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Teaching children the Croatian language

Teaching children the Croatian language

What is the best time for children to start with learning Croatian and what is the best approach to learning a language, when it comes to children, we asked prof.Mihaela Naletilić from CRO to go, an educational centre specialized in ONLINE Croatian language courses.

Prof. Naletilić has a lot of experience in teaching Croatian, but we were wondering what brought her to the idea that even little children can successfully learn Croatian ONLINE?

“As all great ideas usually, establishing the CROkids program for online Croatian lessons for children age 6 to 14, came to me on its own.

We were already working with a large number of adult students from all over the world who are learning Croatian with us, but then I started getting e-mails from parents…mostly from Croats living in the USA, Canada or Australia who wanted to enroll their children in our program.

This was a completely new challenge for me. We already had excellent learning material and online programs for adult students but teaching Croatian to a six year old was a whole new story to me! 

Learning a language should be like playing with building blocks – logical, simple and fun! – this was always our motto and it has shown to be successful both with adults and children.”

So, with help of her colleagues at CRO to go prof. Naletilić developed the CROkids program that is especially tailored for children.

What are the children’s reactions to online learning?

A long time ago, when I was working in a school we had a visit from a puppet theatre.I was talking to one of the actors who was in a show, and he told me:

“Children are the best audience. There is no pretending there. If you are boring them, they will simply get up and live the room.” And that is the truth. 

When we start with online lessons, I like to warn parents that not all kids are crazy about learning ONLINE, or in the words of one little girl: 

“Online lessons are not my cup of tea!”

And that is totally all right. I myself am a type of student who prefers live lessons. 

But I must say that most children love the lessons because they are fun, adjusted to their age, and what is very important for children – not to long! 

How do you keep children interested in the lesson?

Like I said, lessons are short and fun, and we use a lot of side material – cards, pictures, educational games to keep children interested. A lot depends on the teacher. 

You have to have something special to teach children. At the same time you need to be fun and serious, a bit strict, but also friendly and be just a bit of a child yourself to connect with children. 

Not all teachers have it, but our CRO to go teachers who work with children are definitely like that! 

Or, in the words of one of our little students: 

“If only my school lessons were fun as my Croatian lessons.” – Giulio, 8, Pennsylvania.

Where are the children you work with located and how old is your youngest student?

We recommend that children should be at least 6 years old before starting and have some basic reading skills. However, our youngest student is 5 and he is doing excellently. His mother has been speaking to him in Croatian from the day he was born and that is a huge help to our program!

Our little students are located all over the world, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Europe…

We also talked to Ms. Ana Matak, a Croatian language teacher at CRO to go and a favourite teacher to a lot of students. She has been teaching Croatian to children as well as adults for number of years. We asked her what are the problems that she encounters when teaching children. 

“When you are on a lesson with children, nothing is too difficult because teaching children brings up your own creativity and motivates you to make something in a fun way, to make it easier and fun.

The biggest problem might be that children cannot separate their current emotions from the lesson. If they are tired, hungry, or had a bad day in school it will reflect on the lesson,” says Ana.

teaching the kids croatian

Ana Matak, Croatian language teacher

For the end of this conversation we asked prof. Mihaela to give some advice to parents who want their children to learn Croatian. 

“Our methods have been very effective because children learn from everyday conversation … and we want them  to be able to say to their parents simple things like: Mummy, make me a pie.  But for that, we need parent’s help.

If you are a native Croatian speaker – talk to your children. In Croatian. I talked to a lot of parents who speak Croatian who feel bad that they gave up talking with their children in Croatian. 

There is no need to feel bad about it, we all have busy schedules and sometimes it is just easier and more convenient to talk in the language that your child uses in every day life. 

But it is never to late to start. If you speak Croatian yourself, every day you have is a new opportunity to teach your children Croatian,  and don’t miss out on that.  Just a few simple words every day will sometimes be enough. And if you are not a native speaker – give your child an opportunity to learn.

teaching the kids croatian

If you want to learn more about CROkids program, visit www.crotogo.hr 

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