Czech (Čeština) is a Slavonic language spoken by approximately 11 million people worldwide. Czech is closely related to Slovak, slightly less so to Polish and Sorbian and even less so to the other Slavonic languages such as Russian, Ukrainian, Slovenian and Bulgarian. It is the official language of the Czech Republic.
It is also spoken by ethnic Czechs in Poland, Slovakia, Germany, and Croatia. Some descendants of Czech immigrants in Australia and the Americas also speak the language natively.
The usefulness of Czech is limited to Czech Republic and Slovakia. As in many countries in Central Europe, ESL teaching is widespread and many young adults and teenagers speak at least some English. Many older Czechs speak varying degrees in German. Given the proximity to Austria and Germany, German is still a useful language for Czechs who work in tourism and commerce. Those who had come of age during the communist period also studied Russian as part of the mandatory imposition of Soviet culture during the Cold War. However, the quality of the instruction was uneven and the relatively low enthusiasm among students attributable to the negative association of the language with communist oppression and Soviet-led crushing of the Czechoslovak uprising against communism in 1968 has meant that knowledge of Russian among Czechs (and Slovaks) is generally spotty. In recent years, the situation has changed somewhat with the influx of Russian tourists in Prague and the spa town of Karlovy Vary. One may now find signs in Russian and/or Czechs who will speak Russian to cater to these visitors.
Standard Czech (spisovná čeština "written Czech") is taught in schools and used for official purposes while Common (or Colloquial) Czech (obecná čeština "general Czech") is often used in conversation. The standard language is based strongly on how the language was used at the turn of 16th century with particular inspiration drawn from the Bible of Kralice. There are also dialects that differ from both Standard and Common Czech. In the west are the Bohemian dialects (of which the one in Prague is but one) while in Moravia there are Central Moravian, Eastern Moravian and Lachian or Silesian. One can regard the zone of Western Slavonic languages as a dialectal continuum. The Bohemian dialects tend to merge gradually into the Moravian dialects as one travels eastward. In turn, these Moravian dialects gradually merge either with Western Slovak dialects as one travels further east into Slovakia or with Silesian dialects of Polish as one travels north and east through Moravia into Poland.
Learning with a background in other languages
According to FSI, it takes approximately 1100 class hours to achieve professional speaking and reading proficiency in Czech for a motivated learner who knows only English.
As suggested in the section on intelligibility, learners with a background in other Slavonic languages will find learning Czech less onerous to various degrees depending on how similar their respective native languages are to Czech.
For English speakers, the greatest difficulties in my opinion when learning Czech are:
- 1) verbal aspect
2) verbs of motion
4) nominal and adjectival declension
Overview of grammar
Like Slovak, stress in Czech is fixed on the first syllable of words. Vowels can be long or short. Therefore, a, e, i, o and u each have a lengthened counterpart. There is a distinction between 'soft' and 'hard' consonants. In turn, this distinction has consequences in declension as well.
- Mám cizí knihu "I have a foreign book" (cizí is 'soft', and the accusative feminine form of cizí is identical to the nominative form among others)
- Mám zelenou knihu "I have a green book" (zelená is 'hard' and the accusative feminine singular form of zelená is zelenou)
In spite of this, Czech pronunciation is rather simple despite the intimidating appearance to those unaccustomed to acute accents, hooks, -ů- and a few consonants that act like vowels (e.g. prst "finger" is pronounced something like English 'perst' but the 'er' sound is quite short. Think of the English word 'bird' as it's pronounced like 'brd' rather than 'beerd').
Like most other Slavonic languages, Czech has elaborate inflections for its nouns and adjectives.
There are seven cases: nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, locative, instrumental, and vocative.
There are in practice two numbers: singular and plural. However, remnants of the dual are present in a few instances of declension. In other words, there is neither a complete nominal and adjectival declension in the dual nor dual personal pronouns (e.g. 'we two', 'you two') as in Slovenian.
There are three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter with the masculine divided further into animate and inanimate categories in the declensions of the nominative and accusative.
There are four moods: infinitive, indicative, conditional and imperative.
There are two voices: active and passive.
Because of Czech's inflectional nature, personal pronouns as subjects are usually omitted unless the speaker wishes to emphasize the subjects. In addition, syntax can be rather free compared to English as much of the relevant grammatical information of a sentence is revealed in the inflections, suffixes and prefixes of the words. Syntax usually depends on the focus or nuance that a speaker wishes to convey. There are a few rules regarding syntax however.
i) the reflexive pronoun goes in the second position except when used in the past tense
- - Češu se doma. "I comb myself at home." (in general, as part of a routine at home)
- Já se doma češu. "I comb myself at home." (emphasizing the fact that it is *I* who combs himself regularly at home)
ii) the personal marker of the past tense always goes in the second position
- - Češal jsem se doma. "I was combing myself at home" (in general, as part of a routine at home)
- Já jsem se češal doma. "I was combing myself at home" (emphasizing the fact that it was *I* who was regularly combing himself at home)
iii) adjectives precede the nouns that they describe. In addition, adjectives must agree with the nouns that they describe.
