Stephan Behringer from Würzburg, Germany is certainly no stranger to learning languages; he speaks a grand total of ten. Whilst travelling in Dubrovnik he heard about the free mini-courses of Croatian at the Europe House Dubrovnik and decided to add to his list and make Croatian the tenth language. In fact he liked his first taste of Croatian so much that he asked if it was possible to put on another course when he came back. With two intensive courses under his belt his level of Croatian soon soared. The Dubrovnik Times caught up with Stephan to learn more about his experiences and why he would recommend learning Croatian.
How helpful did you find the Croatian lesson given by Europe House in Dubrovnik? The Croatian lessons at the Europe House Dubrovnik were my first steps into the Croatian language and were extremely helpful for me, especially as Barbara, my teacher, speaks my own language German so well that she could explain me many things in my mother tongue. Also she put a lot of emphasis on my pronunciation right from the beginning to make sure I learn the basics correctly.
Apart from German (and Croatian) which other languages do you speak? And how difficult was it to learn Croatian compared to other languages? I am a polyglot and Croatian is my language number 10. I speak German, English, Spanish, French, Russian, Portuguese and Italian fluently and also can communicate in Swedish and Chinese. I would say that Croatian is for me more difficult than Roman languages but still easier than Russian, as it uses the Latin alphabet. Speaking another Slavic language like Russian helps to learn Croatian in certain ways, but it also creates many "false friends" moments or wrong pronunciations.
Stephan Behringer with his teacher in Dubrovnik
Why would you recommend people to learn Croatian whilst in Dubrovnik? Absolutely! I am totally enthusiastic of at least learning some words in the local language when I travel and if I stay longer in a country I usually take at least a couple of days of language course. If you speak some Croatian in Dubrovnik the locals certainly appreciate it a lot and you can connect with people much easier. Plus the benefit of Croatian is that it is also understood in all the neighbour countries on the Balkans which I could witness myself during the days after my first Croatian language class at the Europe House when travelling to Montenegro and Bosnia.
Did you have the chance to practise your Croatian and what was the outcome? Of course. Back home I know a Croatian girl quite well and got to speak Croatian with her regularly, but she rather made fun of my slight Russian accent or the fact that I used at least one Russian word in most of my sentences. Also, a good friend of mine is originally from Serbia and I also speak to him from time to time.
Would you like to further improve your Croatian languages skills? As I like Croatia and the Balkans region, I would like to travel there more. So I am still working on my Croatian and plan to return to Dubrovnik again, after the tourist season to take another week of language course at the Europe House Dubrovnik.
Stephen talks to the Dubrovnik media about his learning experiences