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(This is addressed to people whose first language is English and is meant to be a simple, basic guide for the average person. Linguists must go elsewhere. For an explanation of how Croatian letters are shown on this website, see here.)

There are no silent letters in Croatian, and each letter is always pronounced the same. That's because they had the luxury of having had their alphabet invented not too long ago (1830-1850). They were smart enough to standardize it then, and few linguistic changes have occured since to muddle up the works (as in English). For this reason, once you learn the rules, Croatian is fairly easy to spell and pronounce -- assuming, of course, you can wrap your tongue around some of those letter combinations. It would seem that spelling tests would be redundant in Croatian schools.

Vowels. There are only 5 vowel sounds in Croatian (unlike English which has 12 or 13). The vowels are always pronounced as follows:

a = ah (as in father)
e = eh (as in get)
i = ee (as in meet)
o = oh (as in over)
u = oo (as in food, but not as in good or foot)

One more time: These vowels are always pronounced the same. There are no variations.

There is no "ih" sound (as in sit). Or "uh" (as in nut). And, especially, there is no American-type "aah" sound (as in American "dance"). Even the Brits hardly ever use this sound.

Consonants. Consonants are pronounced as in English except for:

J, j = y as in yellow
C, c = ts (as in cats) (Cavtat is TSAHV' TAHT)
R, r = single-rolled r (not the multiple-roll that is found in Spanish)

Then there are the letters with diacritical marks over them:

C", c" (c with a small v over it) = ch
C', c' (c with a slanted line over it) = ch

Note: The above 2 ch sounds are different to Croatians but they sound the same to English-speakers. So we won't go into the difference. Notice that none of the 3 Croatian Cs (C", C' or C) is pronounced like any version of the English C. (Read that again. It's important.) In English the C is usually pronounced as S or as K. In Croatian it is never pronounced as S or as K. The island of Cres is not KRES; it is TSRES.

S", s" (s with a small v over it) = sh (as in she)
Z", z" (z with a small v over it) = zh (like the s in treasure)

Then there is the d with a horizontal line through the stem. We'll show it like this:

D', d' = j (as in jar)

Ligatures (digraphs). Then there are some ligatures (2 letters together, treated as a single letter):

Nj, nj = like ny in canyon
Lj, lj = like the ly sound in million
Dz", dz" = j (to Croatians it is slightly different than the English j but most English-speakers cannot tell the difference)

Alphabetical Order. As was mentioned, the above 3 configurations (nj, lj, and dz") are treated as single letters. So in an alphabetized list, a word like njegov (his) or a surname like Njire is found after the N's, not with the N's. Likewise, lj comes after l in the dictionary, and dz" comes after the regular d. This is important to know when looking up surnames in a phone book or an on-line database.

However, Dj or dj (not to be confused with D' or d') is not a ligature and is alphabetized within the Ds.

Here is the order of the Croatian alphabet (total of 30 letters):

a, b, c, c", c', d, dz", d', e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, lj, m, n, nj, o, p, [no q], r, s, s", t, u, v, [no w, x or y], z, z"

So, if you are looking up a name like C"upic' or Njire or Senjo, be sure to look in the right place.

Remember, there are no silent letters in Croatian and each letter is always pronounced the same. Perhaps English will make it to this stage some day.

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