I spent much of yesterday evening counting to fifty (in Czech). I repeated this, out loud, over and over for about forty (čtyřicet) minutes. I chanted numbers on and on like some sort of deranged mathematician. I stopped at fifty (padesát) because after fifty the ending (the –desát bit) stays constant and only the start of the numbers change. By being able to count to fifty, I can by default, count to 100.
This emergency solo lesson was prompted by the fact that I was unable to ask the woman in the shoe shop for a shoe in my size (37 to 38) recently. These pesky european sizes mean that learning to count to ten is not really adequate.
Plus, I have now lived in Prague for 8 months. The fact that I can’t count to a hundred is quite pathetic. My vow to learn one word per day has been broken uncountable times. Hubby and I opted for private lessons with a teacher who came to our house once a week. Error. Unless you have been homeschooled you will know that the best thing about classes of 30 is that there’s always someone to hide behind…. Much harder with just two. We try to have one lesson per week. We have missed the last nine…
It is hard to know quite what to do. My friends here have varying approaches to the language issue. Some have taken the view that they are not here for ever, there are more ‘useful‘ (ouch) languages to learn and everyone in Prague speaks a really high level of English. Whilst I have some sympathy with that argument, I really do want to learn a bit more. If only so I can purchase shoes that fit.
Other friends took intensive courses upon arrival. Many of them still have friends they studied with, which is nice (although they all speak English rather than Czech, to each other) and the ‘short but painful‘ appears to have paid off.
Everyone else we know seems to be going out with or married to a native Czech, which I think is cheating a bit. It’s like having a 24/7 teacher, with the advantage of providing a linguistic wing-man to talk to the grumpy waiter once you’ve exahusted your perfectly pronounced “a table for two please“.
I just want to learn a bit more ‘emergency’ Czech. I can order from a menu, as long as the vocab doesn’t vere too far away from our textbook. I would like to extend this to asking for shoes, getting a train ticket, buying food and locating the nearest hospital. My last visit to the butcher ended up requiring some rather crude gesturing in order to get the rump steak I was after.
In certain situations I can just about hold my own. I am one of those sadists who go to Bikram yoga quite regularly. For the uninitiated, Bikram involves 90 minutes of ‘power yoga’ at 42 degree heat. It’s slightly hellish but the women that go every day have the best bodies in the world and if Bikram Choudhury is to be believed, it will mean I am able to touch my toes when I’m ninety. Regular attendance at Bikram means that I know the Czech for “breath in and out through your nose”, “touch your forehead to your knee” and “lock your standing leg”. This is unlikely to assist me anywhere else, but I’m one step closer to getting my foot behind my head.
The words you learn in extreme circumstances ( and by ‘extreme’ I mean 42 degree heat, whilst standing on one leg with your forehead on your knee) stay with you the longest I think. Bikram involves counting down from eight to one at the end of postures. After last night’s efforts I can count to fifty with confidence, but I am particularly proud of my one to eight.