Why Czech isn’t as hard to learn as you think

What I’ve discovered from learning Czech to a pretty good level

So, my summer has come to an end! My experiment was an interesting one and I’m happy with the results and have learned a lot from the conclusions that I’ve drawn! I’ll be trying a similar experiment soon (although my very next one will be completely different; to be revealed next week!)

This post discusses particular hacks for Czech, but you can see many more of my suggestions that would work for this and other languages, in the Language Hacking Guide!

Prague heart

I chose Czech randomly, and was able to reach a pretty good level after just two months of a casual part-time commitment (with no commitment at all in the entire last month because of my increased workload to pay off a debt; hence 2 months instead of 3). Rather than reaching a “pretty good” level because of some hidden language-gene that I definitely don’t have, it was because of the techniques that I’ve openly discussed on this blog (which I’ll summarise in the next post), and the general positive attitude I’ve had from the very start. This attitude was deeply routed in the refusal to believe that Czech was a hard language.

Rather than having this philosophy simply from repeating a mantra like “it isn’t hard” over and over again, I was constantly finding evidence to support this theory as I learned more about Czech. Today I’d like to share these discoveries and the tools that I used with those of you interested in trying this experiment for yourself, or for anyone in the basic stages of learning the language.

My study tool recommendations

czechI got asked in comments a lot what tools I used to study. A great book that helped a lot was Czech, an essential grammar, which you can get directly from the Amazon UK or Amazon US site. It was highly recommended to me and now I highly recommend it to you!! It goes into great detail about word formations (that I summarise below) and very clearly explains Czech grammar in a straightforward and no-BS way. It doesn’t waste time with childish pictures or irrelevant examples, but goes right into explaining the meat of the language, with full translations of all examples used and with lots of important vocabulary in each chapter. I just wanted the facts, explained clearly and in detail, so this book was the best for me, but if you need a more lesson oriented approach this won’t be for you.

lplanetAs I mentioned before, I always have a phrasebook in my pocket. Anytime I am waiting anywhere I take it out and learn some words from the dictionary at the back, which is small enough to get through a whole letter of the alphabet in a 10 minute wait for the tram, while still being big enough to cover most of the essential words. Then of course you can also learn the huge amount of phrases from a wide range of categories squeezed into this tiny book. The Lonely Planet phrasebook series has served me well in several languages and it did a great job in Czech too. There are lots of other phrasebooks, but I like the wide range of topics covered by the phrases by LP, as well as its price. You can get this on the Amazon UK or Amazon US site, but if you are passing through Dublin’s or London’s airports you will see it on sale there too.

If you’re near a computer when studying, there are plenty of websites that can help too! There is a very detailed dictionary at Slovnik.cz but sometimes it gives way too many translations for simple words with no context explanation, so I personally prefered good old Wordreference’s Czech dictionary for looking up simple words. I also found some great blogs including the Czechmatediary, which is written entirely in both Czech and English, by a Czech native living in the states. If you know of other great websites that help with learning Czech, please do share them in the comments.

Ignore the scare tactics!

If you’ve decided to learn Czech, the first thing that other learners or (especially) natives may do is tell you how hard it is. It’s got 7 cases, unpronounceable consonant clusters, irregular plurals, unrecognisable vocabulary, the hard-to-pronounce letter ř, lions and tigers and bears, oh my!!! As a generally optimistic person, I tend to ignore unhelpful comments like these whenever possible. None of these news-flashes were going to help or encourage me to make progress in the language, so I found another way of looking at them.

Even after studying it for just a few hours, I had already found several reasons to claim that it was easy, such as discovering that it was a phonetic language (unlike say, French and definitely not like English. I challenge you to say though, through, plough, dough, cough very quickly on the first attempt) and that its conjugation can be similar to Latin languages. Since then I’ve found other ways of looking at the issue that you may find interesting. I’m not trying to say that Czech is “easy”, just that constantly focussing on it being hard is not helpful! Looking at it the following way may motivate you and help you reach a good level much better than trying to scare or “impress” you with its difficulties ever would.


When you learn French, Spanish etc. there is a host of words the same or similar in English that really ease the blow (I’ll talk about these another time). Since Czech is in the Slavic language branch, most words you encounter are nothing like their English counterparts, so it can be quite discouraging when you have hundreds of thousands of words to describe all the basic things in life, to learn off. Even the best memory techniques may not help when you are up against such a vast amount.

Lucky for us, Czech isn’t actually made up of hundreds of thousands of different of individual words, but actually, a much smaller subset of word roots, prefixes and suffixes, most of which are linked together in logical or easy to remember ways. Czech does this way more than the western European languages I’m familiar with (which already do it to a certain extent). Let me show you what I mean:

Let’s take 4 prefixes; v, vy, od and za, (all but vy are also prepositions) and add them to a word root chod related to the verb chodit, to go (habitual). v by itself and in many verbs means in so when you have something for “going in” you have a…? An entrance! vchod! /vy doesn’t exist by itself in this context, but it means the opposite and you have an exit: východ. od by itself means simply from, so what do you think a “from-go” thing would be? A departure = odchod!

You’ll actually find that a huge amount of words in Czech are formed by a small number of prefixes added to roots and a lot of them have extremely logical meanings like this. Compare this to the French for exit, sortie, which is impossible to understand unless you have seen specifically that word or its verb sortir before. I find Czech’s word formation to be much more logical and it is definitely easier to remember. So learning a new word sometimes doesn’t actually involve learning any new words at all!

However, some examples take a bit of imagination, but are still not that illogical if your imagination is good enough. Taking my last prefix za with chod; za can mean behind/off, i.e. going offstage or out of view. Well, if you are excusing yourself to go from out of the current “scene” or location, you may be going to… the toilet! Czech signs say toaleta, but using the word in conversation would be weird because záchod is what most people say for toilet! Yes, I know I’m pushing it a bit! But you have to admit, it’s not that much of a stretch of the imagination! This technique, combined with the very very many straightforward logical combinations gave me thousands of Czech words for very little work.

In fact, prefix + root combinations multiply. So if you understand the vague sense associated with the main prefixes do, na, nad(e), ne, o(b), od(e), pa, po, popo, pod, pro, pře, před, při, roz, s(e), spolu, u, v(e), vy, vz, z, za and combine less than half of them with say 10 roots that they may work with, then for the price of learning 20 word-meanings, you actually get 10×10=100 words thanks to all the possible combinations!!

When you add suffixes to the mix it helps so much for understanding a huge amount of words without getting a headache trying to memorise each word individually. For example, the suffix “ař”, which means people associated with the root word, and the word for a medicine lék, will give you a lékař… a medicine-person? A doctor!! Film is the same as in English, but filmař is film maker, ryba is fish, but rybář is fisherman etc. So many words can be broken up like this, so studying the prefixes and suffixes gives you an exponential amount of possibilities to understand the language.


When I was told that there were 7 cases for each word with a different option for singular and plural, I was worried that I would have to learn 14 “words” for each individual word. This is not the case. Sorry Czech, but your cases don’t scare me in the least. All we need to do is change the end of the word (most of the time, simply changing one vowel to another, but practically all other changes follow consistent rules like h->z). It does take a bit of getting used to that you have to remember if you are changing that last o to an a and which case to use etc. but if you do enough exercises or (in my case) actually talk with Czechs and just throw in any old ending, they will correct you and it will sink in quickly enough. This is something that you can get used to!

