Proposed Czech profile

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Chung
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Proposed Czech profile

Postby Chung » Sun Jul 24, 2016 8:37 pm

LANGUAGE PROFILE - CZECH

General information

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.

Varieties/dialects

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
    3) syntax
    4) nominal and adjectival declension
    5) vocabulary

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.

E.g.

- 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)

vs.

- 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.

E.g.

    - 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.

E.g.

    - 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.

E.g.

    - 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.

    E.g.

      - 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.

      - li "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 () is the same as or quite similar to the ending for singular masculine adjectives in Slovak () 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.

    E.g.

    "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.

    E.g.

    "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.

Learning material

i) Books
    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

Credits

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.
Last edited by Chung on Sun Aug 07, 2016 10:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Cavesa
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Re: Proposed Czech profile

Postby Cavesa » Sun Jul 24, 2016 9:51 pm

Just a few notes that I think may be worth incorporating:

Not only do the czechs tend to dislike the Russian language, the knowledge of it has never been as high as officially claimed. The situation is trully not like "hey, he doesn't respond but he surely understands" which is what some Russian tourists believe, that is simply not the reality. Yes, the older people were all "studying" Russian but without both motivation and good resources. Even the teachers were often lacking the necessary skills and education. So, you'd better bet on other languages, with the exception of the Karlovy Vary area and the growing Russian and Ukrainian expat communities. Still, Russian will get you further than Polish, despite Poland being our neighbour. Very few people are learning the language and the mutual intelligibility is much weaker that that with Slovak.

I would like to point out that the Common Czech is no reason to be afraid of learning the langauge. Czech is not Arabic, the "diglossia" is really made to look much worse than it is. Half the country speaks a variant of common+dialect that is actually very close to the standard Czech. And for practical purposes: everyone will understand your Standard Czech. And you'll have no trouble understanding the Common one as the whole difference are a few verb endings and that's it. The non standard vocabulary is mostly a matter of regionalisms. Czech is approximately as much a diglossiac langauge as French, certainly not much more.

To the mutual intelligibility: The idea of children and teenagers not understanding Slovak anymore is a very popular thing to complain about among the old people. However, our Slovak community is growing so even the children are likely to have friends that use the langauge. And quite everyone learns to understand it perfectly at the university as the slovaks make up to one third of the students in some fields. The (among some people dreaded) idea that the two langauges will become trully foreign in just a generation or two is very unlikely to become the reality. Should you happen to fall in love with Slovak and learn it well, you'll get Czech comprehension as a bonus. Trully. Foreign students studying in Czech (examples I personallly know are natives of Spanish, Arabic, Moldavan, Albanian, totally not just Russians and Ukrainians contrary to popular belief) seem to get used to Slovak (used by some classmates and teachers) well.

Literature. Thanks for noting more about it than Kundera and Kafka.It is sad to include Kundera and Kafka as our main writers as they are not exactly czech writers. Kundera wrote most of his works in French and even was against having some of them translated, that is quite an important detail. It's not like noone had wanted his works, he simply seems to dislike his former country so much, he generally doesn't even talk to czech journalists. He is a french author of czechoslovak origin. Kafka lived here but wrote only in German, so while we can be proud of him as of a czech german jew, the Kafka obsession of the czech tourist industry is a bit misplaced. We've got others as well. Čapek (the best czech author ever, in my opinion, and at least Nobel Prize Nominee, even though he didn't get it) and Seifert are among the best examples. But it might be good to mention a rich tradition of crime stories. While the authors may not be known worldwide, they are worth a look for any crime novel lovers interested in the Czech language and culture. We've got as well some fantasy and sci-fi authors that definitely don't lose in the international comparison, such as Žamboch, Kulhánek, Kadlečková (at least she has been translated to English, not sure about the others), Neff. When it comes to comedy, Ivan Kraus is a very good representant.

To the movies: please add Pelíšky to the list, as that's probably one of our best movies ever and part of the cultural background every czech knows and refers to in various situations. We've also got a rich tradition of movie fairytales. Tři oříšky pro Popelku is a Christmas classic (here and in Norway from what I've heard), but there are many more and beautiful.

Out of tv series, probably the most notable (with an international prize or two) is Vyprávěj, a comedy series mapping the life of a czech family as the years and decades went, based on the spanish format of Cuentame cómo pasó. For those starting their listening practice with shorter genres for children, Večerníček is a 50 year old tradition of short (10mins) animated movies to watch before going to sleep. I'd say the series Rákosníček and many others could serve an intermediate learner. A beautiful one is Krkonošské pohádky, even though with a bit archaic language (on purpose), but avoid the official subtitles, they are horrible, incomplete, and useless.
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Re: Proposed Czech profile

Postby smallwhite » Mon Jul 25, 2016 2:37 am

Chung wrote:Because of Czech's inflective nature, personal pronouns are usually omitted unless the speaker wishes to emphasize the subject of a sentence.


