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Czech it Out: An Interview with Professor Převratilová

20 January, 2020

Our mandatory Czech language course is one of the courses students are most apprehensive about during their semester abroad. Luckily we have amazing professors who challenge and empower students to communicate in the local language. This week, we sat down with Professor Silvie Převratilová to chat. Is Czech really that difficult to learn? How do we begin? Will I survive? Is it difficult to learn? How do we begin? Will I survive? She addresses those concerns and gives insights for how to succeed. 

Q: Czech is widely considered a difficult language to learn. Do you think it deserves this reputation? Why or why not?

A: Is there an easy language to learn? It is true though that due to the variety of endings, Slavic languages may seem difficult to learn for native English speakers. On the other hand, the Czech verb tense system is fairly simple. For students in the Elementary Czech Course, we take the lexical approach and focus on every-day communication. Therefore, students are introduced to only what they need to know to be able to get by in the Czech Republic. At the end of their semester, most UPCES students say that they are happy they learned Czech, so it is probably not as difficult as they thought it would be.

Q: What is your favorite part of teaching our Czech course?

A: I am thrilled when I hear that my students were able to apply what they learned in class and that they try to speak Czech outside of the classroom, in real life. I love seeing their progress, from zero to being able to have a simple conversation in Czech. I am always so proud of them.

Q: What do you think students should do to get the most out of their Czech course?

A: Living and learning the language in the country where it is spoken is a unique experience that not many are able to have. The language is everywhere and it it good to immerse yourself in it. Read the signs, the menus, listen to the announcements and eavesdrop people's conversations. An important strategy is to step outside your comfort zone and try to experiment with what you have learned so far. Not everyone in Prague speaks English, and remember what Nelson Mandela said: "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." Speak Czech to Czech people, they will appreciate it.

The verdict is in: learning Czech is not impossible. Learning the local language, wherever you are studying will help you experience the culture in new and exciting ways that can't be replicated any other way. We are so lucky to have professors like Professor Převratilová, who are willing to teach our students the ins and outs of the Czech language. Throughout the semester, we love hearing about students adventures speaking Czech both in and out of the classroom.