No, I can’t speak Czech.

Here is the entire list of things I can currently say/understand in the Czech language. Aside from the first three items, it’s probably the most oddly specific, limited, and essentially useless beginner vocabulary I have ever had in a foreign country, ever.

Hello / Hi.

Please.

Goodbye.

This train terminates at __________.

Next stop.

Exit/entrance (which look ridiculously similar).

Transfer to line A.

Lie down on your back and kick your feet in the air, then get up and do star jumps.

Jellyfish.

Please stand back from the doors.

Request stop.

End of compulsory ticket zone.

That’s it. Not even “thank you” has made it on to that list, and I’ve been here since the end of July. Lest you think I’m rude and ungrateful, I must point out that I have, in fact, learned the word for “thank you” approximately 50 times per week, and promptly forgotten it within about 2 minutes each time – what’s that about??? It simply will not stick in my head. Even when I do remember and try to say it, I can’t pronounce it, and the vowel sounds of the syllables inevitably come out in the wrong order – the equivalent in English would be a foreigner mumbling something like “thunk yeh vary mouch” and then scuttling off in embarrassment.

Alternatively, I gape blankly for a moment, panic, and somehow accidentally say it in Korean.

Fortunately, most people in Prague immediately switch to English the second I open my mouth, but still.

Czech lessons begin on Friday.

 

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3 thoughts on “No, I can’t speak Czech.

  1. One good thing about living in Korea as a Westerner is that people assume automatically that you *can’t* speak any Korean. It’s probably a little trickier there – that is, until you open your mouth. ; ) But here’s a question: after being instantly identifiable as a foreigner for the last 4 (or more?) years, what’s it like to feel like you blend in now?

    • I was actually mulling over a post on that topic! But for now, I’ll just say that the main positive is the not being stared at. Walking down the street, standing on the subway, browsing in shops, and realising that I look just like everyone else. No one stares. It feels like freedom after living in a quiet neighbourhood in Daejeon, where I was one of only two foreigners! The downside is the one you mention – everyone assumes I speak Czech, and when you’re still at the total beginner level of not being able to distinguish actual words in the babble of sounds, that means you spend a lot of time with a blank, stupid, panicked expression on your face until they realise you don’t have a clue!

  2. Shax says:

    Depending on how formal do you want to be, you can just say “Díky”, instead of Děkuji. Either way, GL learning Czech, the grammar may be hellish but learning some basic vocab and few sentences won’t be that hard =]

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