In fact, it soon becomes quite natural! It may seen annoying when starting off, since we don’t have this in English, but you must look at it from within the language itself, instead of from English. I got so used to the use of Czech cases that I actually find it annoying now when people use the Czech word “Praha” in English instead of Prague without declining it! You can’t say in Praha or to Praha; it would obviously be in Praze and to Prahy, duh!!

You may be sceptical to think that this is easy, but let’s compare it to other languages: Czech failed to impress me in difficulty in so many counts and noun declensions was one of them. In Irish we also have the genitive and vocative sense for example, but because of initial mutations on words, when we alter a word, the ending and the beginning is changed. A word starting with a B changes to a V sound for example. In Czech all they do is change the ending, and the rules are very consistent (explained in the book I mentioned).

In French you can almost never just say a singular word in a sentence without adding an (in)definite article, which requires you to know its gender. Czech doesn’t even have indefinite/definite articles. It’s true that they use demonstrative (this/that) more, but translating a sentence as “I saw car” (with no the/a, which complicates the sentence somewhat in other languages) is completely correct.

However, when you do learn genders of nouns they are easy to remember. Almost all the time a noun ending in a consonant in masculine, ending in ‘a’ is feminine and ending in ‘o’ is neuter. There are exceptions, but they follow predictable guidelines. There may be 3 genders, but it’s very easy to remember which gender a noun is, especially compared to a language like French and to what I remembered from German, which has more complex ending-gender association rules and can seem much more random.

The right attitude when learning is the key

There is no challenge in the Czech language that you cannot overcome. The consonant clusters are tricky, but in Czech, some consonants tend to act like vowels, so krk (neck) actually sounds a bit like Kirk (although note that the r is rolled, and this was one advantage I did have when starting because I’ve already learned this sound from Spanish), just with the vowel sound reduced. When you are focussed and devoted enough to the language these “noises” do turn into words very quickly. Children learn this language all the time, so a smart adult like you has no excuses!

It’s possible to retort this post with a list of reasons why Czech is hard, but why bother? How can that help language learners? Czech has great literature and can be a very expressive and difficult language to master. But if your goal is to just speak it, then there is NOTHING holding you back from this. I challenge you to find even more reasons why it’s easy rather than tell me how wrong I am about it not being hard. Give this language a try and let me know what I missed in my quest to prove that it can indeed be spoken quite well, quite quickly.

Apart from these tips specifically for Czech, it’s very important to have an efficient study and learning method. In the next post I’ll summarise the entire summer experiment for reaching the level I did, relevant to any language. After that I will officially start my next 3-month mission.

Děkuju you Czech, it’s been a pleasure!

the word for a medicine lék with


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  • Rene

    Hey irishpolyglot:
    Thanks for the summary report!
    And thanks for the links to Wordreference’s Czech dictionary and Czechmateydiary. I will add these 2 websites to my Czech-learning-toolkit :-)

  • Rene

    Hey irishpolyglot:
    Thanks for the summary report!
    And thanks for the links to Wordreference’s Czech dictionary and Czechmateydiary. I will add these 2 websites to my Czech-learning-toolkit :-)

  • http://molista.blogspot.com/ Γλαύκος

    Hello Benny , if someone wants to mess with slavic languages i would definitely suggest the Russian. Still , it will be easier to start from Czech or Serbian (due to the latin alphabet) and just get impressed how many commons words are there with any other slavic language. So , if you learn on a good level one of them , i think that it would be very easy to go to another. One slavic language is enough for start.
    Personally i prefer russian as the most spread, but any slavic language will work and why not Czech as you put it.
    Maybe i try it myself …but as i said i want to improve my russian first…

    My best wishes , Nikolai

    • Rene

      I agree that knowing one Slavic language will make it easier for you to learn other Slavic languages. I started out with Russian, but did not especially like it.
      Then I had the opportunity to travel twice to Bulgarian and I learned it. My knowledge of Russian helped a lot!
      Then I became interested in Czech, so I have learned 3 Slavic languages already. Czech happens to be my favorite :-)

    • Dminor

      I think e.g. Russian would be better to start with if you want to learn the other Slavic languages as well, considering its mobile stress. The Russian stress is unpredictable if you learn Czech or Polish first, while the other way around it’s easy: always ‘move’ the stress on the first or penultimate syllable.

    • Veni Vidi Vici

      Disagree, I learned Cyrillic in les then a week, it is much simpler then Arabic which still gives me headaches. Bulgarian would be my first choice for English speakers due it’s lack of cases and it’s orthographic closeness with Russian.

  • http://molista.blogspot.com/ Γλαύκος

    Hello Benny , if someone wants to mess with slavic languages i would definitely suggest the Russian. Still , it will be easier to start from Czech or Serbian (due to the latin alphabet) and just get impressed how many commons words are there with any other slavic language. So , if you learn on a good level one of them , i think that it would be very easy to go to another. One slavic language is enough for start.
    Personally i prefer russian as the most spread, but any slavic language will work and why not Czech as you put it.
    Maybe i try it myself …but as i said i want to improve my russian first…

    My best wishes , Nikolai

    • Rene

      I agree that knowing one Slavic language will make it easier for you to learn other Slavic languages. I started out with Russian, but did not especially like it.
      Then I had the opportunity to travel twice to Bulgarian and I learned it. My knowledge of Russian helped a lot!
      Then I became interested in Czech, so I have learned 3 Slavic languages already. Czech happens to be my favorite :-)

    • Dminor

      I think e.g. Russian would be better to start with if you want to learn the other Slavic languages as well, considering its mobile stress. The Russian stress is unpredictable if you learn Czech or Polish first, while the other way around it’s easy: always ‘move’ the stress on the first or penultimate syllable.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

    Thanks for all of your comments :)
    I’ll decide some time next year what my next Slavic language will be!

    • Rene

      Hi Benny,
      A couple of suggestions:
      – You already know Czech, so Slovak or Polish should be easy to learn
      – If you want a language that is widely used, try Russian (it’s my least favorite Slavic language, though)
      – Or you may want to try Bulgarian: it’s “Russian lite” :) No cases to memorize and the irregular verbs are not as tough as the Russian ones.

      Good luck.
      Rene – polyglot in Florida

    • Igor König

      Hello there buddy,

      I realize this is an old thread but I randomly stumbled upon it whilst researching Chinese language actually!

      Anyways, with regards to the Czech language you are correct about the grammar but not so much about the vocab.

      See – these days a vast majority of (educated) czech speakers will be using words with roots of Latin origin.

      You say there aren’t that many similarities – i think, on the contrary, there are MANY, thousands of words from Greek, Latin etc used on daily basis (just like our words in English or other European languages).

      Just a few common examples off the top of my head would include:

      Skola – school

      historie – history

      organizace – organisation

      kontext – context

      firma – firm / company

      banka – bank

      konjunkce – conjuction


      now you mentioned the word for doctor – “lekar” actually in spoken czech it is more common to say DOKTOR than the other one – (which btw has roots in the SCANDINAVIAN languages ! and NOT czech [lege in norwegian]) And the word for medicine can also be simply MEDICINA (as well as lek)

      Having said that, I find it pretty impressive that you can reach a good level in just 3 months. To have enough time to actively learn however seems to be a decisive factor in all this.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

    Thanks for all of your comments :)
    I’ll decide some time next year what my next Slavic language will be!

    • Rene

      Hi Benny,
      A couple of suggestions:
      – You already know Czech, so Slovak or Polish should be easy to learn
      – If you want a language that is widely used, try Russian (it’s my least favorite Slavic language, though)
      – Or you may want to try Bulgarian: it’s “Russian lite” :) No cases to memorize and the irregular verbs are not as tough as the Russian ones.