I know zero Czech but I suspect you mean SUBJECT personal pronouns are usually omitted? And not direct object, indirect object, reflexive and possessive personal pronouns as well as implied above?
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Re: Proposed Czech profile

Postby Chung » Thu Aug 04, 2016 2:36 pm

Děkuju moc, Caveso a smallwhite! When I get a bit of free time I will incorporate your comments and observations into the profile as well as fix some typing and formatting errors.
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RAMDRIVEsys
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Re: Proposed Czech profile

Postby RAMDRIVEsys » Wed Aug 16, 2017 7:40 pm

Sorry for necroposting, but as a native, 24 year old Slovak speaker I disagree on some points of profiles for both Czech and Slovak.

1. I have never, ever heard of any Slovak teenager or child having problems with understanding Czech. This might be an issue on the Czech side (although, as I will write in the next paragraph, very much exaggerated by people who love to whine about how rotten the young generation is (what I noticed is that the "cutoff age" being mentioned is always slightly below the person doing the complaining, say, a 20 year old will say everyone under 15 has problems, a 25 year old that everyone under 20, a 35 year old that everybody under 30 etc.), but I would say it is near impossible on the Slovak side, as the saturation with Czech language medis is immense. My 3 and 5 year old nephews watch cartoons in Czech dubbing without any understanding problems. Note that time passes on, and even through I am 24, I was actually born after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, yet I got so much Czech exposure that I can not only understand it but write and speak it!

2. Relating to the previous point, this (and the Slovak profile too) heavily overestimates the role of Czechoslovakia and heavily underestimates the role of linguistic similiarity in mutual intelligibility between these 2 languages. I have not lived a single day in Czechoslovakia yet I do not only understand the language perfectly but also know it actively (without any active learning at all).

3. The level of understanding of Slovak by Czechs is theoretically lower due to lower media exposure. In practice, in daily conversation, even for complex topic, you are unlikely to notice it - I spoke Slovak to Czech kids as young as 10 and had no problem. Where it is felt is the area of reading books, watching TV series etc.... many Czechs have no problem with normal conversation if you speak Slovak, but they are afraid to read a book or watch a movie in Slovak due to fear of not fully understanding it (in my opinion this is more psychological than real, we Slovaks have more confidence in this because we are surrounded by Czech, also many Czech parents behave kinda hypocritically as they complain about rotten youth supposedly understanding Slovak less yet automatically translate Slovak to Czech for their kid, not even giving them a chance to understand, while Slovak parents just tune to a Czech cartoon and expect their kid to immediately understand it (and I remember I always understood, except for the few words I had to ask).

4. I would say that the Czech and Slovak languages share a very high degree of similiarity and intelligibility not due to Czechoslovakia (some people seem to think CZ and SK share no history except for Czechoslovakia and that people before and after it magically stopped to understand a very close language), but because 1. they come from the same subfamily within West Slavic, 2. before codification of Slovak Czech (pure and Slovakized) was used by Slovaks as formal, written language since the 14th century. This lead to heavy influence of old Czech on developing Slovak, to boot, the only Slavic language that you could get Western Christian religious texts was Czech. This influence runs so deep, even our name for Jesus (Ježiš) is from Czech, as all other Slavic languages used forms like Jezuš, Jezus, Isus etc., only Czech changed the u to i because of "česká prehláska" (Czech umlaut). Slovak people now and in Czechoslovakia were not really required to know Czech passively, but if you were a literate Slovak from 1400 to 1850, you either wrote in Latin/Hungarian or in Czech. Literate Slovaks in that period thus actively knew Czech. Prescriptivist linguists rally against Czech loanwords, yet official Slovak absorbed the whole Czech cultural vocabulary - there is no "mluvit" in SK yet a contract is a "zmluva", there is no "umět" in Slovak yet art is "umenie" (old rural dialects usually used loanwords for these things in both languages).

I will post a Slovak text and the same text in Czech, to make it clear mutual intelligibility is not just some priviledge that only 50+ years olds who lived in Czechoslovakia have:

Slovak:

Nakupovanie

Pokiaľ niečo potrebujeme alebo po niečom túžime a máme peniaze, ideme nakupovať. Na nákupy sa dá ísť autom, alebo autobusom, či vlakom, v prípade že to máme ďaleko. Nakupujeme v obchode, alebo v obchodnom stredisku, pretože tam je viac obchodov na jednom mieste. Peniaze sú obvykle mince a bankovky. Keď nemáme peniaze, môžeme sa spýtať kamaráta, či nám požičia. Pokiaľ máme viac než osemnásť rokov, môžeme si kúpiť poľskú vodku a cigarety. Ale nemôžeme si kúpiť marihuanu, pretože obchod s drogami je v Poľsku nelegálny.

