Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tongue-Tied in Prague

Hi Everyone,

Living in a new country means adapting to the new place on many levels.These levels include culture and society, manners, and language, and a few others. This is called the acculturation process, and it must take place in order to have a full and healthy life in a new country. This is not an easy process…it can take many years before acculturation is completed. In my case, one of the hardest parts of the acculturation process is the Czech language.

Czech is part of the West Slavic language family and is the official language of the Czech Republic …it is spoken by about 12 million people in this country, except for me, of course! I am in the process of learning Czech, but it is not an easy language to learn. In the past, I have learned Spanish pretty in-depth, and then also learned a fair amount of French… so I have had a little experience with other languages. But Czech is proving to be a harder language—mostly because of some “special” sounds, like “ř” (something like a rolled “r” with “zh” at the end), and “ch” (something like the “ch” in German, but not quite as explosive). English has several “explosive” letters such as “B,” “K”, “P”, and “T”—we pronounce them with a lot of “h” in them…but in Czech, these same letters are not so explosive and have no “h” sound at all. So, its necessary to learn how to not pronounce these letters in the English way…not so easy a task! Czech also has many words with no vowels, and to make matters worse, each noun has 7 cases (which is really 14 when you include the plural forms). So, this language is a bit of a challenge for many foreigners, including me. 

I have some language books, a huge Czech-English dictionary, a book on Czech grammar to help me (plus a live-in Czech teacher—my husband!). But I’ve also found a couple of programs that have been very helpful. One of them is Before You Know It, by the Transparent company, and a free version of the Pimsleur Czech Language Course online. There are also numerous websites that offer free material to help learn Czech. Here are a couple of that I’ve found very useful: Local Lingo, The Czech Language on the WWW, Omniglot , and These are all pretty good and very helpful. I have already learned a little Czech, but it is only very simple at this point. I am able to understand more than I can say, though! 

This coming fall, I’ll also be joining a formal language class for foreigners. One guy who has already taken the class for several semesters says it’s pretty tough—he is still not able to speak fluent Czech, though he can understand more than when he first began the classes. He also said the classes will be only in Czech, with the theory that it’s best to jump right in there and start swimming! I guess…but that’s not my favorite way to learn! However, I want and need to learn the language as it can be very isolating when you don’t speak the language in a new country! Before classes start, though, I’m going to try to learn some more on my own…hopefully that way I will be able to understand a little bit more of what goes on in class!! I really do need and want to speak Czech—my Czech family, here, would be very happy about that!  Plus, it would sure make everyday tasks easier…and easier to make new friends, etc! 

This acculturation process, for me, is happening on many levels. It is a bit of a challenge at my age to try to adjust to a new place…even to Europe. This is the first time I’ve ever lived outside of the US, though I have traveled a little bit. Still, living full-time in another country is an entirely different matter than just traveling. Language is one of the hardest parts of this process for me, along with a value system that is a bit different than what I was raised with.That’s OK, though…this is all part of the adventure and learning! I’ll let you know how this language-learning progresses as I go along!

That’s all for now…you all have a great day!

God bless,

Sher :0)

© 2008 by Sher Vacik


Lori said...

I want to thank you for sharing this blog, and this entry in particular. My husband and I have a fervent desire to live overseas, and the Czech Republic is one of the strong possibilities. Knowing we will have work ahead of us - especially in the language department - is good knowledge to have! I look forward to your continued posts.

Sher said...

Hi Lori,
Thank you very much for your comment and encouragement about my blog! Its great to hear that others can benefit from the experiences I'm sharing here! All the best to you and your husband--and hope you get your wish to live overseas one of these days!