      Good luck.
      Rene – polyglot in Florida

  • milcza

    Ahojky, thanks a lot for a very interesting article. I'm Czech and I always get extremely annoyed by other Czechs boasting how difficult Czech is. I would say that those people are usually not very well-educated and don't realise what it takes to learn languages such as Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Finnish or French. However, I believe that there are no easy languages and you always need to think about the best strategies that work for you and then apply them consistently. Of course, living in a country where your language of choice is spoken is incredibly helpful. Keep up the good work a hodně štěstí. :-)

  • Elisianna

    I love how optimistic you sound through the entire thing! This is the kind of thing that people need to read, rather than always about how difficult it is.

  • Dark Rats

    Možná je to proto, že jsme tak malá země a ustavičně se snažímě v něčem vyniknout. Ne, vážně, neni to super bejt ze země, která má nejtěžší jazyk na světě? Jo, já vim, že čeština neni, ale nemusel bys zrovna řikat, že lidi, co ten mýt šíří jsou nevzdělaný. P.S. Čínština neni tak těžká, jak si myslíš. Vlastně jak všichni řikaj. Zkuste se naučit pár vět a uvidíte :-)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Yeah you’re right. Your “no sorry” is way more convincing than my years of experience and seeing hundreds of other people succeed in languages at incredible rates due to intensive hard work.
    Your 6 and 15 years are pathetic time scales designed for people following weekly academic courses. In that case, of course you will only have basics after 3 months. This blog focuses on people speaking actively every day. If you don’t know anyone who was genuinely passionately immersed for several months you can’t understand that.

    • Fredrick

      Benny, you clearly do not know what truly learning a language means. I am unaware of how many tongues you speak, but I suppose quite a bit, since you seem so passionate about this. And I therefore challenge you to have a conversation with me in Italian, French, German, Spanish, Hebrew or Classical Arabic and you will realise you are far from fluent in some of these languages, far from average as a matter of fact, and are only able to babble words and random sentences. I am no professor, but I have been exposed to various languages all my life, and I know that languages require intensive training for consecutive years, and regular use. Three months is a joke, and whatever you learn will be forgotten in less then a year. Therefore Paul’s time scales may be exagerated, but I do agree with with that fluency comes in 3 years: at a young age, I started attending an American school; it was not my language, not my family’s language, not a language I had ever spoken or heard spoken. Well it took me about 3 years, with 10 hours a day of english, to reach total fluency. And I was a kid with a maleable, high-absorption brain. So if you think you can successfully pass off as Czech in a year, that is the truly pathetic pretension.

      Thus said, I enjoyed your article, as I’m learning Czech too, at the moment.

    • BoilerPolyglot

      I see both sides of this argument (all trolling aside). I think the important distinction with language learning is that after a few months of intensive study you have the framework for the language and you should be able to communicate. However, learning the nuances and quirks of a language to make your speech truly rich and fluent can take years of observation (and in my experience, book study doesn’t help much here). That having been said, the important part of learning a language is to be able to open lines of communication with other human beings regardless of your errors in case assignment or verb conjugation. In that regard it makes sense to just jump in and start making errors and having your friends correct you like they would correct a child. You are a child able to communicate after 3 months. You can become an adult and have deep, full conversations after a few years. Big difference.

    • Veni Vidi Vici

      Agree, Stick me in your country after 3 months of intensive prep time and in a year I guarantee I will be able to understand 80% of what a Czech is saying as long they speak at a normal pace.
      After 3 years only the most rapid, educated or heavily slang speech will give me problems, granted I will still not sound like a local but communication will not be a problem which is the main reason for a languages after all. Oh yeah an unique accent is a great way to meet people.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BUGC657PNZ4CRMRTDFHVKP5OZU Vee

    This is very encouraging to me. I am certainly going to give it a go. Great attitude you have and it’s catching.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Thanks! :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BUGC657PNZ4CRMRTDFHVKP5OZU Vee

    This is very encouraging to me. I am certainly going to give it a go. Great attitude you have and it’s catching.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Hear hear! When I meet the downers, I usually show them the door. They can’t contribute in any positive way to my mission. Advice and corrections are great, but “you’ll never be able to do this” broken records are crap company.

  • K6zgm

    Hello! I am trying to learn czech to meet my boyfriends extended family in Prague this summer. I was so happy to read this excellent posting. Thanks for the positivity! I will stay tuned for your future language ventures
    Best wishes from Canada,

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Thanks for the comment :)

  • Jayashri

    I really enjoy learning Czech. Here in Singapore, there is NO WAY to practice conversation except getting in contact with native speakers online. However, given that I am 16, I do feel that’s a little dangerous…
    Since I tried to learn on my own through internet sources, I had no way out but to begin with grammar and work on it like crazy. I started by digesting and breaking down the Wikipedia articles on Czech grammar (declension and conjugation, mostly). From there, I have been building my grammar up and fitting my vocab into the grammar framework. I would rather learn the entire grammar and make sure it is perfect from day one than learn it by ‘usage’ and ‘trial and error’, because I am the kind of learner who tends to remember the wrong things if wrong at the start.
    I think the grammar and the sound of the Czech are so, so beautiful. While I want to have learnt 16 languages before I die (I am at my 5th now), I think this will always be my favourite :-)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      A lot of people think they are that kind of learner. The problem is that there is so much grammar you will never have learned enough. I just wrote a post about this practice of waiting while you learn enough, so it may be useful to you.

      Getting in touch with speakers online is NOT dangerous. You don’t have to meet them in person!! Just chat – it’s fine!

      Waiting until you have digested all the grammar will be a very slow path to speaking a language. If you want to take on 16 that’s fine, but you’ll have to get into each one much quicker!! ;)

  • Martin

    Hello from the Czech republic.
    Yes, the Czech language is not that hard as someone would say. But I don´t think that a person can become fluent after 3 months :)
    Best wishes,

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      I imagine you mean IN 3 months. Plenty of people become fluent after 3 months all the time ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    That’s great!! Best of luck with your Czech project :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    “As a native …. I think that the most challenging thing about ….. is not to learn basics of it but to fully master it”
    Natives of almost every language in the world would fill in the blanks with their own story, especially English and French speakers.

    Otherwise, thanks for sharing that interesting reviver story!

    • Ordoshsen

      And “any native of almost every language in the world” would be right. You learned basics but I don’t think you could speak (let alone write, which by now you must admit is twice as hard in Czech with all the grammar) fluently. Please don’t take it as a negative comment, but you seem like a guy who is going out everyday trying to lift a train and saying negative comments don’t help and that you’ll do it someday. As much as I’d like to believe you could, I don’t think you will.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Well put Petra!! Yet another excellent example of someone succeeding when really applying himself!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    De nada :) Mucha suerte con el checo!!! :)

  • Slawomir

    správné poznámky!

  • Slawomir

    správné poznámky!

  • Slawomir

    správné poznámky!

  • Gillia

    I’m teaching at some universities in Prague and decided to learn how to pronounce Czech words mainly because I’d heard the language was difficult – 7 cases etc etc. so I decided not to bother to learn it. BUT….. today I had my first lesson and was very excited to discover that nouns ending in A are feminine, in a consonant are masculine (so much easier than German), there are no definite or indefinite articles, prefixes and suffixes are extensively used, only one form of the verb rather than several as in German, French etc, pronounciation a darn sight more logical than English is for foreigners (I am so pleased I learnt it from birth !!!) so…. I decided I would take the time and make the effort to learn at least to an elementary level. Then tonight I foond this  log post which reinforced exactly what I’d discovered today.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Great to hear :) Keep up the good work!

