My Story

Czech is commonly regarded as an extremely difficult language to learn. I would agree that to master the language is a very difficult task. With determination and application it is possible, however, to get a basic usage of Czech fairly quickly, and I must say that I have found Czech people to be very helpful if you make the effort to speak to them in their own language. Comparatively few people speak Czech, looking at matters from a world perspective, and many Czechs are now learning English, so it would be logical to ask: why learn Czech at all?

There are several reasons for learning Czech. Perhaps one has family in the Czech Republic. Many descendants of Czech emigrants now cannot speak their native tongue, and may have relatives still in the Republic, who speak no English. Perhaps it is for reasons of business. As the Central European market has opened up to western businesses, the need may be felt to learn something of the language. For tourism? While it is true that one can visit Prague, or one of the other larger cities, and manage quite adequately with English, if you truly want to experience the country then some Czech is necessary - even if only phrase-book Czech.

In my own case, learning Czech was rather thrust upon me. My wife and I live close to Heathrow airport in West London, and the local area is extremely cosmopolitan. In fact in our locality it is estimated that some 140 languages are spoken! As Christians, my wife and I feel the need to speak to others to communicate our faith, and we have learned basic greetings in quite a few languages. However, a few years ago there was an sudden influx of people, mainly seeking asylum in England, from Kosovo (Albanian speaking) and from Czech Republic. Few of these people spoke any English, so we found ourselves struggling to learn Czech and Albanian! Some of our friends took up the study of Albanian, but no-one seemed interested in learning Czech, so my wife and accepted the challenge.

The Czech people we worked among were mainly Romanies who had been persecuted in their home country, although it is also true to say that some took advantage of the situation to try to secure a better life economically. They were a very friendly, hospitable people and as we made efforts to communicate with them in their language, they were appreciative and gave us much assistance and encouragement. The more Czech we learned, and the more time we spent with these people, the more we came to love the language. After visiting Prague for the first time we came also to love the country. We now holiday in the Czech republic as often as possible, visiting smaller towns away from the larger cities, and we have made many friends there.

It is now several years since we began our study of the Czech language, and we are by no means fluent! It is still a struggle. Most of the people who helped us when we began have either returned home, or been moved to other parts of England as government policy here has changed, so we now have few opportunities to practice speaking the language. We meet the occasional au pair, or family passing through London, but it is mainly on our visits to the Czech Republic that we have opportunity to flex our language muscles, as it were. Then there is the problem that so many Czechs are wanting to practice their English with us!

Having no structured language lessons available in local colleges we found that we had to use text-books and cassettes to learn on our own. So we are very much self-taught. We do have friends in Prague who kindly correct us when we make our (frequent) mistakes, and we keep up an e-mail correspondence in dual languages, correcting each other!

The resources we have found useful are itemized on the other pages of this section, and it is our hope that you find these helpful.

If you do decide to learn Czech, we wish you every success and hope that we have been able to encourage you in some way by means of this site, and point you in the direction of useful aids in your endeavor.