Croatian is a South Slavic language that is closely related to Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin. In fact, all four languages used to be one and the same – known as Serbo-Croatian – when their speakers were united under the former Republic of Yugoslavia. However, after years of ethnic clashes that finally led to the dissolution of Yugoslavia near the end of the 20th century, each successor state claimed its own standard language.
Croatian is now the official and literary language of Croatia as well as an official standard in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Around the world, there are an estimated 7 million people who speak Croatian, with roughly 4 million living in Croatia itself. Groups of native Croatian speakers can also be found in large portions of Europe, especially parts of Hungary and the Austrian Burgenland, as well as in North and South America, Australia and New Zealand. With Croatia’s admission to the European Union on 1 July 2013, Croatian became the 24th official language of the EU.
Croatian is written using the Latin alphabet but includes several special characters, so-called diacritical marks, such as accents over certain letters.
Even though Croatia is a relatively small country, it is home to very distinct regional dialects. In fact, two native Croats from different parts of the country might have trouble understanding each other if they were to switch to their respective dialects during a conversation. This underscores the importance of hiring native speakers for translations, as they are familiar with these regional variations.