Whether you were posted to Prague by an employer or just find yourself lingering here after a period of study the first obstacle you will have noticed will be the language.
Anyone proficient in English will probably recognise words in Spanish, Italian and French that share Latin roots. But isn’t Czech, Slavic in origin, a different beast entirely?
Those of us not making any effort to learn Czech is doomed to a life of mixing mainly with other expats, without fully participating in the wider experience of this culturally rich Central European country.
There are those for whom learning a new language is easy. I am not one of them. My school French is still, after many years, good enough to get me into trouble, but progress in Czech is slow.
I’ve been here in Prague for just over five months now. My original idea was to study how to teach English, though I quickly abandoned that ambition when I noticed my tutors wore tattered clothes (not a good earner, then!).
Indeed, nearly a quarter of people in the Czech Republic speak are able to speak English and a majority of them probably live in Prague.
So I find that my new city is quite easy to navigate without much Czech. Apart from the expat community, workers in shops and restaurants have enough English to know what I want or need.
But I make an effort nonetheless. To date I have about a dozen useful words (and perhaps another half-dozen I’ve had absolutely no cause to use).
The handy ones include: please, yes, no, sorry, thank you, hello, goodbye, bag (good for supermarkets and potrivny corner shops), beer and tobacco. Yes, a jumble – but they help get me through each day.
As I said earlier, I’m not a natural with new languages. Yet I feel ready to dedicate time learning Czech now that my survival instinct has forced me to acquire useful words.
I will be well on my way when I can use Czech’s shortened grammar (especially verbs and diminutives), get my tongue around long vowels and soft consonants and stress my pronunciation.
Ultimately, I look forward to the day when I am able to activate the language well enough to be able both to speak and think in Czech.
So I’m making an effort to attend free classes in Czech kindly offered at The Spot Cafe (www.letsmeet.cz) . I know it’ll be worth it and that doing so will open up Prague and the Czech Republic for me in ways I cannot imagine right now.
Bez práce nejsou koláče!
guest post by Russell Cavanagh of https://expatinpraha.net