- - český voják "Czech soldier" (masculine animate nominative singular)
- velký sešit "big notebook" (masculine inanimate nominative singular)
- česká dívka "Czech girl" (feminine nominative singular)
- červené auto "red car" (neuter nominative singular)
- čeští vojáci "Czech soldiers" (masculine animate nominative plural)
- velké sešity "big notebooks" (masculine inanimate nominative plural)
- české dívky "Czech girls" (feminine nominative plural)
- čeverná auta "red cars" (neuter nominative plural)
Spelling is quite phonemic. There is devoicing when a voiced consonant (one with a slight 'buzz') is at the end of a word or is immediately before a devoiced consonant (one without a slight 'buzz'). This devoicing is not reflected in spelling.
- - hezký "nice" (pronounced 'heski' since voiced 'z' precedes unvoiced 'k'. Therefore, the 'z' sound turns into the 's' sound)
- lev "lion" (pronounced 'lef' since voiced 'v' is at the end of the word. Therefore, the 'v' sound turns into the 'f' sound)
Czech uses the Roman alphabet with its own twists for English-speakers. The different letters for English speakers are á, č, ď, é, ě, í, ň, ó, ř, š, ť, ú, ů, ý, and ž.
Despite much of its vocabulary having cognates in other Slavonic languages, Czech has loanwords of German, Greek or Latin origin, in addition to ones from English, French, Arabic and Russian.
The German influence has been long-standing with Bohemia and Moravia having been strongly influenced by German culture since the Middle Ages.
- - rytieř "knight" (cf. Reiter), knoflik "button" (cf. Knopf), brýle "eyeglasses" (cf. Brille)
English loanwords include tím "team", puk "hockey puck", internet, and tramvaj "tramway, streetcar".
Czech uses a two-way T-V distinction like most other Slavonic languages. To address one person politely or formally, one uses the 2nd person plural instead of the 2nd person singular. For addressing more than person, the 2nd person plural forms are used regardless of the level of formality or politeness. This usually also entails using formal titles and less casual ways to greet or draw attention.
- - Dobrý den! Jak se máte, paní Horváthová? "Good afternoon! How are you, Mrs. Horvát?" (máte se - 2nd person plural, present tense of mít se)
- Ahoj! Jak se máš, Aneto? "Hi! How are you, Aneta?" (máš se - 2nd person singular, present tense of mít se)
Mutual intelligibility with other languages
Most English-speaking learners will find little in Czech that is instantly familiar at the outset apart from most of the Czech alphabet and the occasional internationalism (e.g. fotbal, gyros, mobilní telefon).
Because of the close linguistic tie to Slovak, standard Czech and standard Slovak are still mutually intelligible for most adults. This intelligibility was reinforced during the days of a federated and later communist Czechoslovak state through much of the 20th century when Czech and Slovak were designated as the official languages. Official communications, literature and broadcasts were accessible to Czechs and Slovaks in both of these languages. It was quite easy for citizens to develop a strong passive knowledge of the other language. In addition, Slovak dialects were strongly influenced by Czech as Czech was the literary language of the Slovaks for a few centuries until the 18th or 19th century. With the breakup of Czechoslovakia into separate Czech and Slovak successor states in 1993, the degree of mutual intelligibility has faded slightly. Czech teenagers and children now are more likely to have difficulty understanding Slovak than people who had grown up during Czechoslovakia's existence. Much the same has occurred in Slovakia with Slovak teenagers and children having increasing difficulty in understanding Czech. However this decline in mutual intelligibility has been countered by the continued contact between Czechs and Slovaks especially in light of the number of Slovaks studying or working in the Czech Republic.
In general Czech is intelligible in varying degrees to native speakers of other Slavonic languages without courses or special training but this "untrained intelligibility" is highest when one knows Slovak.
Here are some hints that may help with making sense of Czech for people speaking at least one Slavonic language other than Czech.
- 1) Sometime during the 13th century, a wide-ranging shift in vowels (umlaut) occured in the speech community and marks a turning point from "Old Czech" to "Middle Czech". These changes are still present in modern Czech and are part of the explanation why Czech today sounds and appears less intelligible to other Slavs than the otherwise closely-related Slovak. This development (called “česká přehláska”) entailed the frequent shift of final -a and -u after soft or palatal consonants but not before hard consonants in Old Czech to -e/-ě or -i/-í in Middle Czech.
