Now that we have been here for quite some time, I feel much more comfortable with my surroundings thanks to the class I am enrolled in at Charles University. Since the electricity and WiFi fiasco in my apartment, CIEE professors have been teaching us the Czech language at an extremely accelerated pace.
Most people in America hear from foreigners how difficult English as a second language is to learn because there are so many tenses and specific formulas, but let me tell you, the Czech language is ten times more problematic. Since I have some background knowledge about language learning from Spanish, it helps me learn faster and improves my accent; however, there are so many differences between Spanish, English and Czech that are minute, it is difficult to keep track.
First of all, gender in the Czech language is huge. Every adjective is conjugated based on the gender of the verb, and the gender of the person performing that action. Aside from the conjugations, I have noticed that the ending letters used for gender in Czech include, “y” for masculine, “a” for feminine, and “o” for neutral. This is especially tough to get used to when I know that in Spanish, most masculine words end in “o” and neutrality is very uncommon to me.
Aside from gender conjugations, many of the Czech words include new letters with sounds not used in the English language. Yes, most people are familiar with the Spanish rolling “r”, and Czech has that as well, but they also use different letters for the sounds. For example the “s” with a “v” on top sounds like “sh” in English, and a “c” with a “v” on top sounds like the English “ch” when said out loud.
All of these differences along with many others make learning a new language hard, but I am honestly so happy that we are learning it. The first week we were in Prague, every time we went out to eat or to a pub, no one knew how to order, what the menu said or even how to get the check and how much to pay. Although this language is extremely difficult, it is very rewarding to learn it while I am in Prague so that I can actually use what I learn in my everyday life.
Not only have we learned all of the essentials including foods, drinks, numbers and phrases, but our professors have told us many cultural tips as well such as dressing nicer for class, getting up for the elderly and pregnant women so they can sit on the tram, bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, and how much to tip at a restaurant. I think everyone else on CIEE would agree that the professors and Czech buddies definitely give us much needed help for our study abroad experience.