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Croatia/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.5 Language issues and policies

The official language is Croatian. Laws passed in May 2000 regulate the status of minority languages and alphabets and their official use on the local level (Law on the Use of Language and Script of National Minorities in the Republic of Croatia, NN 51/00). The laws also offer the possibility of education programmes (primary and secondary school level) in minority languages (Law on Education in the Language and Script of National Minorities, NN 51/00, NN 56/00). Such programmes have been established for Czech, Hungarian, German, Serbian and Italian minorities. The first preregistered primary schools in the Serbian language were opened in 2002. The laws are effective in areas where language groups are concentrated, e.g. the use of the Serbian language and Cyrillic alphabet in East Slavonia, of the Italian language in Istria, etc. These laws were received favourably by the ethnic minority groups. However, in 2013 the implementation of the double-script (Latin-Cyrillic) plaques on the official buildings in Vukovar and some other cities caused protests by the Croatian representatives of war veteran communities, and they are still in dispute.

In line with the Law on Croatian Radio-Television and the Law on Electronic Media, Croatian Radio-Television has special and regular news programmes in several minority languages. Local radio stations also have special programmes in minority languages.

The school curricula include supplements in minority languages (language, literature, history, art and music); there are optional programmes for mother tongue learning at various summer schools.

Apart from these supplementary minority language classes in school, language pluralism is not widely debated due to the low numbers of linguistic minorities in Croatia, and the fact that Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian are mutually understandable.

A lot of attention has been paid to promotion of Croatian language and culture abroad; teaching of Croatian language and literature for Croatians in Diaspora is supported through programs of financing by the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports in 20 countries around the world. In some countries the classes are organized as a part of regular educational curricula, while in some countries it is organized as extracurricular activity in the auspices of Croatian Diaspora community activities. The Ministry of Science, Education and Sports also organizes and finances the network of Reader in Croatian Language and Literature exchange positions in 28 different higher education institutions around the world, and three centres for Croatian Studies in Australia and Canada. Foreign students of Croatian gain scholarships at ‘Croaticum’ study programme at Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb, as well as through the Croatian Seminar for Foreign Slavic Studies or the ‘Zagreb School of Slavic Studies’ at the Inter University Centre (IUC) in Dubrovnik.

In the context of language policies, one must mention the trends in lexicography; the Miroslav Krleža Institute of Lexicography ( launched the 11th, last volume of Croatian Encyclopaedia in December 2009 at the special inauguration in Zagreb. This large and demanding project started in 1999. Croatian Encyclopaedia is a key work of Croatian lexicography and includes more than ten thousand pages, seventy thousand articles and more than a million lines of text. In 2013 the encyclopaedia became available online together with other lexicons (i.e. film lexicon, lexicon on the work of Miroslav Krleža etc.) produced by the MK Institute.

Chapter published: 04-05-2017

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