- - kůže "leather, skin" (Czech) (Cf. *koža (Proto-Slavonic); koža (BCMS/SC, Slovak, Slovenian, Sorbian); кожа (Bulgarian, Macedonian, Russian, Ukrainian); koża (Polish))
- ulice "street" (Czech) (Cf. *ulica (Proto-Slavonic); вуліца (Belorussian); ulica (BCMS/SC, Polish, Slovak, Slovenian); улица (Bulgarian, Macedonian, Russian); wulica (Sorbian - archaic); вулицa (Ukrainian))
N.B. This change of a to e from a few centuries ago may initially cause confusion for other Slavs whose languages never underwent this change and so expect to see -a in this position. In the examples above, the Czech words are feminine singular but for other Slavs they appear to be neuter because of the final -e since the latter ending is typical for neuter singular nouns in nominative case.
- - lidé "people" (Czech) (Cf. *ľudьje (Proto-Slavonic); людзі (Belorussian); ljudi (BCMS/SC); люде (Bulgarian); луѓе (Macedonian); ludzie (Polish); люди (Russian, Ukrainian); ľudia (Slovak); ljudje (Slovenian); ludźo / luźe (Sorbian))
- Všechno nejlepší! "All the best!" (Czech) (Cf. Усяго найлепшага! (Belorussian); Sve najbolje (BCMS/SC); Bсичко най-хубаво (Bulgarian); Cе најдобро (Macedonian); Wszystkiego najlepszego! (Polish); Всего наилучшего! (Russian - rare); Všetko najlepšie! (Slovak); Vse najboljše (Slovenian); Bсього найкращого! (Ukrainian))
A tentative general conclusion is that Czech has -e / -ě and -i / -í in positions where other Slavs would expect -a and -u respectively in a cognate or "look-alike" word.
2) A particular bugbear for outsiders starting to learn Czech is the noticeable distinction between Colloquial and Standard Czech. In brief, Standard Czech is taught in school or language courses and used in official situations. Consequently the average foreign learner of Czech will be exposed mainly to this variant during study. Even though the colloquial variant is widespread and differs noticeably from the standard, the presence of two variants should not be viewed as an insurmountable obstacle for foreign students. Frequent interaction with native speakers of Czech will familiarize the learner with the colloquial variant in due course. Here are some tips that may help other learners (not just Slavs) make sense of colloquial Czech with reference to standard Czech.
a) the "older" (and standard) -ý- and -é- often correspond to -ej- and -í / -ý in the "newer" (and colloquial) variant.
"That's a good idea!"
- To je dobrý nápad! (Standard Czech)
- To je dobrej nápad! (Colloquial Czech)
Cf. To jest dobry pomysł! (Polish); To je dobrý nápad! (Slovak)
"I'm drinking good milk."
- Piji dobré mléko. (Standard Czech)
- Piju dobrý mlíko. (Colloquial Czech)
Cf. Piję dobre mleko (Polish); Pijem dobré mlieko (Slovak)
This set of changes in Colloquial Czech may initially also throw off people speaking other Slavonic languages (especially Polish or Slovak) since the colloquial Czech ending for singular neuter adjectives (-ý) is the same as or quite similar to the ending for singular masculine adjectives in Slovak (-ý) and Polish (-y) respectively.
b) Words that begin with o- in Standard Czech often begin with vo- in Colloquial Czech (similar to a tendency in Belorussian, Sorbian, and Ukrainian)
"fire", "eye", "windows"
- oheň, oko, okna (Standard Czech)
- voheň, voko, vokna (Colloquial Czech)
- агонь, воко, вокны (Belorussian)
- wogeń/woheń, woko, wokna (Sorbian)
- вогонь, око, вікнa (Ukrainian)
c) The instrumental plural in Colloquial Czech ends in -ma rather than -mi or -i/-y of standard Czech. This colloquial ending originates from one used for the dual and is cognate with the current ending of -ama/-ima in the instrumental/dative/locative plural of BCMS/SC.
"I'm going to the restaurant with the Czech men/women/children."
- Jdu do restaurace s českými muži/ženami/dětmi. (Standard Czech)
- Jdu do restaurace s českýma mužema/ženama/dětma. (Colloquial Czech)
- Idem u restoran s češkima muškarcima/ženama/djecom. (BCMS/SC)
Cf. Idem do reštaurácie s českými mužmi/ženami/deťmi (Slovak)
d) For verbs in standard Czech that end in -i for 1st person singular (i.e. "I") and -eme for 1st person plural (i.e. "we") in present tense, they will often end in -u and -em respectively in colloquial Czech. This may be initially confusing for people used to BCMS/SC, Slovak or Slovenian since -em as a finite verb ending designates only the 1st person singular.