    • Milan Falešník

      I don’t want to make the “czech-is-too-hard” mood here, but I just want to note some things. (actually I wanted to note some things in short comment but then I wrote and wrote …. take this as explanation of some interesting grammar things in my language :) )

      Czech is quite irregular, so we have these ending for masculine (páN, muŽ, hraD, stroJ, předsedA, soudcE), feminine (ženA, růžE, píseŇ, kosT), neutral (městO, mořE, kuřE, stavenÍ) – these are the “declension paradigm” words used to determine the ending change. Also where is a consonant in the end, there can be practically any other consonant. We have this in exchange for having no articles. This also enabled to have completely free word order in czech because the case itself defines role of the word (is it the subject? object? whatever?)

      The “one form of verb” is also quite a matter of discussion. Yes, we have a rather simple system of the conjugations (5 classes I think, compare with french or italian 3, but czech has less irregularities on this level) applied on the infinitive of the verb. But Czech fights back with heavy dependence of perfectiveness of the verb.

      dělat – to work, to do
      English present continuous (doing … at the moment):
      sg – pl
      1) dělám – děláme
      2) děláš – děláte
      3) dělá – dělají

      Even easier future continuous:
      1) budu dělat – budeme dělat
      2) budeš dělat – budete dělat
      3) bude dělat – budou dělat
      (helper verb is to be conjugated in its special form of future that no other verb has)

      English standard present time – in meaning of “to repeatedly do … (habitual)”:
      we must insert the -av- piece: dělávat
      1) dělávám – děláváme
      2) děláváš – děláváte
      3) dělává – dělávají
      But colloquially, dělat is often used in this context.

      We can make past tense from this (“used to do … in past”):
      Make the past participle dělávat => dělával[i] (masculine[add i to it for plural]. For feminine add -a/-y, for neutral -o/-a)
      Then (for masculine):
      1) dělával jsem – dělávali jsme
      2) dělával jsi – dělávali jste
      3) dělával – dělávali
      (the helper verb appended is to be conjugated accordingly to the person and sg/pl, 3rd person is not used, but to make it complete it is je/jsou)

      Also the original verb dělat has its past form – dělal means that “he was doing it” but it is unfinished so it’s not clear whether the action was fully completed:

      dělal na tom – He was working on that (but we don’t know whether he has finished it)
      udělal to – He was working on it and finished that (simply: He did it.)

      If you want to say that you have done something in the past (once) or you will do it in future (once), you must “finalize” the verb to its perfective form. This is done with special prefixes (as mentioned in the article). I will write down some of them here:
      u-: general prefix, in this case udělat (to do and finish …)
      po-: podělat 2 meanings – either to do something, but not thorougly, just a bit – or to f*ck something up
      vy-: This prefix means something like “something from something”. In this case vydělat – earn money, get profit, …
      pro-: This prefix could be translated something like “pass through” – prodělat means either lose profit/money or undergo illness or operation
      při-: “something attached to something” – přidělat – to attach something to something, přidělat problémy means add problems,
      pře-: “over” předělat – change something (overhaul maybe?)
      There are more of them, this is just basic. Also different verbs can have different prefixes attached and also the “general” one varies. Let’s take the first one:
      1) udělám – uděláme
      2) uděláš – uděláte
      3) udělá – udělají

      simple as previous past
      1) udělal jsem – udělali jsme
      2) udělal jsi – udělali jste
      3) udělal – udělali

      If we insert -av- into this form of verb, we can make the imperfective version of the verb, because we need to express these activities in imperfective also. This cannot be done for some prefixes, like this general u- in this case (because why we would make another imperfective verb for existing one?).

      If you’re familiar with romance languages, you know about the reflexive (mi chiamo, ti chiami, …) that points back to the person addressed. We have two of them – se and si. Difference between them is that se is used for whole object (person), where si is used for addressing just a part of the object or a possession of the object. Let’s show it on an example mýt – to wash. First person sg is myji (more formal) or myju (more colloquial, easier pronunciation).

      Myju auto – I am washing the car.
      Myju se – I am washing myself.
      Myju si ruce – I am washing my hands.
      Myju si auto – I am washing my car.
      Myje si auto – He is washing his car
      Myjí (or myjou) si auta – They are washing their cars (but here you cannot determine whether each its own)
      Myjí (or myjou) si svá auta – They are washing their cars, each one its own. (svá – plural neutral reflexive posessive, because a car – auto is neutral noun)

      This points to another use of se/si – it can be used to express contact or bond between 2 and more objects (persons):
      bijí se – they are beating each other => they’re fighting
      milovat – to love SO milovat se => smart reader already knows :)

      Back to dělat:
      vydělat si – to earn money for yourself
      přidělat si problémy – to add problems for yourself

      udělat si – to make something just for yourself

      It can also change meaning (with the abstract root remaining the same):
      vydělat se – neutral expression for excrementing (like to poo)
      vzít – to take BUT vzít se – to marry

      And so on. The language is quite flexible. For example the se/si cannot stand on the boundary of the sentence, but if that happens in the case of having the verb alone, it must be in the back and if there is any auxiliary verb, it must be between the two verbs then:

      Vydělat si -> Musím si vydělat (I must earn money for myself)
      Přidělat si problémy -> Nechci si přidělávat problémy (I don’t want to add problems for myself).

      Negative is simple prefix ne-, with the only exception in to be, where 3sg is je, therefore by applying would make neje which is not possible therefore -> není.

      I quite like this paradigm (I know, cliché, I am native). Verb system is completely different than at eg. english and that makes quite a difficult moments during discovering WHY english has so many tenses and how can one possibly use all of them :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Then you must be living in some other Czech Republic that I haven’t heard of, because I certainly didn’t dream up having conversations with natives.

    I hear the word “impossible” a lot from some readers in comments. Some people throw this word around way too much.

    Your last sentences shows how poorly you pay attention. You clearly haven’t read my site’s about page. Such lack of focus means that your 8-10 hours a week are not as solid as they could be. Please try harder to be social. All that studying is making you get bogged down on details and feeling to shy to try, optimistic normally or not.

  • http://mangodurian.blogspot.com/ mango wodzak

    hi I’m a czech learner too.. living in Australia. I’ve had a Czech partner since 2006 and been picking up the odd word and phrase here and there, but more recently have been making more of an effort. I know from experience (I speak 5 other languages), that language learning requires dedication and persistence. especially when not living in the country and hearing/seeing the language daily. Anyhow, one online resource that has been of untold help for me, especially in learning vocabulary is “http://memrise.com”.. You can use it for learning pretty much any language and more, and it works by letting you create “mems” (mnemonics) to aid in remembering words.

    An example: krabice means “a box”.. in order to remember it, picture a BOX full of KRABs on ICE.. if you’re interested, try out this basic czech course: http://www.memrise.com/cave/?iset=beginners-czech

    • Anonymous

      Yes, Memrise is an excellent site. 

  • Gabriela

    amazing. I’ve been learning it for 2 months now, casually, since I’m studying abroad in the Czech Republic and am getting increasingly frustrated. Pen pals? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/miroslav.stepanek.98 Miroslav Štěpánek

    Hi there! Nice post you have there!
    It is said that Czech language is rich on the abusive words. But that doesn’t matter.For me, as a Czech native speaker, it’s on the other side also easier to learn the English language thanks to some similarities in the words. Or logic.
    I have more problems with learning German language. Not to mention Japanese language I gave up on. I think the only problem with English I have, is grammar and vocabulary, since I’m self-taught.

