Sunday, July 18, 2010

Czech language - Part 1

Now that the 6th month anniversay of us being in Czech Republic has passed, I finally (!) decided to study the Czech language seriously. 

Czech is categorized as a west slavic language. The alphabet is quite similar to English, except that Czech has long (represented by an accute accent such as ú or a ring such as ů) vowels on top of the short vowels (such as u), 6 letters with háček (ě,š,č,ř,ž,ň) and 2 letters with dash on the right hand corner like this: ď, ť. 

The pronunciation could be a bit tricky for someone like me who studied English as the first 2nd language. For instance, "ch" sounds quite similar to the German "ch." Okay, I studied German as my second 2nd language, so this part was not hard to remember.  But, I have to pay attention to something like the "ge", "c", and "j" sounds.  For instance, "energický" is pronounced more like "e-na-r(w/ tongue rolling)-ge-tsu-ki." "Co" is pronounced as "tso" and not "ko."  The hardest one is ř.  I heard most of the local kids also have problems with the sound.  The sad thing is that ř appears a lot.  For instance, when you are asked how you are and if you want to reply back saying "fine (well), thank you,"  you have to say "dobře, děkju."  When you listen to the natives saying "dobře," it actually sounds like "dobuje" - well, almost.  So, I have been compromising by just saying "dobuje" and trying to roll my tongue with the "j" sound :-( 

The Czech language, just like German, has a gender associated with each noun. You just have to remember it. The rule of thumb (with lots of exceptions ^^) is to check the ending of the noun - masculine ends with consonants, feminine with -a, and neutral with -o.  And, depending on the gender of noun, the demonstrative pronouns like the, this, that, and the possessive pronouns like my, yours, his, hers, its, theirs change.  And furthermore (!), adjectives change (in the case of strong adjectives)!

So, when I am asked to say "that strawberry is red," the first thing that I have to determine is the gender of "strawberry." Then remember to change "that" and "red" to match the gender. In this case, since the strawberry is "jahoda," and it is feminine (as it ends w/ "a"), the word "that" which is "ta" in a feminine form shall be applied and "red" which is "červená" in a feminine form shall be applied.  So, I need to say "Ta jahoda je červená."  Just to give you bit more flavor to this one, if you want to say "that apple is red," it shall be "to jablko je červené."

I have been creating my hand-made vocabulary cards and wnet over 200 within two weeks... But, I am very much enjoying learning a new language again.

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