"We are working but I am always drinking coffee."
- Pracujeme, ale já vždycky piji kávu. (Standard Czech)
- Pracujem, ale já dyť piju kávu. (Colloquial Czech)
- Pracujeme, ale ja vždy pijem kávu. (Slovak)
- Radimo, ali ja pijem uv(ij)ek kahvu. (BCMS/SC)
- Delamo, ampak jaz vedno pijem kavo. (Slovenian)
e) The standard 3rd person plural endings in present tense of -ají / -ejí / -ějí often shorten in colloquial Czech to -aj / -ej / -ěj.
"They have a new house."
- Mají nový dům. (Standard Czech)
- Maj novej dom. (Colloquial Czech)
- Majú nový dom. (Slovak)
- Mają novy dom. (Polish)
- Imaju novi dom. (BCMS/SC)
"They're waiting for me."
- Čekají mě/na mne. (Standard Czech)
- Čekaj mě/na mne. (Colloquial Czech)
- Čakajú na mňa. (Slovak)
- Czekają na mnie. (Polish)
- Čekaju me. (BCMS/SC)
N.B. The colloquial Czech forms here might be misinterpreted by other Slavs as "Have a new home!" or "Wait for me!" respectively because of their ending -aj which is typical of imperatives in other Slavonic languages.
f) The past tense for 1st and 2nd person in Colloquial Czech is often expressed just as in Eastern Slavonic with the subject being indicated by a personal pronoun rather than the corresponding form of "to be" in present tense as codified in Standard Czech.
"I [feminine] was at the concert in Prague."
- Byla jsem na koncertě v Praze. (Standard Czech)
- Já byla na koncertě v Praze. (Colloquial Czech)
- Я была на канцэрце ў Празе. (Belorussian)
- Я была на концерте в Праге. (Russian)
- Я була на концерті в Празі. (Ukrainian)
Cf. Bila sam na koncertu u Pragu. (BCMS/SC); Bola som na koncerte v Prahe. (Slovak)
"We [masculine] wrote the letter yesterday."
- Napsali jsme včera dopis. (Standard Czech)
- My napsali včera dopis. (Colloquial Czech)
- Mы напісалі ўчора ліст. (Belorussian)
- Mы написали вчера письмо. (Russian)
- Mи написали вчора лист. (Ukrainian)
Cf. Napisali smo pismo jučer (BCMS/SC); Napísali sme včera list. (Slovak)
Literature / Media / Film / Music
A knowledge of Czech will give you access to some outstanding literature. Milan Kundera and Franz Kafka are two of the more well-known authors in Czech literature. Naturally, many of the more popular works have been translated into English.
According to lenkadv of the old forum of http://www.how-to-learn-any-language.com: "Kafka and Kundera are both great authors who represent Czech culture but Čapek and Seifert (Nobel Prize winner) might be more representative of the Czech language. Kafka actually only wrote in German (being a German speaking Jew living in Prague) and Kundera is as French as Czech now (his last books were written in French and never translated into Czech)."
Mystery/crime fiction, fantasy/science fiction and comedy can also be found among Czech writers but they often escape outside attention because of the lack of translations. Jiří Březina's Na kopci ("On the Hill") is an example of a crime novel while Vilma Kadlečková's Legendy o argenitu ("Legends about Argenite") is a cycle of science fiction novels. Ivan Kraus' Prosím tě, neblázni! ("Please don't go crazy!") is a collection of humorous anecdotes about the author's family.
Some fine composers also originate from Bohemia and Moravia. Outstanding examples are Antonín Dvořák (Symphony No. 9, "From the New World"; Slavonic Dances Nos. 1-16), Bedřich Smetana (Vltava (or 'Moldau' in German) - a symphonic poem of the Vltava river from his cycle 'Má Vlast' ("My Homeland.")) and Leoš Janáček (Sinfonietta; Glagolithic Mass; Lachian Dances; opera 'Jenůfa'). Indeed music in Bohemia and Moravia has been attested over the past 1000 years and also includes folk music, religious hymns in addition to pop music, rock, metal, rap, alternative, ska, R'n'B and punk.
Modern representatives of Czech musical life include the rock bands Už Jsme Doma and Wohnout, the black metal band Root, the singers Lucie Bílá, Karel Gott and Jaromír Nohavica, and the punk rock band Tři sestry.
