Aptitude for learning Czech (or any other complex language)?

Discussion in 'General Language' started by GeneralTao, Jun 27, 2006.

  1. GeneralTao

    GeneralTao Member

    Hey everyone!

    I'm learning Czech right now with Colloquial Czech by James Naughton. Right now I'm about 6 chapters in and obviously there is a huge load of material to take in even with just 100+ pages. Along with the text I occasionally throw in the audio CD to try and get a feel for pronunciation.

    Now, I was just wondering - for those who have taught themselves material like this - how long did it take you to get to the point where you could, say, listen to the radio, read a newspaper, or watch a Czech movie at a semi-comfortable level? I've been doing it for about a month and it's definitely coming along but this morning I despaired when I had to look up "ctyri" because somehow I had completely forgotten that it was the number four. Like I might be forgetting basic things to make room for new material!

    Also, did anyone sort of learn by a small degree of "immersion". As in, study with the course and then listen to czech radio (easy to do on the internet) and read czech websites? Did this help at all?

    Basically I'm just trying to understand what others are going through, or have gone through already, trying to learn Czech. It seems a lot of people use Colloquial Czech as well so that could be a fair comparison to boot.
  2. quadc3

    quadc3 New Member

    I've been studying czech with a private tutor who is originally from Prague. I can pick up some of what is being said in czech movies(without subtitles), but listening to news or watching czech tv http://www.ct24.cz Man you have to immerse yourself in any language you want to learn. Read read read the language, as much as you can....websites, chat rooms, news groups, newspapers, radio programs, make sticky notes on stuff in your house/apt. Here's a link that has great information on learning any language. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/language-learning/ Hope this helps....until you're thinking in the language on a daily basis, your progression in that language is going to be slow and sketchy...that's why you forget elementary vocabulary....don't worry, I had to remind myself of the number 9...it just happens. Next time you're counting something, count it in czech...just my two cents...
  3. Ruzete

    Ruzete Well-Known Member

    I am also teaching myself, I have loved Czech Republic for about 5 years when I realized my ancestory, but I just started to really learn last year, everyday I look at something in Czech and now its just a habit rather than a chore, like quadc3 said you have to immerse yourself in it. I have another good suggestion for you, start small, I started to read Childrens books in Czech and I will work my way up. I listen to alot of Czech music because I like music and without even knowing I sing the songs in my head. Theres also a great site to find all of this stuff music, books and movies- its czech-books.com if you want to czech it out :lol: , lol, sorry I had to :oops: , anyway good luck on your study!
  4. quadc3

    quadc3 New Member

    Ruzete makes a good point, however, I was cautioned with listening to music at first, because the grammar is usually incorrect. czech-books is a great source, however, some of their prices are absolutely ridiculous.

    dvdempire has a good selection of czech movies.

    Hope this helps,
  5. GeneralTao

    GeneralTao Member

    Cool stuff guys!

    As for the literature - are there any children stories on the internet? Maybe save some money, you know? :)

    The "think in Czech" idea is a very good one and will take discipline. I sometimes find myself doing things in every day life and trying to see if I could translate even a fragment of that into a Czech statement.

    I also listen to some Czech radio but they speak so quickly that I usually can only pick up a couple things as they go. And ultimately, since it hasn't become "hard-wired" yet, my brain still tries to process each word individually so I fall behind. Regardless, it's probably good to just excercise that portion of the brain to recognize pieces of the language.

    I know somebody who is Czech and she recommended a couple Czech films, but I believe they are pretty expensive to import (though that dvdempire link has a couple of fairly priced films).
  6. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    The way I look at it, there are two major aspects of learning a new language, which I will call "passive" and "active" language. What I mean by passive language is the ability to comprehend written or oral language, whereas by active language, I mean speaking and writing.

    Passive language is generally much quicker to develop, as it generally requires less processing to put together a meaning from a set of pregenerated words (spoken or in text). Plus, one can often infer the meaning of unknown words from context.

    Active language, however, requires original composition, which means paying more attention to the grammatical formation of sentences, including declensions, conjugations, and circumlocution (finding a way to express an idea, without knowing the specific word for that idea).

    In addition, I also like to think of language as being divided into "real-time" and "time-independent" aspects. Example, reading and writing, since they rely on written text, may be interpreted/composed at one's own pace, whereas speech must be processed/generated "on the fly." Understanding speech is also tricky, since one needs to learn pronunciation and different regional accents, colloquialisms (also dependent on region), etc.