Czech:

Nakupování

Pokud něco potřebujeme nebo po něčem toužíme a máme peníze, jdeme nakupovat. Na nákupy se dá jet autem, nebo autobusem, či vlakem, v případě že to máme daleko. Nakupujeme v obchodě, nebo v obchodním středisku, protože tam je více obchodů na jednom místě. Peníze jsou obvykle mince a bankovky. Když nemáme peníze, můžeme se zeptat kamaráda, jestli nám půjčí. Pokud máme více než osmnáct let, můžeme si koupit polskou vodku a cigarety. Ale nemůžeme si koupit marihuanu, protože obchod s drogami je v Polsku nelegální.

Yeah, there are very different words that are not in this text, like ťava-velbloud (camel), cencúľ-rampouch (icicle), lopta-míč (ball). Every one of them is a loanword, a 5 year old can learn them. My mom is Ukrainian yet after she learned Slovak she understands Czech, yes, I have seen native English speakers say they don't understand Czech after learning Slovak, I have also seen those same people claim to not understand Western Slovak dialects so I highly doubt they were really good in Slovak. It also depends on if you learn Slovak naturally or you only strictly learn the standard like a robot with no exposure to even mildly nonstandard Slovak.
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Re: Proposed Czech profile

Postby Chung » Thu Aug 17, 2017 1:19 am

RAMDRIVEsys wrote:Sorry for necroposting, but as a native, 24 year old Slovak speaker I disagree on some points of profiles for both Czech and Slovak.

1. I have never, ever heard of any Slovak teenager or child having problems with understanding Czech. This might be an issue on the Czech side (although, as I will write in the next paragraph, very much exaggerated by people who love to whine about how rotten the young generation is (what I noticed is that the "cutoff age" being mentioned is always slightly below the person doing the complaining, say, a 20 year old will say everyone under 15 has problems, a 25 year old that everyone under 20, a 35 year old that everybody under 30 etc.), but I would say it is near impossible on the Slovak side, as the saturation with Czech language medis is immense. My 3 and 5 year old nephews watch cartoons in Czech dubbing without any understanding problems. Note that time passes on, and even through I am 24, I was actually born after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, yet I got so much Czech exposure that I can not only understand it but write and speak it!


Your comment about the cutoff age really does jive with what I've observed about people in general (not just Czechs and Slovaks) as different generations or age groups take shots at each other. Usually older people complain about the foolish young people (although young people complain about old people being dead wood or too conservative)

To be honest, I'm a bit surprised to see that you as a Slovak declare openly that you can write and speak Czech. It's not that I don't believe you, but my observation of my Czech and Slovak friends is that Czech and Slovak will be exchanged. Only if pressed will a Czech use Slovak (if he/she can) and a Slovak use Czech (if he/she can). This observation is somewhat tied to the implication of the juxtaposed text on shopping. You native speakers perceive Czech and Slovak to be so close that it's (still) often deemed pointless to learn the other's language to the point of active fluency given the reality that each side will understand each other on the first try at least 90% of the time with this back-and-forth in Czech and Slovak (I suspect that interpretation and translation are different matters, though. If someone insists on a translation to Slovak, one into Czech won't do). In other words, passive fluency is enough for most people still. It's hard to see how someone can develop active (and grammatical) fluency in any language without actually writing and speaking regularly, although I won't deny it when you post that you can speak and write Czech. Forgive me if I'm wrong but it's just that I think that your case is not the norm. I also know that Slovak students can submit all of their coursework and exam results in Slovak while studying at Czech universities since the professors don't really consider Slovak to be that foreign let alone unintelligible. On one hand I think that this represents a missed opportunity for Slovaks to develop active command of Czech, but hey, mutual intelligibility yo!

On the flip side, I know only one Czech friend who willingly uses Slovak and for a while I thought that she was Slovak considering how she was talking to all of us (Czechs, Slovaks and me) in Slovak. It was only when she switched for the rest of the time in Czech that I started to wonder. I then asked about her background and found out that she moved to Slovakia for high school but did her elementary schooling and university studies in Czech Republic.

RAMDRIVEsys wrote:2. Relating to the previous point, this (and the Slovak profile too) heavily overestimates the role of Czechoslovakia and heavily underestimates the role of linguistic similiarity in mutual intelligibility between these 2 languages. I have not lived a single day in Czechoslovakia yet I do not only understand the language perfectly but also know it actively (without any active learning at all).


