Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Czech language for novices

Okay, I forgot a couple of other very important Czech beers yesterday... and NO, Budvar is NOT Budweiser! There's a naming dispute...

Hi friends, so as I mentioned yesterday, my madre is heading Prague-wards in a few days, and I couldn't be more excited for her!  It's a city that I love, and want more folks to explore - but many people are understandably concerned about the language barrier.

In Prague, most Czech people do speak English, quite well (not always the case outside of Praha, you've been warned...).  But the language is a huge part of Czech identity - with strong neighbors such as Germany and Poland, and a history of Soviet dominance, I think it is very important to people that their language remain intact.  Also, fun fact - legend has it that the popularity of marionettes in the CR is tied to their role in preserving the language via puppet shows for children.

It's a gorgeous language, not deeply guttural like Russian, but soft and spoken at the front of the mouth.

Here are a few words off the top of my head.  There are NO silent letters in Czech, and everything is pronounced phonetically - I never formally took Czech lessons, so PLEASE don't ask me about gendered words or grammar... however, if you know Czech yourself, please correct me or add to this in the comments!  

There are a few pronunciations to know (there are a few more accents than this, but these are what I consider the essentials):

ř = rj (i.e. Dvořak)
č = ch (česka = czech)
c = ts (Vaclav = Va-ts-lav)
š = sh
z = zh
j = y (consonant)

The letter r is always slightly rolled

Good day: Dobry den
Good evening: Dobry večer
Please/excuse me: prosim
Fried: smazeny
Cheese: syr (= seer)
Yes: ano (often people will just shorten it to "no," which is confusing!)
No: ne (= nay)
One: jedna (= yedna)
Two: dva
Beer: piva/pivo (gendered... like a lot of things)
Jsem: I am (ee-sem)
Amerikanka: American (feminine, can't remember the male, but "Jsem Amerikanka" is super helpful when people accidentally think you speak more Czech than you do...)
Vegetable: zeleninova
Ice cream: zmrzlina
Goodbye: na shledanou
To your health: na zdravy
English: Anglicky (on-glitz-ky)
Hi (casual): ahoj (ahoy)
Pozor: danger
What can you add to this list?

(image via, under Creative Commons)

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