Czech cinema is something that seems to punch above its weight. Three films from Czechoslovakia or the Czech Republic have won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film: "Obchod na korze" (a joint production with Slovaks and set in Slovakia with Slovak rather than Czech dialogue), "Ostře sledované vlaky" and "Kolja". Films from the Czechoslovak New Wave of the 1960s are also of high repute with the aforementioned "Obchod na korze" and "Ostře sledované vlaky" dating from this period. Other notable Czech films include "Pelíšky" directed by Jan Hřebejk, "Černý Petr" by Miloš Forman, "Sedmikrásky" directed by Věra Chytilová, "Valerie a týden divů" by Jaromil Jireš and "Obecná škola" by Jan Svěrák.
Perhaps less demanding for the learner would be television series of which the comedy Vyprávěj or children's series Večerníček may be worth checking out.
- 1) Teach Yourself Czech (David Short)
- It comes with two CDs or cassettes and a textbook. It costs roughly $40 US on Amazon.
- What I enjoyed most about this course was that it had lively dialogues and useful grammar information. It also comes with exercises for each chapter with answers at the back of the book. It also has a chapter that touches on the differences between formal and colloquial Czech.
- What I enjoyed least about this course was that its presentation of grammar was somewhat unstructured and could intimidate the learner at first. In the interest of keeping lively dialogues, it's natural that the language used would have relatively complex structures for a beginner and some idioms. The grammar section of each chapter would focus on the grammatical aspects of each set of dialogues. It would have been desirable if the textbook had included more exercises.
2) Colloquial Czech (James Naughton)
- It comes with two CDs and a textbook. The audio for the second edition issued in 2011 can also be obtained as a free download from the publisher, Routledge.
- What I enjoyed about this course was that it had good dialogues (perhaps not as lively as those used in Short's course) and useful grammar information. It also comes with exercises for each chapter with answers at the back of the book. It also devotes a chapter each to formal and colloquial Czech respectively.
- Compared to Short's course, 'Colloquial Czech' has a somewhat better presentation of grammar since the dialogues are designed in a way to emphasize the grammar or theme of a given chapter. It would have been desirable if the textbook had included more exercises. As a first step, Colloquial Czech would probably be a slightly better starting point for the absolute beginner because of its better presentation.
- It costs roughly $50 US on Amazon.
3) FSI Czech FAST course (textbook by Radovan Pletka)
- It comes with twelve CDs or cassettes and a textbook/workbook.
- What I enjoyed about this course was that it had practical dialogues and succint grammar information. It also comes with exercises for each chapter. Most of the exercises are oral and consist of repeating what the speaker says. There are some exercises where you fill in the blanks while listening to the dialogues.
- Compared to Short's and Naughton's courses, the FAST course is quite dry and more utilitarian. However, if you want a course with the most audio, this is the probably the best that you can get. Even though the FAST course's introduction mentions that it is meant for people who need a crash course in Czech and cannot get access to the full FSI basic Czech course (44 weeks), I have never been able to find this full Czech course.
4) A Practical Czech Course For English Speaking Students (Miloš Sova)
- It is a textbook with 48 chapters (530 pages - including appendices with excerpts from Czech novels and outline of grammar.)
- What I enjoyed most about this course was that it has lots of exercises and that it builds your knowledge gradually. In addition, it's full of useful grammatical information, albeit it notes that some of the constructions that it illustrates and explains are rarely used in colloquial Czech. It focuses on providing a good understanding of formal Czech rather than colloquial Czech.
- Compared to more modern textbooks, Sova's textbook is old (published in 1962) and full of outdated dialogues (e.g. it still talks of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, some of the assigned texts are subtle boosts of socialism/communism.). More importantly for someone learning on his or her own, the textbook has no answer key (apparently there is a separate book with answers to all of the exercises, but I haven't found it yet). It's better to use it in a classroom setting since some of the exercises are oral and you will need a teacher or fellow student to help you with exercises where you create your own dialogues.
- As of September 2011, Indiana University's Center for Language Technology and Instructional Enrichment hosts the recordings in .mp3 of the book's dialogues and readings on its audio archive for Czech under "A Practical Czech Course".
5) Tschechisch im Alltag (Dagmar Brčáková & Eva Berglová)
- It comes with 3 CDs and a textbook and costs roughly 500 Czech crowns (~ $20 US).
- This is a course for German-speaking beginners and is quite similar to "Colloquial Czech" and "Teach Yourself Czech" with each chapter comprising a dialogue, notes on grammar and exercises. A glossary and answer key are at the back of the book.
- Despite this course being difficult to find outside Czech Republic and meant for German-speakers, I highly recommend it as an alternative to "Colloquial Czech" or "Teach Yourself Czech" because of its thoroughness and number of exercises (many of which are recorded on the CDs) provided.
6) Czech: An Essential Grammar (James Naughton)
- This is a handy and user-friendly reference guide to Czech grammar. It costs approximately $40 US on Amazon.