I thought that I had made it clear enough in the profile that Czech influence on Slovaks was going on for a few centuries by noting that Czech was the literary language of Slovaks before the codification efforts started in the late 18th century. The days of Czechoslovakia did reinforce the similarity because then you got public education and mass media put through in a way that was never experienced when Slovaks were still living under the Hungarians. There was a lot of stuff in Czech (it certainly helped its prestige that it was associated with the wealthier part of the federation and a larger speech community), and with military or civil service, lots of young Czechs and Slovaks rubbed shoulders with each other so lots of opportunity for Czech and Slovak to influence each other (although I get the distinct impression from observing my friends' older relatives that Czechisms in Slovak are greater than Slovakisms in Czech). Of course, Czech and Slovak are already very similar because the respective dialects that constitute the standards were quite similar (well, at least more similar to each other than to other Slavonic languages)

RAMDRIVEsys wrote:3. The level of understanding of Slovak by Czechs is theoretically lower due to lower media exposure. In practice, in daily conversation, even for complex topic, you are unlikely to notice it - I spoke Slovak to Czech kids as young as 10 and had no problem. Where it is felt is the area of reading books, watching TV series etc.... many Czechs have no problem with normal conversation if you speak Slovak, but they are afraid to read a book or watch a movie in Slovak due to fear of not fully understanding it (in my opinion this is more psychological than real, we Slovaks have more confidence in this because we are surrounded by Czech, also many Czech parents behave kinda hypocritically as they complain about rotten youth supposedly understanding Slovak less yet automatically translate Slovak to Czech for their kid, not even giving them a chance to understand, while Slovak parents just tune to a Czech cartoon and expect their kid to immediately understand it (and I remember I always understood, except for the few words I had to ask).


This is kind of what I was getting at previously when I brought up Czechisms in Slovak or Czech being more prestigious in practice during the Czechoslovak era. Slovaks are more likely just to go with it than Czechs even though when it comes to speaking, neither side often cares. Your comment about Czech surrounding Slovaks reminds me of how it's still quite easy to find Czech dictionaries (or even Czech textbooks) for foreigners in Slovakia, but it's not the case in the Czech Republic for Slovak stuff unless you go to a special store (I laughed a bit when I found Prague's only Slovak bookstore. Would it have killed Luxor or Panta Rei to have Slovak inventory?). I actually bought a solid Czech-English dictionary in Bratislava many years ago which I couldn't find in any of the bookstores that I visited in the Czech Republic.

RAMDRIVEsys wrote:4. I would say that the Czech and Slovak languages share a very high degree of similiarity and intelligibility not due to Czechoslovakia (some people seem to think CZ and SK share no history except for Czechoslovakia and that people before and after it magically stopped to understand a very close language), but because 1. they come from the same subfamily within West Slavic, 2. before codification of Slovak Czech (pure and Slovakized) was used by Slovaks as formal, written language since the 14th century. This lead to heavy influence of old Czech on developing Slovak, to boot, the only Slavic language that you could get Western Christian religious texts was Czech. This influence runs so deep, even our name for Jesus (Ježiš) is from Czech, as all other Slavic languages used forms like Jezuš, Jezus, Isus etc., only Czech changed the u to i because of "česká prehláska" (Czech umlaut). Slovak people now and in Czechoslovakia were not really required to know Czech passively, but if you were a literate Slovak from 1400 to 1850, you either wrote in Latin/Hungarian or in Czech. Literate Slovaks in that period thus actively knew Czech. Prescriptivist linguists rally against Czech loanwords, yet official Slovak absorbed the whole Czech cultural vocabulary - there is no "mluvit" in SK yet a contract is a "zmluva", there is no "umět" in Slovak yet art is "umenie" (old rural dialects usually used loanwords for these things in both languages).


I actually think that you're downplaying the role of Czechoslovakia, although I repeat that I thought that I made it clear that the mutual intelligibility of Czech and Slovak was reinforced in that time. I agree that mutual intelligibility between Czech and Slovak arises also as a legacy from the use of Czech (or rather older forms of Czech) as a literary language for Slovaks and their being Western Slavonic languages. It didn't arise because of Masaryk and didn't start to fall drastically as of 1993.

RAMDRIVEsys wrote:I will post a Slovak text and the same text in Czech, to make it clear mutual intelligibility is not just some priviledge that only 50+ years olds who lived in Czechoslovakia have:

Slovak:

Nakupovanie

Pokiaľ niečo potrebujeme alebo po niečom túžime a máme peniaze, ideme nakupovať. Na nákupy sa dá ísť autom, alebo autobusom, či vlakom, v prípade že to máme ďaleko. Nakupujeme v obchode, alebo v obchodnom stredisku, pretože tam je viac obchodov na jednom mieste. Peniaze sú obvykle mince a bankovky. Keď nemáme peniaze, môžeme sa spýtať kamaráta, či nám požičia. Pokiaľ máme viac než osemnásť rokov, môžeme si kúpiť poľskú vodku a cigarety. Ale nemôžeme si kúpiť marihuanu, pretože obchod s drogami je v Poľsku nelegálny.