    Best regards from Czech Republic!

  • http://twitter.com/UshaSliva UshaSliva

    Loved this! Thanks for sharing. Muy manzel je Czech and we’ve always joked that I can’t really pronounce his name (which has the r/hacek). I”ve been trying to learn the language for sometime now. This inspires me to keep trying!

  • Michal Kubina

    I love your approach and as a “Czech for foreigners” tutor I promise I will stop scaring my own students:)

    • dobryczech

      what about your own czech mentality!??? aggressive…. offensive…. arrogant and anti foreigner originality….. what you can teach for your students….. nice image but on a broken glass!

      • Michal Kubina

        Well, I can see one arrogant, aggressive and offensive manifestation here and it is the comment of yours. Have a nice day.

      • Michal Kubina

        Do we know each other?

  • http://www.facebook.com/martin.roll Martin Roll

    I spent 15 months in Czech Republic, and I found that if you stick to the simple phrases first you will find that there are actaully many similarities to english, it’s only really when you get to using “negatives” thinngs get difficult…..Also, I was in Moravia not Bohemia…..so the language is a little different !

  • dobryczech

    I am also a Czech… But I am disagree with Jonova…. Czechs are self-proud for nothing…. arrogant people with limited mind personality…. racism is high and conservatives are on drive….. anti-foriegner mentality is running now in the country…. science is very weak and demode and economy is weak and depends on foreign investors…. incomes from sex and pornography is more than science and industry!!…..

    • Al

      What nonsense. Stop trolling, please.

    • Amadis Daiwess

      I think many comments here are vaild. We can learn a language in 3 years or 3 months, maybe even 3 weeks. But it’s like going to a BUFFET table. You can eat in 30 seconds or you can take 30 mns. or 3 hours. Who do you think can boast of the best experience. Let’s go to one extreme! Did you know we only need 800 words or so to communicate in any language? Did you also know that without opening your mouth you can transmit 800 messages with body/facial language? So communication is possible. I communicate in Turkey with an Armenian neighbor. She doesn’t speak English, I speak neither Armenian nor Turkish, but we do fine through laughter, humor, drawing and mime. So we need to be careful when we say we are learning a language in 3 months. Someone else said 3 solid years to learn well, and 6 to be fluent. That sounds more like it. I’ve studied French my whole life and now after 40 years of study and exposure I am like a native, and even then, I sometimes vacillate. So be prudent, work hard, and don’t be overconfident nor boast you can speak after 3 months.

    • Nicka.

      Great generalization! That’s ment to be sarcastic! Be proud that your Czech! Every country has it’s problems rooted from history and other souses. At least the CzechRepublic has true traditions and culture that the US, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand will NEVER have in our life times and many many many more to come! If you think it’s so bad in Czech go travel and live somewhere else or accept it and appreciate how CR is. I know, I’m Czech born and lived in Australia for 25 years, wanna live in Europe cuz well Australia…that’s another stroy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1067787460 Kim Heejin

    Jak je vidět, tak ty asi moc dobře česky neumíš. Prostuduj si psaní velkých a malých písmen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1067787460 Kim Heejin

    Sorry, but I really want to hear you talking in Czech. And I want to see you writing in Czech even more. I guess you are just a smart ass who actually knows nothing about Czech language.

  • google and libor

    optimism is the important thing, but be careful not to confuse it with pink glasses .. I’ve three active usages of foreign languages ​​and study diligently the fourth one, did a lot of “digging” in the language and decidedly I would not say that the czech is so “easy”. Of course, you do not have for basic understanding correctly categorized, and time, you do not need to know how you write. Believe me, Cesi a lot of years to learn these things, even though it is their native language. At Inflection certainly is not a simple change of endings, often You first have to understand other forms of the same word, so you could tell how, the ending should be changed …e.g. the suffix ‘a” in the female gender is only one of the 4 models,”o” in the neuter gender is too 1 of 4; viz comparison with German. so it would not also hurt to pay more attention. It can not to be compared with German (I studied through high school in German) ..so please, use more objectivity … this sounds like criticism, but I would be happy if people tried harder to penetrate in depth and not immediately feel that they know everything … I work daily with such people and then this one type is sometimes very difficult to deal with..hard to convey what is needed, and from that stem some nasty mistakes

  • google and libor

    My father uses prechodniky :) Else – you are correct it is a tongue as any other all are special, all have their specifics and inner soul that lets you to court them… some more easily some not. One is sure a high /say pro translator/ level is not easy in any tongue ..at this level the courting among tongues is more similar

  • google and libor

    ‘Bezpochyby’ a ‘selsky rozum’ mne zaujalo (jako vzdy), Jste na urovni vim, jak mnoho nevim ci vim co vim? Je nekde nejaka srovnavaci analyza?

  • Alena

    Ahoj, kolik cizích jazyků umíš?

  • Eva

    I agree with Benny on certain points, espetially importance of positive attitude when learning the language. But the rest of the article made me smile. You know I am Czech and I taught English to foreign kids in UK for 4 years. I can make a child speak decent English in a week but there is a huge difference between learning the language and memorizing the language. In another words you can learn how to say ‘Where is the toilet?’ in about 15 seconds. But to explain the ‘mechanics’ of that sentance I would need probably another 2 hours. The advantage of doing it the hard way is that you would be able to use and apply those mechanics on other occasions. And I bet my socks that you can maybe say ‘in Prague’ but you have no idea how to say ‘in Pardubice’ ….because you haven’t learnt, you memorized. BIG DIFFERENCE. When you memorize every language takes the same amount of time to learn…and if I wanted to be mean I’d say that there are not only 7 cases,
    there is also 14 patterns, which helps you decide which lot of 7 cases
    you would use…you would of course use the wrong one or none of them
    and nobody would mind because you would be cute while doing it but that again is not a language skill….just saying :)

  • John

    I dont want annoy anyone, I just would like to say something about you wrote (“For them it is “umis nebo neumis”…). Yes, you are right but there are few ways how to say that you speak just a little :) When someone ask you for your czech skills, you can answer “Umim, ale ne moc” (I can, but not very much), or just “Trochu” (little bit) etc. I dont think so that czech people try to “overpower” foreigners, on the other hand I am czech so I dont know how other people speaks with foreigners. But me, I would just correct him (if he would like to speak totally correctly), or just answer :) Have a nice day! John (and.. sorry for my mistakes in english)

  • Amadis Daiwess

    A lot of headway can be made in 3 months. 1,000 words can be acquired and …yes…we are able to develop ‘communicative competence’, stating it in very linguistic terms. My wife learned Mandarin (Chinese) in 1 year of intensive study and she does quite well but when it comes to Real Estate, Law, Philosophy, Business, Science, etc. she is lost. Also, she just can’t always eavesdrop on other people’s conversations. If she is controlling the conversation, then she does very well. And this is after 10 years studying Mandarin in Italy and 1 intensive year in Taiwan. In the last 3 years we lived in Shanghai and her Mandarin improved dramatically. That does not mean she is fluent like a native. Not one bit! And she is a hard worker. As for writing, she struggles. She writes but she struggles like hell.

  • Amadis Daiwess

    No! We should always try and never get discouraged. Language takes a lifetime. HELL! I am not sure I really speak/know English as there are so many expressions that pop up that I question myself, and this is my native language. See language learning as a lifelong learning experience. In 3 months, like Benny, you will communicate. In 3 years you will tell jokes and make others laugh. In 30 year, they are going to think you are a native and in 300 years you may be able to teach others. NO DISCOURAGEMENT. We have to see it like a fun hobby.