- It is part of Routledge's series of descriptive grammars meant for students learning how to use the target language.
7) English-Czech/Czech-English Dictionary (Josef Fronek) (Published by Leda)
- This is a larger and better overall two-way dictionary than Poldauf et al.'s version. In Fronek's dictionary, most entries contain commonly-used translations of phrasal verbs between English and Czech complete with the appropriate grammatical cases. It also indicates whether a verb is perfective or imperfective. As a bonus, it also has grammatical tables illustrating the nominal and adjectival declensions and verb conjugations. Almost all entries are linked to a pattern in the section with grammatical tables.
- This dictionary would be the undisputed master among medium-sized English-Czech-English dictionaries if it weren't for one serious flaw. Namely, it rarely indicates the perfective-imperfective pairs for the verbal entries. For example it's useful that the dictionary indicates 'napsat' as a perfective verb meaning 'to write'. However, the dictionary does not mention that its imperfective counterpart is 'psat'. As such, a learner will have a problem in finding the correct verb to use in a sentence.
- This dictionary costs about $50 US on Amazon while in Czech Republic it costs approximately 850 Czech crowns (roughly $33 US).
8) English-Czech/Czech-English Dictionary (Ivan Poldauf et al.) (10th ed. published by WD Publications or Hippocrene Books)
- Compared to the dictionary by Fronek, Poldauf et al.'s offering isn't the best overall one. It doesn't show as many examples of idioms in the entries and some of the English translations are a little unusual. However, it has one redeeming feature that makes it worthwhile. Poldauf et al.'s Czech-English section shows the imperfective-perfective pair of verbs in the same entry. This is an invaluable aid for English-speaking learners who have no idea which variant of the verb to use. If the compilers didn't include this piece of information in the entries, the learner would on average have a 50% probability of choosing the incorrect verb for use in a sentence.
- This dictionary costs about $15 US on Amazon while in Czech Republic it costs approximately 500 Czech crowns (~ $20 US).
9) Velký česko-anglický slovník (ed. Ivan Poldauf et al.)
- This is a larger version of the Czech-English section in the bi-directional English-Czech/Czech-English dictionary in 8) and has the same strengths and weaknesses in 8).
- Because it indicates explictly the aspectual counterpart of every verb, its usefulness to a student is not to be dismissed.
- Its availability on Amazon seems spotty and one would have better luck getting this through a speciality bookstore on while visiting the Czech Repbulic. It costs approximately 600 Czech crowns (~ $25 US).
10) Anglicko-český a česko-anglický příruční slovník (Josef Fronek)
- This is a new dictionary containing roughly 50,000 headwords with 90,000 words and phrases. It costs approximately 270 Czech crowns (~ $11 US) but unavailable on Amazon. One would need to order this a specialty bookstore or buy it in person in a bookstore in the Czech Republic.
- In general it is similar to Fronek's dictionary in 7) but somewhat smaller. However this dictionary is designed with foreigners in mind and in my view is a much better choice for the student of Czech. Each entry in the Czech-English section is listed with inflectional hints including the aspectual counterpart for verbs. In other words the dictionary will clearly show the perfective counterpart of an imperfective verb (or vice-versa) for headwords that are verbs.
- If one cannot find Fronek's new concise dictionary (no. 10)) then the second-best solution that I have found is to use Fronek's older dictionary for most situations (no. 7)) in this list but then turn to one of Poldauf et al.'s dictionaries (nos. 8) or 9)) when trying to determine the aspectual counterpart of a verb.
11) Anglicko-český / Česko-anglický velký slovník (Lingea)
- This is the large English-Czech/Czech-English dictionary from of a series of dictionaries by the Czech publisher Lingea.
- It contains 108,000 headwords with about 450,000 translations and 90,000 examples and idioms among the headwords spread out on 1,680 pages.
- The biggest drawback of this dictionary is that it does not give hints about the inflectional endings for the entries.
- Nevertheless I strongly recommended this large dictionary for a serious student of Czech and there are also editions of this large dictionary using French, Italian, German, Russian, and Spanish as the second language. This dictionary also comes on CD-ROM if the hardcover version would not be to students' taste.
- This dictionary costs about 1,400 Czech crowns (~ $60 US) but editions with other languages are a little less expensive (e.g. the Czech-Spanish/Spanish-Czech edition costs about 1,000 Czech crowns or roughly $40 US).
12a) Anglicko-český/Česko-anglický praktický slovník (Lingea)
12b) Anglicko-český/Česko-anglický šikovný slovník (Lingea)
12c) Anglicko-český/Česko-anglický kapesní slovník (Lingea)
- These are progressively smaller versions of Lingea's large English-Czech/Czech-English dictionary in 11).