Czech:

Nakupování

Pokud něco potřebujeme nebo po něčem toužíme a máme peníze, jdeme nakupovat. Na nákupy se dá jet autem, nebo autobusem, či vlakem, v případě že to máme daleko. Nakupujeme v obchodě, nebo v obchodním středisku, protože tam je více obchodů na jednom místě. Peníze jsou obvykle mince a bankovky. Když nemáme peníze, můžeme se zeptat kamaráda, jestli nám půjčí. Pokud máme více než osmnáct let, můžeme si koupit polskou vodku a cigarety. Ale nemůžeme si koupit marihuanu, protože obchod s drogami je v Polsku nelegální.

Yeah, there are very different words that are not in this text, like ťava-velbloud (camel), cencúľ-rampouch (icicle), lopta-míč (ball). Every one of them is a loanword, a 5 year old can learn them. My mom is Ukrainian yet after she learned Slovak she understands Czech, yes, I have seen native English speakers say they don't understand Czech after learning Slovak, I have also seen those same people claim to not understand Western Slovak dialects so I highly doubt they were really good in Slovak. It also depends on if you learn Slovak naturally or you only strictly learn the standard like a robot with no exposure to even mildly nonstandard Slovak.


On what is understandable or not it depends from one person to the next. I will note though that in my experience, the lack of exposure does have consequences and it's more noticeable among Czechs than Slovaks (again see preceding comments)- it's tied to the problem that you noted with Czech parents translating Slovak for their kids rather than giving them the chance to figure it out. The following examples are just among my friends (people in their 20s and 30s educated in Czech Republic or Slovakia). One time, I responded to a yes-no question (in Czech) from a friend from Ostrava just with hej. She asked me again and I actually had to "translate" hej to jo (a little silly from my point of view even as a foreign speaker/learner of Slovak - she then added that she had thought hej meant "hi, hello"). Another time just as I got to a house party, I was asked by a friend from around Kutná Hora what I had brought to the party and replied Mám pri sebe šíśky a pivo no to which she drew a blank at šíšky to which I had to add koblihy. Lastly, I asked under a Facebook-post by a friend from Prague: Štekli to?. I got the reply Nerozumím. Co to "šteklí to"? and a few minutes later someone else commented that he couldn't understand how a multilingual Czech (fluent in English and French, and knows some German) couldn't understand Slovak. It was a small revelation for my friend to learn from Google Translate that štekliť is the Slovak counterpart of lechtat. In none of these instances did I see the need to express myself in Czech, but well...

I indeed had problems understanding Czech (primarily spoken) after having studied Slovak on my own. I'm one of those foreign learners you mention who long ago had zero exposure to Czech and nothing but textbook Slovak. To the surprise of a Slovak friend, I struggled even more than usual when I first watched a Czech news broadcast at his place and a Slovak one was tough enough. It wasn't until after I had learned some Czech (as in bought a couple of textbooks to learn some grammar and hear some contrived dialogues - thanks Colloquial Czech!) that I could begin to deal with Czech. I write and speak Czech less often than I do Slovak, but whenever I do, I make a serious effort to use Czech as I learned it. This extends to the "little things" like saying Češi rather than getting lazy and saying Česi or writing zase rather than zasa where applicable (of couse I could make it easy and just use zas or znovu and no one would be any wiser ;) )
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Re: Proposed Czech profile

Postby RAMDRIVEsys » Thu Aug 17, 2017 8:01 am

To be honest, I'm a bit surprised to see that you as a Slovak declare openly that you can write and speak Czech. It's not that I don't believe you, but my observation of my Czech and Slovak friends is that Czech and Slovak will be exchanged.


Neřekl jsem, že se svými českými přáteli mluvím česky, pouze že česky umím ;).

I don't speak anything but Slovak to my Czech friends but that doesn't mean I don't know Czech. I learned written Czech from all the reading I did in it and I remember that after I watched NatGeo documentaries in Czech as a 5 year old I would always spoke about their content in Czech (about all else I spoke Slovak). I don't see what is so strange about it, I think most Slovaks know some Czech actively because of exposure (I once saw a funny anecdote about someone who saw 5 year old Slovak boys playing and they spoke Czech to each other while thinking they were speaking "English".

My spoken Czech is much worse than my written however due to me pronouncing ř as ž, Slovak accent etc.

Btw heh, on Česi vs Češi, most of us actually use Češi. In both Western and Eastern Slovak the sound changes lead to Češi, Česi is only a Central Slovak word (I am from Western Slovakia but family spoke pretty close to standard but not completely). My mom never had to look up any Czech resources, just living here surrounded by Czech media was enough. Nobody speaks pure official Slovak either.