    • http://racingrussianrockets.tumblr.com/ Eryn Brooks

      Hell, I’m a native English speaker and there are some expressions I don’t even know the meaning of. I heard one today that threw me. So, if a native speaker doesn’t understand a phrase she’s heard many times, then clearly I have more room to learn, and it’s the same for other languages right? I understand intermediate French and /very/ basic Czech, and I refuse to hear anything other than encouragement. You get nowhere by dismissing anything. Dismissing a language as “difficult” will make it difficult. That’s why I can speak French now and my classmates can’t anymore.

  • disqus_fkAORdSfrq

    Hi Benny, absolutely agree! Everyone can learn every language and the more of them you know, the easier it is to start a new one. Some people are proud about how hard their language is – mostly those, who don’t know many other languages in depth for comparison. Czech is no more difficult than English, German, Irish, Arabic etc., it’s just different. It has its benefits and its costs. I am Czech and I study English and German (at university), so I dare say I know what I speak about. I learnt some Arabic, Finnish, Spanish, French, Chinese, Greek, Catalan, Norwegian, Russian and now I am working on my Irish. But to be frank – I’m able to communicate ONLY in Eng, Ger and possibly Fr (plus Cz, of course). However, the bits of the other languages have increased my understanding of language as a system and enhanced my phonetic faculties. Language learning is fun for me, even though I try to slow down in the last years – since the more languages you do, the more time you have to spend to maintain or deepen them: “use it or lose it”. And I know that it’s English and German what’ll bring me my daily bread. So I try to stick to those two and the rest is mostly just for fun. Many greetings to a fellow linguist : ) Ondrej Vesely

  • Carolina Disegna

    Thanks, Ben! I’m starting to learn czech now. =)

  • http://jumpandtwirl.blogspot.com/ georgie

    I love it!! I am a Czech so it’s really nice to see these connections and ways to learn it. And I also like your attitude to find the reasons why it is easy more than difficult :) You are a great inspiration. I hope to become a polyglot and maybe meet you one day and chat :D I love languages but I admit – I am a perfectionist a bit. Although now living in Spain I kinda learnt not to be so I hope to overcome that :)

  • http://jumpandtwirl.blogspot.com/ georgie

    6 and 15 years is indeed a lot and I don’t agree with that. Yea, it might take a lot of time to have the perfect accent and vocabulary (including idioms and rephrans) but much less to speak on a daily basis. I have a friend from Venezuela, and another from Mexico, who could speak really good Czech after 10 months in the CR. Yea, they didn’t know all the words and they had an accent but still. They didn’t have problem to enter a conversation. They lived in the Czech Republic, had never studied this language before, and I doubt they tried too hard to learn it. And they still managed. So why wouldn’t this be possible…? :)
    Anyway, there is one thing that we have to consider. If one already knows any foreign language, it’s far easier and faster to learn a new language :)

  • Luiza Lucky

    Do caralho! Czech always seemed complicated with all those weird consonants… I guess no language is actually ‘hard’ when you set your heart on learning it, is it? Well done.

  • Alexander Johannesen

    Hi, my dad is Czech, however I never learnt the language. Now that I’m getting older and got my own kids, I want to return to it, and mayhaps return to Prague again to find out a bit more about my past. I forced my dad to teach my Czech when I was about 11 or 12, but it didn’t last. Maybe the time has come. Thanks for the tips and encouragement!

  • William

    Hi Benny,

    I know this thread is rather dead, but I would like to jump in as someone currently intensively learning Czech. I don’t think its discouraging to say that you can’t be “fluent” in any sense of the word after 3 months. I think the use of “fluent” here is at best, misguided, and at worst, purposefully misleading and self-serving.

    You could speak basic Czech after 3 months, which is great and amazing and commendable. But I think you should more accurately label the level you are truly at, and not mislead others.

    It’s a really a pity because this is the only blog I’ve found that promotes quick language apprehension and the life-pursuit of being a polyglot, and yet is tainted by (in my opinion) such an obvious misrepresentation of how fast it can feasibly take to become “fluent” in a language, esp. in a more difficult Czech language.

    I do love the spirit/essence of your project. However, It seems much easier to crudely divide people into ‘believers’ and ‘naysayers’, and ignore people who raise legitimate concerns about your project (and also your business).

    My two cents.


  • Daniel H.


    I see that this article is quite old, but I just wanted to tell you that I am from Czech Republic and your article is great, thank you for it. Yes, on one side it´s true that czech is quite hard if you want to talk on high level, but if you want just talk with czechs it´s not so bad :-) And we are glad that someone from foreign country is trying to use Czech, so we won´t be angry because of few mistakes! :-)
    So have a good time and keep it up!

    (And by the way, literary is “Děkuji (Vám)” :-) )

  • Daniel H.

    O Angličtině máš pravdu, na druhou stranu musíš uznat, že němčina je
    ještě mnohem složitější, než angličtina ;) (Pokud tedy tyto jazyky
    alespoň trochu ovládáš)
    A četl jsi vůbec ten článek?! Jak tedy
    můžeš napsat tu poslední část? Autor sám tam zmiňuje několikrát (v čem
    naprosto souhlasím), že pokud chceš jednoduše mluvit a s někým se
    dorozumnět a pokud ti člověk, se kterým se bavíš odpustí sem tam nějakou
    chybu (Což by měl každý! Měli bychom být rádi, že se vůbec někdo snaží
    učit češtinu, i když né dokonale), tak není “tak moc” náročná, ale pokud
    chceš mluvit na vysoké úrovni, je to záležitost mnoha let, né-li víc…
    ;-) Měl bys ostatní v něčem takovém podporovat, né tady dělat
    přednášky učitele češtiny, které za prvé nikdo nečte a za druhé jen
    odrazuješ všechny ostatní od toho to alespoň zkusit. Přesně jak píše
    autor, pokud budete všem opakovat, jak je to těžké, tak to opravdu těžké
    bude, co to zkusit naopak? ;)

  • Anetka

    I agree with Pepa. I studied English since I was 9 years old on weekly basis, I was 21 when I first went into States. I was 24 when I came here again and stayed permanently. Since I was about 27 people sometimes do not even notice my accent. Sometimes it takes them a while, when they say, you sound you have a different accent, just a little bit, are you from Canada? (they can’t even place my accent) I heard that MANY times. Im a native Czech but it took me YEARS to learn English. Now Im teaching my husband and kids to speak Czech :) It is HARD but it is not impossible. Depends on your motivation. Same with learning English. It is quite easy when you are motivated and don’t hate it.

    • Anetka

      I must add that fluently I speak English since about 15. It took me about 5 years of a weekly school (no summer) study to become fluent. But that means NOT PERFECT. I had trouble understanding complex spoken conversations only (not written conversations or books) and my accent and pronunciation were bad. But I would be able to communicate without a big problem. I remember in early 20s listening to two american ladies shouting at each other during a bus ride and had no idea what the hell they were talking about. But if someone was speaking directly at me I understood without a problem. Now that I lived here for years I understand the language I’d say 100% now. Im not saying Im speaking it gramatically correctly :o) I just adapted the way people speak around me. The point is yes it takes years, but understanding and understanding can be on several different levels.

