English vs. Czech

Discussion in 'General Language' started by devo, Mar 6, 2005.

  1. devo

    devo Member

    Being an english speaking Canadian, I am very curious about other world languages, especially Czech.
    I was curious about comparing the sophistication of the languages. Is one language more sophisticated? Can people express themselves better in English than in Czech, or vice versa? Does either language have better vocabulary and diction? To those who speak fluent Czech and English, what language do you prefer to speak and why? What are the main differences, aside from the obvious?
    I am not ignorant about the complexities and differences of languages, I am just very curious.
    Please respond!
  2. evian

    evian Well-Known Member

    Hey man,
    Sorry I can't help with most of the questions you posted, I am only beginning to learn Czech language. However, I can tell you that I have read in many places that Czech is one of the most difficult langauges (that use the latin alphabet) to learn for an English speaking person. You virtually have to abandon English learning vocabulary and sentence structure in order to learn it.
    I am aware that English has a more broad vocabulary with far more descriptive (adjectival) words.
    Hope this helps....
  3. uuspoiss

    uuspoiss Well-Known Member

    Somehow I dare to doubt this... One if the things that is amazing for me about Czech is the richness of vocabulary, with all the fine nuances that will probably take years for a foreign speaker to start understanding and using properly. Someone who is fluent in both languages should comment on this, it would be interesting to know.
  4. Silatsiaq

    Silatsiaq Member

    On that point I definitely agree with uuspoiss… I think Czech has a richer vocabulary than English… For example in Czech you have all the “gradations” of nouns and adjectives… (not only malý / menší / nejmenší (small / smaller / smallest) but also maličký, malinký etc …)
    For the nouns it’s the same… I think there is no English equivalent to dům, domek, domeček, isn’it?

    And about devo’s question, which language has better vocabulary and diction, I think you can not classify languages in categories like “better” or “worst”… Each language has its own logic… and depends on how you use it...
    That the people can express themselves better in English, Czech or whatever language, depends obviously first on the speaker, on when and how they learned both languages…
  5. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    The question of which language has the richer vocabulary is not a simple one. The sources I have seen list English as having 800,000+ words ( http://www.languagemonitor.com/wst_page7.html) and Czech as having 80,000-200,000 "lexicon entries" (basic words), which based on the highly inflected nature of the Czech language translates into several million "word-forms" (http://itakura.kes.vslib.cz/kes/public/ccct04n.pdf). Unfortunately, my quick search didn't yield a number of "lexicon entries" in English, for a better comparison (perhaps someone else might have better success). So, perhaps it depends on what one considers as a unique word.

    English is definitely not as inflected a language as Czech, as Silatsiaq mentions. There just aren't as many forms one can derive from English roots, as there are for Czech words. Another issue is that many dictionary words in both languages are not in common use or even considered obsolete. It is typically considered, for example, that only about 200,000 English words are commonly used today. Even then, it is said that a given educated native English speaker probably has an active vocabulary of around 20,000 words. Unfortunately, I don't know what the Czech equivalents of these are.

    In short, one could probably make a case for either English or Czech having more words or a broader vocabulary, depending on one's interpretation of the basic question.

    As for expressivness, I find certain ideas easier and often more succinct to express in Czech. In some cases, however, I find others ideas easier to express in English. Probably I'd say that Czech is generally more succinct and expressive, in large part, because the Czech inflections often enable a clearer meaning with fewer words. It is a difficult comparison, though, since there are many English (and Czech) words and phrases which do not afford a simple translation into the other language.
  6. Jirka

    Jirka Well-Known Member

    Hi Devin,

    I am Czech, but my English is fairly good. I wouldn't say that one of the two languages is more sophisticated than the other. It's more that some speakers of either language are one way or the other.

    I suppose English is a better means of communication than Czech for exact purposes, such as science, technology, business...

    I think that Slavic languages in general, Czech included, are better for emotional applications, such as humor, relations, poetry...

    This is simply by far not true. It's also quite amazing how English words have been being adopted into Czech in the last fifteen years. This topic may deserve a thread on its own.

    The above last two are dimunitives in which, that must be admitted, the Czech language excels...

  7. uuspoiss

    uuspoiss Well-Known Member

    I'm learning Czech now and as there's not much material available for Estonian speakers, I have to use English as a medium. As I write quite a lot, an English-Czech/Czech-English dictionary is my favourite book now:) What I have often noticed when using it, is that Czech very often has words which do not have English equivalents. They have to be translated as expressions or have to be explained by examples of use. The other way round though, most English words have several Czech counterparts bearing different grades or subtleties of meaning. This is certainly not a scientific observation, it's just what I've been surprised about. It may just as well be a peculiarity of this particular dictionary.

    It is probably a matter not of language, but of the existence of terminology (or its non-existence). This is what determines which language is better suited, for example, for a specific field of science. We may not like it, but science (just as everything related to eg. information technology) is an international thing, so much of the terminology is worked out in English. It doesn't mean that other languages cannot be richer in their means of expression, nor does it mean that they necessarily are.

    The same applies here. English is the language that most people use and which most people get much exposure to. This way some words will infiltrate into other languages anyway. Again, it doesn't necessarily degrade the expressive value of the other language.

    But you're right, it might deserve a separate discussion. Czech has some English loan words which are (sorry for saying this) a little ridiculous. Like, for example, víkend, džus, fajn etc. They really don't sound very good:) I consider Czech to be a more beautiful language than English (just an emotional preference), so it's a shame to see such things being there.
  8. Silatsiaq

    Silatsiaq Member

    In my opinion the fact that Czech (like every language I guess ) has borrowed a lot of words from English in the last decades does not mean that Czech cannot have a broader vocabulary... My experience agrees with what usspoiss said, that in many case for an English word you have many Czech equivalents, expressing gradations or subtle differences...

    But I guess in every language you have some words and expressions that are impossible, or at least really difficult, to translate...

    As an example a few years ago I was trying to explain to a French friend what Nohavica meant in the song where he is saying "až to se mnou definitivně sekne"... If somebody finds a accurate and vivid translation of that, please share it!
  9. Carmilie

    Carmilie Member


    I am new. I speak english and czech fluently because I have lived an equal amount of my life in Czech Republic and U.S. Honestly I think czech sounds much nicer and sophisticated. There is probably less vocabulary in czech. English is used all over the so it is logical for it to have more vocabulary. But I think the average czech person has better knowledge of the czech language then the average english speaking individual. As for which language I preffer to speak it is definetly czech. As I said before it has a certain charm english does not have. I hope this helped.
  10. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    I agree with Carmilie's statement here, but would perhaps qualify it by inserting the word "working" between better and knowledge. Most English speakers, it seems have a much larger passive knowledge of English vocabulary than active knowledge (probably true for most languages, but I think perhaps more so with English).
    This is probably true, but this doesn't exclude the existence of English words having the same (or similar) grades and subleties of meaning in English. What makes this appear that English is lacking in expression is probably again the fact that English speakers tend to use the same words frequently to mean varying degrees, rather than use another English word which is more descriptive and fits the context better. So perhaps, the issue is that English speakers are less expressive (in general), rather than the English language is less expressive.

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