- "Praktický slovník" ("Practical dictionary") has about 70,000 headwords, 16,000 examples/idioms/phrases, and 240,000 translations. It costs about 500 Czech crowns (~ $20 US).
- "Šikovný slovník" ("Handy dictionary") has about 35,000 headwords, 5,000 examples/idioms/phrases, and 68,000 translations. It costs about 230 Czech crowns (~ $9.50 US).
- "Kapesní slovník" ("Pocket dictionary") has about 35,000 headwords, 2,000 phrases, and 42,000 translations. It costs about 180 Czech crowns (~ $7.50 US).
- If one doesn't want to spend on the large dictionary, then the practical dictionary (10a)) would be the best choice as it doesn't excessively sacrifice coverage for better portability and lower price. The other dictionaries (i.e. 12b) and 12c)) give only the barest coverage and are probably not worth consideration for a serious student as they're no better than free online English-Czech/Czech-English dictionaries.
13) Wazzup? Slovník slangu a hovorové angličtiny (Lingea)
- This is a handy and at times entertaining dictionary of English colloquialisms and vulgarities for Czech users. Unfortunately I have not seen a comparable dictionary that translates Czech slang or vulgarities into English but it should still be useful for English-speakers if for example they'd like to know how to call someone a "douchebag" in Czech.
- It contains idiomatic translations for roughly 10,000 colloquial or vulgar expressions from most varieties of English (including Australian and South African) but is dominated by such expressions or words from American or British English.
- It costs about 250 Czech crowns (~ $10 US).
ii) Online material and links to information of interest
- Discussions or threads on how-to-learn-any-language.com involving Czech
- Slavic Language Family Learning Sequence
- Splog's Log
- Czech through Russian
- Czech words in English
- Amusing Czech sentences
- Czech resources
- Czech and Russian
- Czech and Russian - similarities?
- Regarding Czech - the Colloquial series
- How to improve my Czech learning?
- Czech numbers
- Why Czech isn't hard + some resources
- Czech and Slovak
Comparison of Czech and Slovak using dialogues in “Colloquial Czech” and “Colloquial Slovak” as presented in the log “Chung at work / Chung pri práci” (notable points of differentiation are in parentheses with lexical differences including false friends being too numerous to list below)
— Unit 1, Dialogues 1/1 (declension of 1st person singular)
— Unit 1, Dialogues 4/3 (conjugation in present tense 1, "soft" declension for feminine nouns)
— Unit 1, Dialogues 5/4 (declension of certain neuter nouns)
— Unit 4, Dialogues 1/1 (conjugation in present tense 2, declension of feminine nouns in dative/locative singular)
— Unit 4, Dialogues 2/2 (declension of rok "year")
— Unit 4, Dialogues 3/3 (Slovak rhythmic law)
— Unit 4, Dialogues 4/4 (declension of feminine possessive adjective for 3rd person singular)
— Unit 4, Dialogues 5/5 (declension of possessive adjective for 1st person singular and feminine personal pronoun for 3rd person singular )
— Unit 4, Dialogues 6/6 (Slovak pre corresponding to Czech pře- or pro-)
— Unit 7, Dialogues 1/1 (asymmetric correspondence between Czech ů and Slovak ô)
— Unit 7, Dialogues 2/2 (l-participle from verbs ending in -st/-zt / –sť/–zť, instrumental singular for "soft" feminine nouns)
— Unit 7, Dialogues 3/3
— Unit 7, Dialogues 4/4 (Czech přes and Slovak cez forming a mutually exclusive pair, conjugation of "to go" and "to take")
— Unit 7, Dialogues 5/5 (declension of "this")
— Unit 7, Dialogues 6/6
— Unit 10, Dialogues 3/3 (formation of imperative, declension of "these, those", declension of numerals 2, 3, 4, plural of masculine animate nouns, declension of nouns ending in -ctvo/-stvo)
— Unit 10, Dialogues 4/4 (nominative/accusative plural of neuter nouns, declension of "soft" adjectives, conjugation of verbs with infinitive -nout / -núť)
— Unit 15, Dialogues 1/1 (conditional mood, 2nd person singular in past tense of reflexive verbs)
— Unit 15, Dialogues 2/2 (declension of 1st person singular possessive adjective with masculine animate object, declension of "all; everybody; everything")
— Unit 15, Dialogues 3/3 (possessor suffixes, accusative of 3rd person singular personal pronoun in masculine and neuter, kinship terms)
— Unit 15, Dialogues 4/4 (comparative and superlative)
— Unit 15, Dialogues 5/5 and concluding remarks (dates, ordinal numerals, personal age)
- Unilang's Czech discussion forum
- WordReference's Czech discussion forum
General collections of links
- Ajoda's Czech links
- A wide-ranging site on many aspects of the language (e.g. grammar, education, professional organizations, media)
