, it’s not like I’ve never studied another language before. I had German for all four years in high school and three semesters in college.  My grammar has gone down the tubes, but I can get around pretty well in the German speaking world while making lots of grammatical errors. (Haha!) But at least I can say what I need to say and understand most of what’s said to me.

So I’ve jumped in and started with Croatian. Miloš warned me it was difficult, but holy freakin’ cow!!!

Okay. In English we obviously change our verbs, as all languages do. I go. She goes. We go. I study. She studies. They study. But the changes are pretty easy. Pretty simple.  Yes we have lots of words to learn and our pronunciation can be a real bear, but an adjective is an adjective and a noun is a noun. No matter where it happens. Blanket is blanket no matter where it is in a sentence or who is using it. A window is a window. Boom. Easy. If you have a red window, you say red window no matter where it is in the sentence. We don’t do stuff like reda windowu. Or rede windowica. It’s just red window. Not so in Croatian.

In Croatian, you change the verb, the adjective, the noun, all the other little words in between them…. yes, all of it.  And back in German class, if we had to conjugate a regular verb, we just had to memorize a little chart, as all the regular verbs were conjugated the same way.  Easy!  Well, there are three forms of Croatian regular verbs, so you have to memorize THREE charts.  (That’s on top of the irregular verbs that come along.)   But then there’s charts showing how you change the nouns – which are different depending on what case you use (and the gender, since all nouns have genders in other languages).  And the same with adjectives.  Because they all change based on so many things.


Let’s find an example, shall we?


How about having a sister?  Let’s talk about that.


The Croatian word for “sister” is sestra.  The word for “my” changes depending on gender, so you’re looking at moj, moja, or moje.    Sister is a feminine word, so we’re gonna go with “moja.”  Imati is the infinitive of “to have.”  Znati is the infinitive of “to know.”


“Moja sestra je Amy.”  – My sister is Amy.  Okay, that’s the easy part.  It’s the subject – nominative case.  Got it.  (Miloš, correct me if I’m messing any of this up.)


“Imam i sestru.”  I have a sister.  Notice how I had to change the ending on the word for sister?  Yup.


“Ne znaš moju sestru?”  You don’t know my sister?  And this time it was also changing the ending for the word “my” in addition to the word for sister.


That’s only just scratching the surface.  Here’s the handy dandy little charts I’ve been copying….




I’ve decided to start with good basics, and focus first on the forms of words without their conjugations.  (Referring to nouns and adjectives.)  At least I’ll start to recognize parts of words.  I’ll then work on the verbs and conjugating them.  Working on the noun and adjective changes?  That’s gonna come later I think.
Damn, this is hard.  (But will be very worth it!)….  Wish me luck!


hahaha… “with confidence” 😉


Author: JenSop

One of my favorite quotes is, "If your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough." I guess I've been a dreamer all my life - I set my sights high and then I try to reach the sky. Some might call me a naive idealist, but that's just the way I am. I believe in always taking the high road, I believe in true love, and I believe in treating people the way you want to be treated. If you put good out into the world, good will come back to you! Being the dreamer that I am, I pursued singing as my primary life's calling - I've got two degrees in classical voice under my belt, and I sing just about anything under the sun. I also love a good adventure. Over the past few years, I've done quite a bit of world traveling, and have even lived abroad for stretches at a time: mostly in Vienna (Austria) and Croatia. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and I became a travel agent who specializes in Disney vacations. (Seriously, I KNOW Disney - I've been going regularly since I was a little girl - and I LOVE it!) And with all my experience traveling and living in Europe, I'm becoming quite the specialist in that travel category as well. (And last year, I started working as a Tour Director in Central Europe!) As to the other juicy details of my life - I'm originally from Pennsylvania, I'm married to an awesome Croatian man named Miloš who is the BEST adventure partner a girl could ask for. (He's also an expert on knowing how to make me smile.) He's truly the love of my life! I've also had all kinds of other jobs along the way, besides singer and travel pro. (Which is pretty standard for those of us who went to school for music.) I've worked part time weekends as a Disney Princess look-alike for children's parties. I've been teaching for almost 20 years, and have lots of experience in retail and customer service. Oh, and I should also probably mention that I'm a huge Lord of the Rings/Star Trek nerd! :-) Let's all go along for an adventure, shall we?

One thought on “Learning a super hard difficult challenging language!

  1. Pingback: Croatian Vacation Info | JenSop: The Singing Travel Agent!

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