    • konvalinka

      I went to first grade to an english school, although I am from czech and I had no idea what the HELL they were talking about. Since then, I became fluent in English and I got to a really high level. I have to say many people guess I am from america and bla bla bla… with czech it is all about the accent… because even if you say “ahoj” in an english accent (you would pronounce a long “o”) people can say they dont understand you… which is insane BTW. I still study Czech (I am a student) although I am a native. With English, after you fluently SPEAK it there is not much more to lean, while in czech there is tons of grammar and textbooks filled with grammar rules… I am heading to the fact that some people think English is harder than any other European language- AH.. NOT TRUE!!!!!!!!

      • Xavier Alfonseca

        There’s not much to learn after you speak it “fluently”? Well duh, I’m pretty sure that’s what fluent basically means.
        But if you’re saying after a certain level, I’d still disagree. English Syntax is an extremely developed and nuanced system. It won’t hamper communication if you don’t know, but it’s still there for you to learn to do well.
        Plus major dialectal variation and historical variation, and potentially the largest vocabulary of any modern language.

        • Ordoshsen

          English syntax is easy. You see a few sentences and after that you can see what you can write and what is jibberish. Also you really don’t have to go deep into it, but in Czech, you have to, because some rules are based on syntax (as commas between sentences, predicate’s y/i in past tense in plural,..). The difference is you don’t have to learn and understand this kind of stuff to be fluent in English, but you have to know a lot of the structure of the sentence to be fluent in czech and writing with all it’s grammar is harder still.
          Also your statement about largest vocabulary is for me sign of ignorance. I honestly think Czech is richer language as far as word count goes. Not like anyone would actually count all the words in any language or that it would matter.

          • Xavier Alfonseca

            “commas between sentences”? That’s a completely different issue than the actual language, that’s just orthography which is relatively easy regardless. As for not needing to understand it to be fluent, I completely disagree.

            Also, there are studies on word counts of different languages so you’re clearly wrong saying that no one would count all of the words, and I’m not the one being ignorant here. In fact it does matter, since the more words a language has, the less accessible the language is at higher levels and the more words you’ll find that you don’t know.

  • Nathan

    Hello, Thanks for giving me a “kick in the butt”. I’ve been holding back for 2 years now, and I live here. I make up all kinds of excuses and today I’ve decided that it is speaking that I am interested in. I am going to challenge myself to the 3 month fluency. I think I can do it. I have many Czechs around that can push me!

  • Michal Horák

    Ahoj Benny, díky za článek! Konečně můžu někam odkázat lidi kteří chtějí s češtinou začít. Je pravda že když se chce někdo dostat jen na komunikativní úroveň, tak to nemůže být tak těžké. Navíc většina čechů – hlavně mladých a stále plných ideálů – je hodně komunikativních. :) Pokud jde o mastering, je to velká výzva i pro nás a neznám tu nikoho kdo by nedělal chyby.

  • Gabriela

    so what about nonnative nonslavic jacques rupnik (french politologist) I thought he is native czech when I heard him speaking, didn´t you?;).

    To Benny : I think its definitelly admirable to learn the basics of any language so quickly, and if you put an effort, why can´t you be at somebodyś 3 years level in 3 months. Everyone creates his own system of memorizing or learning the foreign language, and I like your application of logic on my language, even though there were some mistakes as well. But after learing the basic of grammar and vocabulary, hard jobs of getting into language starts:) and I am just wondering – what level after 3 months you really are? You can handle basic situation as a tourist in the country or you can have one-to-one converstation about general topics or you can read a newspapers, a book or you can watch movie with no subtitles or the hardest -u can be in a group of native speakers and don´t feel lost from time to time?;)

    Czech isn´t that simple as u describe but I guess it is more or less average europian language (to me easier the finnish etc). It is more about personall attitude…:)

    • radek

      i definately disagree with the fact Ugro-Finic languages such as Finnish are simpler to Salvic languages. Slavic languages have common roots wirh Germanic and Romanic languages and Greek because they are of the Indoeuropean branch.

      In Hungarian and Finnish there is no single common root of the words.

      On contrary , if you think of the words more in deep, you can recognize ancient Indoeuropean root common to Czech, Russian or English.
      The primary words for example: voda (water), bratr (brother), tri (three), dum (house, in Latin domus), rudý (red), slunce (sun), list (in the meaning “letter” in Czech // in English list as a summary),

      Look at: Slavic grad (Russian gorod, Czech hrad, Polish grad) is relative to garden (EN), guardia (IT) = guarded/fenced or protected place in Medieval times..
      There are lots of examples that if you look from non-European perspective on EU languages you can find them similar. For sure for non european languages speaking people,

  • Helena O’Rourke-Potocka

    Speaking another slave Language being Polish wouldn’t I get it confused with Czech if I try to learn it, knowing that I don’t really have a hear for languages

  • DanTheRed

    Benny! It’s me again. Question about your Czech experience…did the “locals” seem to appreciate your efforts? Were they annoyed by your mistakes or more tolerant? I found that my French was sniffed at in Paris, appreciated in the rural bits, but in Quebec, I was hugged and invited home to dinner! (I guess an American trying to learn a different language is somewhat rare…sigh.)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      My efforts were always appreciated and I don’t remember any annoyance ever!
      I also had a similar experience to you in Paris, but that is literally the only city in the world (not even in the rest of France) that I felt I was an annoyance for speaking the local language.

  • Edward J. Cunningham

    One of the tricky parts of learning foreign languages is “false friends”—words that seem to mean something familiar to you, but does not mean the same thing that you think they do. “Uneasy” is a false friend in English. For someone learning the language, it seems to make sense that it means the same as the opposite of “easy” or the same as “not easy”. This is not true. Instead, “uneasy” is an adjective describing a feeling: “causing or feeling anxiety; troubled or uncomfortable.” According to Google (which may be wrong), the closest Czech word is “nepříjemný”. A better sentence would have been “I must admit that English was not very easy for me to learn when I was in the beginning.”

    Don’t take this the wrong way. Your English is already pretty good, and you are on your way to becoming fluent. But if nobody ever tried to point out mistakes and where you can do better, you never learn. Best of luck learning English, and I wish the same to others here learning your native language, Czech.

  • radek

    Many long term living foreigners in Prague with no will to communicate with local people in Czech are disqualified and are locked in expat comunity only. Lot of my friends mainly from England enjoyed the stay in Prague until they became sad when after 5 years of living in Prague they spoke no Czech and felt “out”. Finally they gave up and moved away. I can´t imagine myself staying somewhere without knowing a basic knowledge of the local language. It shifts you to the second level track if you want to get under the skin of the locals. Courage to all learning Czech!

    Most Czechs are used to communicate in other language with foreigner, it is deeply historicaly under the skin of Czech who used to live side by side with Germans in the country and German was dominant language.

  • beast6228

    I would have to say that if you want to learn any language properly, you should start off in way that you would teach a very young child to speak a language. Start off by learning the alphabet, sounding off letters and numbers, learning nouns, verbs and adjectives, once you master the very basics, then proceed to learn words from the dictionary. From there you would practice forming sentences. Of course it’s harder when you don’t have anyone to help and correct you when you make mistakes, just like everyone does when a child mispronounces a word. I forget the name of the web site, but there is one out there that offers free tutoring via the internet. Some people are willing to donate their time for free or in exchange for trading language tutoring.

    It’s amazing, the world would be such a different and better place if we could all understand each others language.