General treatment and descriptions of Czech's learning difficulty
- A basic profile of Czech (the source of about half of this profile's material):
- Sketch ofCzech
- A website on language difficulty for native speakers of English
Dictionaries and other databases
- Lingea's online dictionaries from 30 languages into Czech with entries showing meanings, idiomatic translations and example sentences
- Monolingual dictionary of Standard Czech
- Free online dictionary between Czech and several languages
- Dictionary of Moravian dialects
Online courses/textbooks, instructional online videos or lists of available course titles
- List of learning materials of Czech for foreigners with bibliographical information and short reviews
- FSI Czech Basic Course hosted at ERIC (textbook only)
- DLI Czech Basic Course hosted at ERIC (textbook only - warning large download! 1720 pgs, 99 MB)
- DLI Czech Basic Course: Pattern Drills Vol. 1 hosted at ERIC (textbook only)
- DLI Czech Basic Course: Verb List hosted at ERIC
- DLI Czech Basic Course: Grammar Vol. 1 hosted at ERIC
- DLI Czech Basic Course: Grammar Vol. 2 hosted at ERIC
- DLI Czech Basic Course: Advanced Phase (Air Phase) hosted at ERIC (textbook only)
- DLI Czech Basic Course: Air Force Dialogues hosted at ERIC (textbook only)
- DLI Czech Basic Course: Dictation Exercises hosted at ERIC (textbook only)
- DLI Czech Basic Course: Songs of Czechoslovakia (textbook only)
- Beginning Level Czech for Americans hosted at ERIC (textbook only)
- Intermediate Czech by Grażyna Kabat et al. hosted at ERIC (textbook only)
- Short Course in Czech Pronunciation (audio only)
- Czech Grammar by Janda and Townsend
- A Grammar of Czech as a Foreign Language by Tahal
- Reading Authentic Czech I by Privorotsky hosted at ERIC (textbook only)
- Reading Authentic Czech II by Privorotsky hosted at ERIC (textbook only)
- E.I.L. Czech: An Audiolingual Course Vol. 1 by Kucekova hosted at ERIC (textbook only)
- Extensive collections of handouts on Czech grammar hosted by The Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan and Prof. David S. Danaher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
- Pravidla českého pravopisu (Orthographic Manual of Czech)
- Internetová jazyková příručka (Online linguistic handbook - monolingual but excellent as it is both a reference dictionary showing inflection of any word entered by the user and a reference manual of Czech grammar and orthogprahy)
- Czech in Czech Republic from Langmedia at the Five Colleges Center for the Study of World Languages
- Tsjekkisk nettkurs (Online course of Czech for beginners in Norwegian hosted by the University of Oslo)
Literature and authentic texts
- Online resources for Czech literature including literary works in English translation
- Online Czech reader of texts from the 18th and 19th centuries
- Reader with selected works from Czech literature including exercises and audio hosted by Brown University
Information on dialects
- This page has an interesting link to Czech dialects and other Slavonic languages from a Czech perspective:
For those who want some information on the Moravian Czech dialects, here are two sites (for these, it's better if you can understand some Czech):
- Hantec this concentrates on the dialect spoken in Brno - on the left there is a link 'slovník hantecu' which means 'dictionary of Hantec [dialect]')
- Po naszymu (this is a nice site on the Lachian dialect spoken in Northeastern Moravia. It's especially interesting if you also know some Polish and/or Slovak.)
Bookstores that carry Czech inventory or have material of interest for students of Czech:
- Barvič a Novotný
- Bay Foreign Language Books Ltd.
- Bohemia Books USA
- Czech Books
- jn Czech Bookstore
Institutions or tutors offering lessons in Czech
- List of tutors, private firms or schools offering Czech lessons to foreigners
- Intensive courses in Czech for foreigners offered at Charles University in Prague.
- Department of Czech for Foreigners at Masaryk University in Brno.
- Courses in Czech for foreigners offered at Palacký University in Olomouc
- Private courses in Czech offered at Education Center of Ostrava
- Czech Language Groups at Meetup.com (these are groups where one can meet expatriate Czechs at meetings or events. So far almost all active groups are found in Canada or the USA but there is also a group in London)
- List of radio stations in Czech Republic and website of Czech Television which have content available as streams.
This is a somewhat modified version of my Czech profile in the "Collaborative Writing" subforum last edited on Dec. 30, 2014 at how-to-learn-any-language.com, with additional input from Cavesa and smallwhite.