As for Czechoslovakia, I might have overreacted but I have seen people saying stuff like "If Polakoslovakia was a thing, Polish would be more intelligible than Czech, Slovak is really closer to Polish than to Czech" which is complete nonsense, posting the same text as previously now:

Zakupy

Gdy coś jest nam niezbędne albo gdy czegoś pragniemy i mamy pieniądze, to robimy zakupy. Na zakupy można pojechać samochodem albo autobusem czy też pociągiem, w przypadku gdy do sklepu mamy tylko kawałek drogi. Zakupy robimy w sklepie albo w centrum handlowym, bo tam jest więcej sklepów w jednym miejscu. Pieniądze to zwykle monety i banknoty. Jeżeli nie mamy pieniędzy, możemy spytać przyjaciela czy nam pożyczy. Jeżeli mamy więcej niż osiemnaście lat, to możemy sobie kupić polską wódkę i papierosy. Nie możemy sobie kupić marihuany, bo handel narkotykami jest w Polsce nielegalny.

Besides, I would separate mutual intelligibity and passive billingualism. I asked my Czech friends about how intelligible Slovak was for them at first contact with it and all have said 80-90 percent. So 80-90 percent of the intelligibility is inherent and 10-20 percent is exposure. I would not say actual mutual intelligibility has fallen by any degree, actually, due to relaxed language policy post-1989 media no longer use the strictly puristic Slovak they used under Communism so I would say that inherent mutual intelligibility has actually increased in the last 25 years. What has somewhat decreased is passive billingualism among Czechs. I agree parents do badly when they automatically translate Czech, but I don't see it tragically, as the kids began watching Slovak youtubers at age 10-12 on their own anyways and Slovak hiphop is fairly popular among Czech youth (GogomanTV for example has more Czech subscribers and commenters than Slovak and he is a Slovak youtuber whose content is mostly aimed at tweens and early teens). I cannot find the link atm, but I also have read that younger Czechs tend to underestimate their Slovak knowledge and understanding while older Czechs tend to overestimate it (my 14 year old Czech friend who watches Gogo on Youtube probably understands Slovak better than some arrogant old person who prides himself on understanding Slovak yet has not heard any Slovak in the last 20 years, and he has no problems with watching Slovak TV either).

I just respond because there is an unbelievable amount of misinformation on this. If you were to believe some stuff people (mostly neither Slovak nor Czech) post on the internet, you would think Slovak is some Polish-like language that has began rapidly diverging after 1993 and that sounds like Mandarin to any Czech born after 1993 (besides, you would really have to be born before cca 1989 for your understanding to be impacted by Czechoslovakia in any way as the fact that someone was an infant in Czechoslovakia will not change anything).

I would suggest erasing the "Much the same has occurred in Slovakia with Slovak teenagers and children having increasing difficulty in understanding Czech" part entirely as it is patently untrue and unsupported by evidence from both profiles (and in fact would limit the movie and book selection of Slovak youth severely). I would also separate inherent intelligibility and passive billingualism and just write that some Czechs have (usually rather mild) problems understanding Slovak due to lack of exposure (I would avoid mentioning age at all, as I said this greatly varies and depends on multiple factors, for example I know of 16 year old people from Moravia who have no problem reading Slovak books and of 35 year olds from Bohemia who wait for CZ translations of Slovak books. I would also argue that for example inhabitants of Chodsko or Eastern Slovakia understand the other language now much better than before, as they mostly spoke very divergent dialects as late as 1960s.

Also, Slovak is not just related to Czech through being West Slavic,but part of the same sub-subgroup too (Czecho-Slovak).
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RAMDRIVEsys
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Re: Proposed Czech profile

Postby RAMDRIVEsys » Thu Aug 17, 2017 12:35 pm

To demonstrate what I mean, take this for example http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/fo ... PN=1&TPN=4

"If things stay as they are, Czech and Slovak will eventually diverge and be as different from each other as Spanish and Portuguese for example. Even now, some Czechs and Slovaks are noticing that Czech children are starting to have difficulty understanding Slovak and vice-versa. "

No, no, just no. Both standard and spoken Slovak are pretty much the same as 30 years ago, actually more similiar to Czech (for example in 1960s grammar books they say every instance of "le" is said with a soft l, apart from some regions in Central Slovakia nobody speaks like that now and TV people often use Bratislava hard pronounciation which would not be tolerated during communism).

The languages are not diverging and there is no "vice versa", it is a Czech issue because they stopped including Slovak in their media. The language is not diverging, some speakers just lack exposure now. Actually the people with the most problems are Serbian Slovaks who were never exposed to Czech and speak archaic Slovak from before codification.
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Cavesa
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Re: Proposed Czech profile

Postby Cavesa » Thu Aug 17, 2017 2:56 pm

About varieties/dialects:

Actually, a big part of the regional differences lies in adhering more to the standard Czech, or adhering less to it. That is why the whole standard vs. spoken + dialects as a separate issue idea is highly imprecise. The so called Common Czech, that is actually the complex of the dialects, it is not a separate register in real life. I simply don't get why is the "diglossia" being depicted as such a big thing in Czech, when it is no more of an issue than Colloquial French, English, or Spanish.

