Thursday, March 26, 2009

Croatian Language Drifts Towards English

I learned a new word today - ˝uploadati,˝ meaning ˝to upload.˝

It goes without saying that this word isn't actually Croatian. In fact, the average 6th grader in North America would know what it means even in the absence of my crack translation skills.

There seems to be a sort of movement in the language toward Anglo-sizing words, or more to the point, adopting English words and Croatianizing them.

Here are some recent examples:

Finiširati - to finish (the letter š in Croatian is the same as ˝sh˝ in English)
Printati - to print
Hugati - to hug
Frend - Friend
Sorry - Sorry

These are just a few examples...but you see it/hear it more and more.

Husband tells me that there was a time in the not too distant past when Croatians in the diaspora were mocked and ridiculed in Croatia for speaking CroEnglish. Now, it seems to be the hip thing to do.

At first blush, you would think that it would make my life easier as a native English speaker but I've found that this is not always the case, particularly when I'm hearing these words.

I'll give you a recent example. A friend of ours was talking about so-and-so and used the word ˝Holland.˝ However, it didn't at all sound like ˝Holland˝ - it sounded like ˝Hoe-lund˝ and so I was confused for a moment as to what he was actually saying. I didn't even recognize it as an English word. The proper Croatian for Holland is ˝Nizozemska˝ - which obviously bears ZERO resemblance to the word ˝Holland.˝ The humor in this is that I would have perfectly understood it if he'd used the proper Croatian than I did when he used the English word.

I've mentioned before that Husband and I speak English to each other. I can remember an occassion from last summer when we were sitting at a cafe, here in Zadar, with a group of 20-somethings sitting next to us. Husband and I speaking English; and the gaggle of gen-Y'ers speaking Croatian. All of a sudden, they switched to English. I guess that they thought that we were trying to be cool (and winning) by speaking English and they were exerting their coolness, too, by switching to English. Of course, their conversation became a little flacid having to ˝perform˝ in another language (as does mine when I have to speak Croatian - I have limits of what I can talk about from a vocabulary and nuance perspective).

But what was the point of that? It's not as if we were competing. Husband and I speak fluent English with zero accent. It's obvious that we're native speakers. Maybe they intended for us to ˝accidentally˝ overhear their conversation. However, they talked about things that were completely irrelevant to us. Maybe they wanted us to talk to them and they were showing us that there's a common language between us. Here, again, they seemed wholly uninterested in us. There were never any glances in our direction and they didn't look like they wanted to initiate a conversation.

So what is this about? In my observation, there seems to be sort of a coolness attached to people who sprinkle a little English into their conversations. As if to say, ˝I'm hip. I'm international.˝ The truth is, most everyone here under the age of 40 speaks and understands some English. Kids are taught it in school. People see it everyday on TV as most of the shows originate from Hollywood and have Croatian subtitles (I've actually learned quite a bit of Croatian from watching American TV shows and movies with Croatian subtitles). But it's only the sub-culture of the hip and beautiful that pepper their conversations with English words - executed with the same jaded and sacarastic tone that you regularly hear from their counterpars in North America.
I don't know what I think about it.