Written by Sydney Cohen (California University)
My first week in the Czech Republic literally felt like a dream. I had tons of time to explore the city, to discover cool bars and pubs, eat Czech food, and just basically be on a European vacation. I knew coming here, I’d have to study and that Prague would become my actual reality, but I was so not prepared for the grueling battle of learning the Czech language.
Before you call me lazy or say that chinese and arabic are way harder (which they prob are) I am going to throw some Czech words at ya and see if you can guess what they are without using google: zmrzlina, čtvrtek, Německo. Just take an educated guess on what these things mean. The first one to me looks like a pharmaceutical drug....that word means ice cream. Just like take that in for a minute. That crazy word with a total of 5 letters in sequence without a vowel means a delicious, summertime treat. The second word is just the hardest word to pronounce like ever. So difficult that I want to write it phonetically but I have no idea what letters I would use. By the way that is the word for Thursday. The last one is just not intuitive. I would be thinking perhaps a type of nut? A tool for bashing my brains in? Nope that means Germany.
I am a very typical American and I am really only fluent in English. But I took French for 5 years and I have 3 quarters of college level Spanish under my belt as well, so I’m not completely language retarded. I actually understand a lot of both French and Spanish I just struggle when it comes time for me to say an intelligent sounding sentence. Unfortunately for me, Czech is a Slavic language meaning that it shares similarities with Russian and Polish (both of which I don’t know) and the only shared word with English is robot.
Having said that, my Czech teacher is such a chiller. The people in my class may not agree, but I know she is really cool under her elementary school teacher looking exterior. My friend Hannah actually says she looks like Mrs.Puff from Spongebob...the resemblance is uncanny.
She really tries to help us with pronunciation, and I have to say, she is one of the most patient people I have ever met. She has been with us from 9:30-1:45 everyday this week and will be for another week of hellish intensive learning. I just think about sitting in a warm, small basement room with 12 college students who are completely slaughtering your mother tongue for nearly a full day, for two weeks. She’s resilient I’m telling you.
Also the pace at which we are learning Czech makes me feel like my brain is melting. In one day we learned the following:
2) numbers up to 100
5) social questions
6) how to conjugate verbs with the ending -ovat. (emailovat is a verb...)
In addition to learning Czech I have begun grocery shopping because I would rather spend money traveling than eating. Side note: never thought there would be a day where eating wasn’t my financial priority.
Grocery shopping at home is so easy! everything has a section, things are in English, I know how to read indigent lists and nutrition info and there’s peanut butter and hot sauce readily available. You guys have it good! Shopping here if you didn’t figure it out already is the opposite of all those things I just listed. Also you have to bring your own bags or you’re gonna drop some bank. I bought a bag that is much too big. The amount of things I can fit into it makes is a Mary Poppins bad but when it comes time to take it home I’m up a creek without a paddle.
That’s the other grocery shopping kicker. My closest grocery store is walking distance down a hill. Meaning I have to walk up hill with my groceries. This walk was the worst the day I bought condiments. Glass jars = me taking the elevator to my floor because I was ruining my sweater and probably my posture lugging that stuff.
Although I can’t say I have taken these in stride and been super mature about them, (no judgement from any of you until you have a Czech quiz on a Friday morning) these challenges haven’t been screwing up my life too badly. Having 200 other people facing the same challenges makes it easier and more fun to complain about.