People speak the dialect, and most can speak the standard too, when it is appropriate Common Czech is a used term in Czech textbooks for natives too, but I don't think any "Common Czech", that would be logically common to most or all the natives, exists. Some regions basically speak the Standard Czech + some regional vocabulary, and they are proud of it. The Prague dialect is much further from the Standard Czech, and probably would be the closest to the idea of Common Czech. However, imagining these two as equal is not only considered seriously offensive by many people outside Prague, it is also not realistic.

Learning with background in other languages:
English natives also struggle with the pronunciation. For example, the two languages treat vowels very differently.

Natives of romance languages seem to encounter similar issues to the English natives, as far as I can tell.
Slavic natives' biggest problem tends to be the accent on the first syllable, and the melody of the sentence. The Russian natives tend to sound "singing". (Slovak is a separate issue from the others)

The main problem of many Slovak natives is not willing to learn. Many live here for decades and refuse, which causes problems in some professions (dealing with old people hard of hearing is a good example, or small children).

Grammar example i
Já se doma češu. I would say this version of the sentence highlights the verb. like "I don't know what things are you doing at home, but I comb myself." It is a weird example, but I think this is the right interpretation
Češu se doma. I would understand this as a version highlighting the "doma". like "You may be combing yourself at work or in a tram, but I comb myself at home".

example ii česal, not češal

iiiActually, sometimes the adjective goes behind the noun. That is perhaps not appropriate to add into a review for people not knowing Czech and considering it, but it does exist. It brings a different nuance to the sentence. Na severu byli němečtí vojáci, na jihu vojáci čeští. There were german soldiers in the north, in the south were the czech ones.

in the part about spelling and loanwords rytíř, not rytieř. Knoflík, not knoflik.

It may be worth mentioning, that the not standard variants of Czech include even more German loanwords. Some are understood quite anywhere, many are regional. In general, the non-standard loanwords are much more common among the older people.

Careful about false friends. There are many false friends with English, French, Russian, and surely others as well and could be woth mentioning. These tend to confuse people a lot, as if there weren't expected to be many. An example (opening my dictionary of "faux amis"): brigade in French means a group, a group of soldiers, workers, policemen,and so on. Brigáda in Czech is a very common word for seasonal jobs, part time student jobs. The original sense can be encountered too, but rarely outside the theme of soldiers. Or another: émission and emise can be both used in the context of ecology, radiology, or economy. But emise simply does not mean a radio or tv piece. Compromission is a negative term, meaning giving up on one's values, or about compromising material or situation. Kompromis is word meaning meeting each other halfway, with both sides giving up something to reach agreement. It is often a positive word, or neutral, sometimes negative, that depends on the nature of the agreement.

The intelligibility with Slovak Yes, it works like this very often, a teenager with little experience with Slovak enters university, and suddenly has lots of Slovak classmates. Therefore the mutual understanding of both groups improve, especially as Czech is often not being demanded from Slovak natives even in writing, which is sometimes at the edge or against the university regulations, and it is viewed as a controversial issue by some students and teachers.

Other than that, it is interesting that some books or movies are being sold in Czech in Slovakia. But it doesn't work so in the other direction. No matter how absurd it is, even native Slovak authors are being translated to Czech. Actually finding a Slovak book in original is no easy task in Prague. It is possible, yet much harder than finding even a French one.

the part about the colloquial-standard distinction As I said, the colloquial is much more dependent on region, than it seems. Dobrej is simply not being used colloquially in half the country. And natives from those parts find this generalization very offensive and tend to consider this thing, much more typical of Bohemia and especially Prague, rather barbaric.

I think a part of the problem might be pragocentrism of language course makers. Yes, Prague is without any question the most important part of the country, and the most well known one abroad. So much, that some foreigners know Prague, but have no clue it lies in the Czech Republic (some try Czechoslovakia, others even worse). But assuming that every learner is going just to Prague is mistaken, and the information based on this assumption imprecise. If they go to Brno, they will make much better impression NOT using the -ej and similar stuff. They will not seem more knowledgeable like "that's cool, he speaks naturally like is." It will be "heh, he tries to speak like a Praguean". The same is true about oheň and voheň. You will not usually hear voheň in Southern Moravia, not even from teenagers. And you will sound barbaric and "trying to sound like a Prague person" to natives there, if you speak like that.

Simply put, the so called "Common Czech", or "Colloquial Czech", as the courses tend to put it, is usually Prague Czech, or Bohemia Czech (or part of Bohemia). There is nothing wrong about Prague Czech, I speak very non-standard and Pragueish Czech too (but I've been using many more swearwords, since the beginning of my regular contact with classmates from the Ostrava region, or slovaks :-D ). But it is absolutely wrong, confusing, and offensive, to pretend this so called "Common Czech" is common in the whole country, especially in Moravia.

