As well as being a small business owner, Professor Mihaela Naletilić also runs her own school. We were curious to learn if our language is really that difficult to learn and what are the most common obstacles for her students. We also wanted to learn more about how she started her business, and what her ‘Croatian traits’ are!
Do people really struggle to learn Croatian and have you meet some fast learners?
I have to be direct right from the start of the conversation, but I strongly believe in the direct approach to learning, as in communication. Yes, people struggle when they learn Croatian. So far I haven’t met a student who is not struggling in the process of learning Croatian, but the goal – is definitely worth the struggle!
In the 15 years that I have been teaching people how to speak Croatian, I have met all kinds of learners – quick learners, slow learners, people who get along well with grammar, but have troubles talking in everyday life and students who roll their eyes on even mentioning cases and other grammar categories, but have absolutely no problem trying to order coffee in Croatian after just a few lessons! The trick is to find the best learning style for each student. There are a lot of ways to learn something. And in CRO to go, I believe we are excellent in adjusting lessons to each student and their learning style.
Mihaela, Natalija, Ana, Dora
If someone wants to commit to talking fluently, how much time do they have to invest?
Of course, my answer would be that it is very individual and I cannot be precise in answering this. But I have worked with students with whom I could talk to in Croatian after one year of intensive learning. It is one of my favourite moments – when my student starts to talk to me in Croatian, and any other language for our communication becomes redundant!
What are the most difficult grammar rules for an English speaking person?
There are a few, but as I always say: ‘A rose is a rose is a rose’. In English maybe. Not in Croatian though. English: This is a rose. I bought a rose. I see a rose. I am talking about a rose. In Croatian however – ruža/rose can sound in a lot of different ways, depending on which case we are using in that sentence. Ovo je ruža. / This is a rose. Kupila sam ružu. / I bought a rose. Pričam o ruži. / I am talking about a rose.
Then, of course, there is that fabulous moment when I try to convince an English speaking student that it is perfectly fine to say Nikad ne idem u park. I never NOT go to the park. And that double negation sentences are not illegal in Croatian! And of course, a totally logical fact how the sentence “It is sunny” – is actually Sunčano je. – or “Sunny it is” – in Croatian.
How to prepare yourself to learn the language?
Me as a teacher and other teachers that work at CRO to go – are always prepared for the lessons because I strongly believe in providing top-quality learning material and making use of every minute you spend on the lesson.
But I am not a huge fan of thinking things through and meticulously preparing when one wants to start learning something. If you think or feel you need to learn Croatian – don’t hesitate, don’t postpone it. Just buy a little notebook and sharpen your pencil – and get started with it! All the other things you will be handling along the way – as they occur!
Tips & tricks for your students, what are your expectations of them?
My expectations from my students are the same as they are for myself and my teachers: to do and give your best. The biggest advice that I can give to all of my students is: Talk. Talk. Talk. And then talk some more, and never be afraid to make a mistake. A student needs to make a mistake, so that the teacher can correct it and get him or her to a new level of language!
What do you like the most in our language?
This is a tough one! I love how people are enthusiastic about learning Croatian for different reasons – some are in love in our country and the way of living, some like it for linguistic reasons.
I love Croatian because it is my language, but also I love the fact that I have an ability and opportunity to teach so many people around the World to talk Croatian!
Can you share a few important facts about the history of our language?
Trying to take away a language from a nation is in fact an attempt to erase an identity of that nation. In the same way that we were not allowed for decades to have our flag with the characteristic šahovnica, we were also not allowed to have our Croatian language.
But it is here, it exists, it went through a lot of historical and political episodes – but Croatian is here, they did not erase it. And we are very proud of it!
What is the type of courses you offer?
In CRO to go, we offer courses online and courses in person. Courses online are very practical and effective and we have people all around the World who learn Croatian online with us.
Also, we have courses in person, which are held in our school in the Centre of Zagreb.
Our courses are divided into levels:
CROstart – for beginners in Croatian
CROplus – medium level for students who already have some knowledge of Croatian
CROtalk – conversational lessons
Also, we offer CROintensive – intensive Croatian language course and CROchat, a three-day fun course, especially great for if you are visiting Zagreb for a few days and want to learn some basics of Croatian and have fun doing it!
We are especially proud of our CROkids course with lessons adjusted to our youngest students.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I might tell you here some story about how I had a vision from childhood that I would own my own business and how I saved money from the age of 9 to start my own company – but it simply wouldn’t be true.
The truth is – I am an artistic soul and it kind of took me as a surprise that I became a businesswoman. When I started CRO to go, I was having some problems in my personal life. So, in order not to get down – I started to jog – I was jogging almost every day in Maksimir, no matter if it was raining or sunny.
I started with creative writing and started my own company because I realised I really enjoy being a Croatian language teacher and I could do it in my own school instead of working for other people!
How do you spend your free time and what are your ‘typical Croatian traits’?
In my free time, I like to be outdoors – jogging or simply walking in nature. I like to watch a good movie or to go for a beer with my friends. This last one is probably my typical Croatian trait! Other than that they say that I can be pretty stubborn and I am very passionate and impulsive and loudmouth when I think that I have a point. I think these are enough Croatian traits for you!