    So, I say that the answer to your question about "how long" it takes depends on what you are working toward. If your goal is to have a passive knowledge of written Czech, which is probably the easiest for most people, depending on your aptitude and time spent per day, it may take several (3-6) months for a basic understanding, or up to a 6 months to two years, if you want to read newspapers. If you want comprehension of spoken Czech via radio, it will likely take longer, perhaps 6 months to a year or more, depending on the complexity of the text being read on the radio. Movies should be somewhat easier, as there are visual clues to aid the ear. If you're looking to converse in Czech, there's another story altogether ...
  7. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    Hi, I've been trying to learn czech for some time now. I started out with the "Teach Yourself Books" however, I'm just not disciplined enough to really teach myself. A few years later (after not learning much of anything) I hired a private tutor with the Step by Step Czech by Lida Hola. I've been at it about 7 months now (taking lessons once a week) and although I have quite an extensive vocabulary, I've only learned 2 cases. Since one must know all 7 cases to properly communicate in czech, I've got a long way to go. I figure it will take me 2 years of lessons altogether before I can consider myself fluent. Or I'm hoping that learning the language simply has a slow start and the other cases will come quicker. All I know is that it has taken 7 months to get through 7 chapters in the Step by Step Czech. There are 26 chapters so that's 26 months if it doesn't speed up! My teacher spends about 3 weeks on 1 chapter. (There were several weeks the lessons were canceled due to holidays and stuff.) Perhaps you can get through it faster, but I'm finding it a rather slow process.
  8. GeneralTao

    GeneralTao Member


    Very interesting perspective! I was thinking the same thing recently about what you are calling "passive" and "active" language. I find that if I read a passage I can understand far more, for almost the same reasons that I do well on multiple-choice tests. That is, it kind of jump starts your memory seeing something familiar, you know?

    I'm also pretty sure that your brain has a designated spot for language and communication. Anybody more knowledgeable in this area? If you exercise this portion of your brain on a regular basis, surely your brain will begin to digest information at a faster pace, as it creates new pathways. I can almost feel my brain getting oiled up as I learn a new language for the first time in years.

    If languages are like any other discipline then it's not something you can necessarily rush, right? I have been teaching myself guitar for about a year or two and it took ages to get even simple things down comfortably. The key, I suppose, must be consistency. Practice and expose yourself to it every day, even if for only a little while. Eventually it becomes second nature, or as I just learned, znám to jako své boty (literally "I know it like my own shoes").

    And although it was somebody else on this board that pointed it out (thank you to he/she that found it!), I also suggest checking into the entertaining series on Radio Prague - ABC of Czech (http://www.radio.cz/en/archive/abc/complete). You can listen to the audio and read at the same time, learning vocabulary, lots of interesting cultural facts. There are also lots of interesting idioms and you can even pick up some colloquial nuances. Not directly related to the topic, but I thought some might not have seen it yet :)
  9. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    General Tao, Ruzete, Quadc3, and Dzurisovak
    How about that. Seems we're all in the same boat--Jsme na tom stejne.We are all teaching ourselves.
    Some are lucky enough to even have tutors. That would be fantastic.
    I have been using, for a little over two years now, both "Teach yourself Czech" and "Colloquial Czech" that you mentioned General Tao.
    There are times when I think "Hey, I am really beginning to get this" and other times "This is impossible, I will never get it".
    But i persist. Not sure why. Like th challenge I think.
    Maybe we could all help ourselves out. Share useful links, correspond, ask about things we don't quite get, but maybe the other does.
    I agree with everyone of you about continually using and trying to think in the language at every opportunity is very important.
    Ruzete-that is a very cool link about Radio Praha and listening to them speak about numbers. Thanks.
    Kdyby si napsali v cestine urcite by nam to pomohl? Co myslite na to?
    Doufam, ze slysim od vas!
  10. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Hey-the more I think about this, I'm thinking this is just what we need.
    Takova unikatni skupina bychom byli.
    Zda se mi, ze se to my vsichni skutecne chce naucit.
    Koupil jsem si davno knihu z?od? Czech-books.com. Je to kniha o mlade tvorich Pytlik a Ferda. Je to ale trosku hloupy, ale vim, ze vsichni musi zacit nekde. Deti se ve skole ucit zakladu.
    Porad se take snazim cist na hlas. Nechci se to mluvit bat , vis?