"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)

This example of "Colloquial Czech" is absolutely wrong, no matter what kind of Colloquial Czech you are aiming for!

If you want the most colloquial Czech, the Prague variant, it will be českEJMA chlapama, ženskejma, a dětma. And that would be very informal even for many Prague natives. Mužema and ženama is absolute nonsense, I wouldn't trust your source after this. It is simply wrong and no native would ever say that. The common words (chlap is like mec in French) would be used, or the standard Czech would be, if you wanted the standard words. The common informal variant in Southern Moravia would still be the Standard Czech one. And most people everywhere, would say "do hospody", as restaurace is rather formal, from middle class restaurant up. Hospoda is a wider term, I'd say from upper middle class restaurants down.

"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)

Again, wrong.

Dyť is the highly informal variant of vždyť, which is the informal variant of avšak. That means however. That is the closest meaning, but there are a few equivalents, like nevertheless, but, and so on.
Vždycky is the informal variant of vždy. Not only it is definitely not Standard, it means always. A totally different word.
And here is actually a really Common Czech word, that is likely to be used by most natives: kafe. Káva is Standard, and rather formal.
May I ask where did you find this?

"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)

Another mistake. No Czech native would ever say dom. That is simply not Czech at all. Dům is the only variant. If you want the real colloquial word, use barák. Maj novej is correct, but only in some regions. It would still be considered wrong in Moravia. They simply consider the Prague dialect, and all the similar ones, wrong.

"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)

I am not sure anyone would use "Čekají/Čekaj mě". "Čekat dítě", that is a term for being pregnant, or sometimes it is used for the whole couple of future parents, "Čekají/Čekaj dítě". But otherwise, it is not used.
In Standard Czech, both "Čekají na mě." and "Čekají na mne." are gramatically correct, while the other is more formal. But that doesn't make the first one less standard. In the Colloquial Czech, and again in the Prague variant and not that often in the South Moravia, it would definitely be "na mě."

"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)

The first Standard Czech variant is correct. The other variant is Standard too. It would be used a bit differently, since there is the personal pronoun, more likely as "What were you doing during the weekend? I was at a concert." "Co jsi dělal o víkendu? Já byla na koncertě." Nothing not Standard about this.
Colloquial would be "Byla sem na koncertě v Praze." without the "j". That would be colloquial in Prague. In some parts of Moravia, the only colloquial variant would be "Byla jsem na koncertě v Prahe." This wrong/colloquial (depends on one's taste) declination of Prague is a regional thing. And a moravian would of course say jsem, as sem would be considered Pragueish=barbaric :-)

"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)

The difference between the Standard and Colloquial Czech simply doesn't lie in using or not using personal pronouns, that is a feature used in both contexts. The Standard version, as a standalone sentence, would most likely be Včera jsme napsali dopis. Your syntax is a different nuance. The Colloquial Czech would most likely be Včera sme napsali dopis.

In your context, like "you may have written the letter this morning, we wrote that letter yesterday", it would be:
My jsme ten dopis napsali včera. (St.)
My sme ten dopis napsali včera. (Col., and not everywhere)

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)."

This is controversial, as you rightly explain. Neither of them is/was writing in Czech, at least not as their main language. Kundera was, probably still is, actively creating obstacles to some of his works being translated to Czech. Calling them the greatest Czech authors actually uncovers how little we value the real ones, or perhaps that there are too few good classical authors here. I cannot remember Lenkadv, but I would have said it the same way, perhaps adding Mácha on the list, as a representant of older literature (romanticism).

Among modern Czech authors (those considered serious literature), some of the translated and more known ones are Topol, Klíma, Viewegh.

Where did you dig up Už Jsme Doma? I have never heard of that, and I have heard of a lot of various stuff. It may be important for some subgenre, but it is definitely not the kind of group to put first on the list. The most well known is Karel Gott. He won the national popularity survey "Český Slavík" (The Czech nightingale) 41 times! And he is quite well known in Germany, at least among the older people. Kabát should also be on the list. It is a rock band (sometimes mockingly called agrorock), that is very popular. It represented the Czech Republic in the Eurovision the first time the country participated, and the only time the representant was actually being chosen by public.
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Cavesa
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Re: Proposed Czech profile

Postby Cavesa » Thu Aug 17, 2017 3:04 pm

"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)


One more thing: the articles. This would be more "na tom koncertě". It sounds less formal, but it is not non-standard. The English article "the" means that the concert is a known one. The one that was announced on all those billboards and posters. The one making everone forget there may be another smaller concert hidden somewhere in Prague too. Therefore Byla sem na tom koncertě v Praze. We know what concert we are talking about.

Byla jsem/sem na koncertě v Praze. That is more like "I was at a concert in Prague."
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