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« Funny and Interesting Things | Main | Fall 2015, Issue I »

09/24/2015

Czech is a Difficult Lanuage

by Corey Palermo, Rice University - CIEE FAMU Film Studies Production track

 September 17, 2015

Czech language professor Ludek Broucek.

I’ve been here three weeks and learned a fair bit of basic Czech, including general pronunciation, numbers, introductions, restaurants, and grocery stores. I’ve received compliments from Czechs on my accent and my ability to learn new words quickly. Unfortunately, I’m hopelessly far from understanding the grammar rules, let alone fluent communication.

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I think there are two key difficulties in learning Czech. The first is pronunciation. It’s true that Czech words are pronounced exactly as they are written. That helps. However, learning to pronounce the Czech alphabet properly can take some time, and some letters are pretty damn frustrating. For example, there’s the notorious “Ř.” This letter is pronounced like a rolled r muddled together with a sort of “zheh” sound. This wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t commonly used, but sometimes it feels as though a word with this hell-spawn appears in nearly every other sentence.

The second major difficulty is grammar. The suffixes at the ends of words change depending on whether they are subjects or objects, singular or plural, masculine or feminine, etc. For example, to order two beers, you have to use the words for “two” (“Dva”) and “beer” (“pivo”). To say it properly, you must say, “Dvě piva.” You have to alter both the number and the object. Isn’t that lovely?

So basically, the bottom line is that I can get by saying everything improperly…people will understand. I’ll just sound like a small child, or a horribly illiterate young man.

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