  • Jill

    Hey! I’ve started learning Czech through a website called locallingo.com and it’s been pretty awesome. My family is Czech but there is only 1 true native left in my family, everyone else is gone / has forgotten the language because they don’t speak it anymore. I thought it would be cool to try and learn, I picked up the Lonely Planet book and it’s very helpful, but it’s almost impossible when I have zero people to talk to in person, in Czech. I’ve got the pronunciation down pat, listening to family conversations as a child, but still nobody to talk to anymore. Thanks for the websites and books, I will give those a try :)
    -Jill, Canada

  • petra

    Great article! Thank you for sharing. My husband is american and I’ve been trying to teach him czech so he can have a conversation with my father. I get too frustrated with him and we just can’t make it work. He does feel it is too hard. I am hoping reading this might help him.
    And I recommend learning russian next. Polish and Slovak is too similar to czech and might be confusing(I speak both). Plus Russian will be more useful. I want to learn russian next )

  • petra

    I had English in school for 4 years before I moved to united states. When I came here I realized can’t even order a cup of coffee. It took me 2 months of living in the states and studying English my way, not the school way to become fluent. Yes, I had an accent for a while but people understood me and I was able to hold long conversations. I’ve been living here for 10 years now and you can barely tell I have an accent. The study method really matters. My sister who still lives in czech has been flying to US since she was 11, had English in school for 15 years and still can’t speak it.

    • disqus_XvEpioIX7R

      Cause learning english in czech schools is on very low level :p I personally learn english at home on the internet and its way more better :D

  • Ian Henderson

    Congratulations and I wish you success to continue in your studies. My Czech journey is just beginning. Stay Cool.

  • Wren Panzella

    Great Article! Have you explored the Pimlsleur teach methods? They are great!
    Thank you!

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  • sufler

    Have you ever tried to deal with Polish?? :P

    • Martin Brierley

      Makes my tables shiny… :-)

  • Michal Kajda

    Hi Benny,

    I really appreciate your attitute to Czech language. I’m native Czech.
    I guess there will be more foreigners who are going to learn Czech, after reading this article. That’s great!
    Moreover, I completely love reading about Czech grammar in English (the part about prefixes is espeally well written) :)

    Jen tak dál!

  • Jiří Lacina

    I think it is not possible to master Czech fluently after 3 months considering the rules English does not have (cases etc.) and pronounciation. Maybe it is possible to engage in an ordinary conversation on common topics. I do not know if i would encourage myself to learn Czech if I were a foreigner :D

  • Jelena Braum

    What an awesome article! Thanks so much for it. I am teaching Czech language to foreigners living in Prague, I think I will give them this article as an inspiration :)

  • Václav Lev

    I would just add that there are two little “bonuses” of speaking Czech.Besides Czechs, Slovaks will understand what are you saying(if your pronunciation isn’t very bad).
    And you can partially communicate in Czech in Croatia since about 750.000 Czechs go there on vacation every year and employees of hotels, shops etc. know at least some basic words, some of them speak almost fluently.

  • Terezka

    Hey, I’m czech and I can’t agree more with you. It seems you love learning new languages and you are pretty good at it. But there is one big advantage. if you ever learn czech you will understand the other slavic languahes, such as slovakian, polish, russian and ukrainian. Bcs its very similar. You won’t understand every word but you will catch the main meaning of the sentence. And im sorry for my english i have been studying it only for 4y. :-)

  • konvalinka

    Čestina sama o sobě je těžký jazyk- zvlášť když dojde na nejtěžší gramatiku. já osobně si myslím že je třeba o dost těžší než němčina. člověk co se jen začíná češtinu učit o ní nemůže soudit protože ji tolik nezná. taky mi vadí když někdo řekne “umím česky” přitom místo ř říká ž, místo e říka je atd… Čeština je určitě jeden z nejtěžších jazyků, zvlášť když se zváží to že dospělí pořád dělají chyby v psaní měkkého a tvrdého i/y. Často dostávám maily od lidí co vystudovaly vejšku a napíšou žloutek jako žloudek….

    • Ordoshsen

      Je krásný, jak sám dáváš důkaz chybou ve shodě přísudku s podmětem v poslední větě :D Pomonu že ti tam pak i chybí čárka před a. Zajímalo by mě, jestli tyhle debatě Billy rozumí.

  • konvalinka

    Great idea to learn czech… Náš jazyk se dá naučit po pár měsících praxe, ale opravdu ho umí jen málo lidí- i s gramatikou i tak…OK you probably had no idea what I just wrote: you can learn our language after a few weeks of practice, but just a few people really know it- including the grammar, etc…

  • konvalinka

    no tak samozřejmě že gramatika bude vždycky nejtěžší, ŽE?

  • Zeeshan Mahmud

    Just two words: Bad company. Go and watch it :p

  • Guest

    Why pick on only ‘fundamentalist christians’?

  • Xavier Alfonseca

    Your logic is flawed as well. Saying “It takes years to learn to play the Guitar at an expert level” isn’t discouraging from the outset, it’s just a fact. Only *you* choose how to react to the statement, but the statement itself is neutral.

    Also, there’s a difference between “feeling confident” in a language, and being fluent and proficient in terms of what most people define it as.

    Lastly, the fact that something is “discouraging” or negative sounding to you has no basis on whether it’s true or not.

  • Ordoshsen

    Kdo by se učil přechodníky? Kdybych nebyl Čech a rozhodl se učit češtinu, rozhodně bych se nejdřív naučil mluvit plynně se vší gramatikou, kterou bych ve skutečnosti kdy mohl použít a pak teprv se zaobíral nepoužívanými výrazy a archaismy. A s tím, jak si vzpomenu jak mě trápilo těch pár nepravidelných sloves v angličtině, tak mě celkem děsí představa vyjmenovaných slov. Mně/mě se musí učit dost těžko. Máme pro ně dost šílený pravidla pro interpunkci. To jsou jen věci, které mě napadají z patra. Rozhodně mi přijde snazší být Čech a učit se angličtinu než obráceně.

  • Tereza Bucharová


    I’m Czech and this is VERY good article! I always thought people must be crazy to learn our language but as you put it, I must agree, it’s very easy. Keep studying! Hope you learn some more ;)

    • Isua

      which better motivation than you, czech women! Every word we learn makes us more attractive to you ;)

  • george

    Baaaaah you discover that water wets. You don’t need to be Einstein to figure that out. Czech is a pretty difficult when you have no knowledge of any Slavic language. Polish, Ukrainians, Russians, Serbians, they can get it easily, in contrast Roman-langueges speakers, for instance have problems with it.It applies for all languages. What about the grammar, the pronunciation, the difference between Bohemian and Moravian? 3 months to learn a language pfffffff. If you think one can speak fluently a language in 3 months, good for you, but if you really want to learn a language, you have to study it for a while, get involved and interact, in stead of following the advices of a nobody who barely can say jak se mas, or dekuji. Rubbish.

  • Marki

    As a Czech person, I always wonder what is our language like to foreigners and I am one of those that claim our language is hard. But you managed to persuade me about quite the contrary :) Hodně štěstí (lots of luck) to anyone learning Czech!

  • http://vedreams.tumblr.com Vlasta Řenčová

    Zdravím! :)
    Musím říct, že mě tento článek velmi potěšil, už jen proto, že se někdo učí česky (je to nádherný, bohatý a můj milovaný mateřský jazyk, ale mluví jím jen deset milionů lidí, bohužel většina z nich češtinu przní vulgarismy, gramatickými chybami a tak dál). Hodně štěstí v dalším učení. ;)

    I hope you will understand. :) I can read in English without any problems, but writing… I have to get better in it. :)

    • Joe Gabriel – Fi3M Team

      This is great! Czech IS beautiful ;) My great great grandparents were from Czech Republic and Slovac Repubic so it’s something I really want to learn also ;)