Zagreb - Post Report Question and Answers
How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Most young people speak English well, especially in Zagreb. We started learning Croatian but stopped when we realized we could easily get by with English, and that the locals usually had good enough English that they almost seemed annoyed with us trying to speak Croatian. (No, Croatians are very friendly, but for efficiency's sake, they just moved on to English). I'd say that learning at least greetings is good, and also how to say you don't understand or that you don't speak Croatian, unless of course you do/are learning it. - Jan 2023
A post-language instructor is available for those who can. There are also affordable tutors in town, like Cro2Go. Plus, there are language schools in town.
I would say it is not necessary to speak Croatian, no, but it really helps. The times when I found it most helpful were when I was using a service. For example, not all taxi drivers speak fluently (although they speak it, just not confidently) and sometimes your request at the meat counter in a grocery store get lost in translation. - Jul 2018
People will tell you that you don't need Croatian at all and that everyone speaks English. I haven't found that to be true. I was able to do 3 months of full time study at FSI, as well as 6 weeks of tutoring at post, and I still struggle with language. If you live close to downtown you will find many English speakers. Further out in the hills and suburbs, not so many. It helps if you know German. Most labels in the grocery stores do not have any English---usually just Croatian, Italian and some other random language such as German/Polish/Bulgarian. Younger Croatians usually speak English, but many of the middle-aged women who work as cashiers in the stores and malls do not. Most Croatians will tell you they don't speak any, but often they are afraid of making mistakes with the English they DO have. Croatian is a difficult language to learn, but getting some of the basics will be really helpful. The embassy language teacher is great, but the fact that the Embassy is 30-45 minutes drive from most family housing makes it nearly impossible for spouses to take language classes with her. Street and directional signs are all in Croatian. - Apr 2016
Croatian is not absolutely required to live in Zagreb but is really helpful for reading signs and talking to people at some of the restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations. The same goes for anywhere tourists frequent. That being said, Croatians really appreciate when a foreigner (especially an American) is able to speak even a little bit to them in Croatian so I would make an effort to pick some up even if not strictly required for professional or personal living purposes. - Aug 2014
None in the restaurants. But if you want to talk to neighbors or the taxi driver you will need some Croatian. Most people speak some English. - Jun 2014
A few local phrases will carry you your whole tour. Most of the locals speak GREAT English, especially the younger ones. Almost all the movies at the 5 theaters in town are in English with Croatian subtitles. - Feb 2014
Not much at all. Croatians speak English extremely well. In Zagreb there will just about always be someone around who speaks it well enough to help you out. But it of course can't hurt to speak some Croatian, as you will encounter some folks who don't speak English. - Jan 2012
A lot! So you don't feel you are a "stranger." Although young people speak English and you can get by with it. To me, it was important to know the basics of language especially with customer service, since it's not that great and many cashiers don't speak English well. - Dec 2011
Some. It is not all English speaking, but the younger generation speaks English very well! - Oct 2010
None. Most Croats speak EXCELLENT English, especially the younger generation. - Mar 2009
You can get by with just a little. Many young people speak English in the city. Outside of it, it is a different matter. Some Italian is spoken on the coast. Many speak German. - Mar 2009