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Czech Life

Sugar, coffee, chocolate

We are having weekly language lessons.  I use “weekly” in the loosest sense possible, as since we moved here at the beginning of October we have had two lessons in total.  We are progressing at a rate so slow, it’s not perceivable to the human eye.

I think I had wonderful language teachers at school. Crazy but enthusiastic men and women who never spoke English, in a bid to make the students learn. One of them actually shed a tear at the lack of students wanting to go on the French exchange. However, none of them used some of the vocabulary that our language teacher (crazy lady who tells me that I know “nothing, NOTHING!” in a mildly hilarious way) used last week.  What, pray, is a diphthong*?

She also mentions declensions, participles and conjugations.  I am familiar with, if not totally understanding of, these words because I have a very good friend who teaches Latin. When you learn Latin, you need to know this sort of stuff because it’s a language that nobody has spoken for ages.  There’s not so much vocab to learn – like car, or computer, or European Union – because these words didn’t exist when people spoke Latin.  So Latin teachers have to spend time teaching you all the mind-bogglingly complex grammar stuff, rather than just letting you chat about your weekend, like they do in French-class. 

Apparently I am not the only one who finds Czech difficult.  Approximately all Czech people also find it a complete nightmare, to the extent that lots of young people can’t even say the Czech word for the number four.  Czech kids make up rhymes to help them with the tongue-twisting consonant extravaganza that is their mother tongue.  Jitka, our hilarious teacher has taught us one of these as a sort of vocal exercise (like stretching but for languages). It goes like this “Cukr, kava, chocolada, lemonada, caj, rum, boom”.  Which translates roughly as “Sugar, coffee, chocolate, lemonade, tea, rum, boom” i.e. total rubbish.  The problem with this is that I am one of those people who gets one line of a song into their head and then sings it on repeat for the next forty-eight hours.  Which means that for the last two days I have wondered around my new home town mumbling something that equates to “red lorry yellow lorry”.

No wonder I don’t have many friends.  

*Wikipedia has since told me that a diphthong means literally “two sounds” or “two tones”), also known as a gliding vowel, and refers to two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable.  In most dialects of English, the words eye, boy, and cow contain examples of diphthongs. Who knew?!


About CzechingIn

A blog about an English lady living in Prague.


3 thoughts on “Sugar, coffee, chocolate

  1. Hi Czechingin,
    Unfortunately, you do need to know about declensions, participles and conjugations before you really are able to talk about what you did at the weekend. For example, in Czech, the city you now live in is called ‘Praha’. However, as you may have noticed, Prague Castle isn’t ‘Praha hrad’ but is ‘Pražský hrad’. And if you want to go from Prague it is ‘z Prahy’. And do you know what diacritics are? And that Czech has 7 cases!

    Many Czechs do realise how difficult their language is. Recently, the bill for a meal + drinks that we had in a local bar-restaurant came to 444 Kč. We had great fun asking the waitress to say that in Czech – čtyřista čtyřicet čtyři!!

    Posted by chaplain.cz | December 13, 2010, 11:34 pm
  2. It’s actually not so bad once you get the principles!

    Posted by Miss Knedlíkova | December 16, 2010, 10:57 am

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