    There are probably I few errors in those sentences. But hey it's a start.

    Mimochodem, ja bydlim na Floride A je teplo, hmmm, horko.
  11. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    Je horko v Michigan taky

    P.S. That's all I really understood of your message so I replied to that part. :lol:
  12. GeneralTao

    GeneralTao Member

    Hey scrimshaw,

    I didn't understand the entirety of your message, but amazingly enough I could actually get most of it without the use of a book. Though we really should use accents (inflections?) where they ought to be, as it helps reinforce both reading and writing skills, vite? ;) By the way, what/who is "WhatPytlik a Ferda"?

    I think it's going to take a really long time to get used to cases in speech. The fact that my brain needs to sort out rules on the fly like that does not bode well. Though I imagine you just sort of get used to patterns to the point where you see full sentences and fragments because you've used them so often. How long did it take for others to start getting that?
  13. Zeisig

    Zeisig Well-Known Member

    Ferda the Ant and his friends: Pytlík the Beetle and the Ladybird.

  14. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Dekuju Zeisig za obrazku. Ano, to jsou Ferda a Pytlik. S temi tvorimi se uci ceske dite.
    General Tao--Czech language is definitely not easy. I have been working with it a long time and still know so little. Translating on the fly makes our attempts at speaking painfully slow.
    I read it and write it much better than I speak it. And that's not so good.
    Jak dlouho se ucis cesky jazyk? Vim, ze pouzivame stejnou knihu. "Colloquial Czech". Myslim si, ze je dobra kniha. Dostal jsem nejakou knihu z knihovny take. Mam tady take starou, kterou pouziva mnoho stare slov. Slovosa i skoncili s pismenem "I".
    Je to ale uzitecny.
    I would enjoy exchanging thoughts and problems regarding this interesting language with you thru the mail. I'm sure we could help each
    other. Some concepts I don't get maybe you could help me with and visa versa(sp).
    Mozna bychom nebili prave nejlepsi ucitele, ale by to byl lepsi nez nic, nemyslis?
    Ktery segment knihy se zrovna ted ucis?
    Kdyby nam nejake laskavy clovek co vlastne umi mluvit Cesky chtel pomoct. Budeme velmi radi, ano General?
  15. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    Correction: Možna bychom nebyli pravě nejlepší učiteli.

    Don't beat your teachers, please! [bít = to beat (someone), být = to be]

    P.S. Honestly, you're doing great!
    P.P.S. I have a Ferda and Pytlik book, too!
  16. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Dekuji Sova
    Mas pravdu. Nechci en facto bit ani muj nejlepsi ani nejhorsi ucitele. :D
    Dobry zak jsem. Nooo........
    Co si myslim o sobe, co si mysli na to ustatni nevim. :wink:
    Dekuji trikrat za mile slova.
    To je povzbudovy.
  17. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    Hey Sova, slow down, scrimshaw was right about "učitelé"!!!
    Correction: Možná bychom nebyli právě nejlepší učitelé.
  18. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Dekuji vsemu
    Slysel jsem, ze je v CR zrovna ted hroznou teplu, nebo se uz u vas zlepsilo?
    Mam nejake pratele, ktere se par dni vratili z Angli. Rekli mi, ze je tam horko take. Tady na Floride je vsechno normal. Ano je horko, ale to porad ocekavame. Co chci rict je, ze neni zvlast horko.
    Hmmm-jen panbuh vi proc.
    Tohle je skvele foru. Chtel bych chvalit to(those?) co to udrzuje.
    (I would like to praise those that maintain it)
    Zjsistil jsem mnoho zajimave veci tady.
  19. Ladis

    Ladis Well-Known Member

    Yes, here it's a hot weather, on the other hand, I could test my modified cooling solution on my computer in the worst case (the highest possible temperature in my room) and it works perfectly :).
  20. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Ano, je tu teplo, zatim, mohl bych testovat muj upraveny zpusob chlazeni na pocitacem v nejhorsi pripade (nejvissi pripadna teplota v moje pokoj), a jde docela dobre.
    Jak je to za preklad tveho dopisu?

    Jsem rad, ze horka teplota nezlobi pocitac.
    Mozna uzivatel trpi vedro ale pocitaci nevadi :D !

Share This Page