Is it better to learn German before Czech?

Discussion in 'General Language' started by Azazel, Feb 1, 2004.

  1. Azazel

    Azazel Member

    mabey this will sound stupid for some of you ...

    I have some Czech friends here in montreal , but many of them came to Canada in a young age. Lots of them told me that it wouldnt give me much to learn Czech for now ... German (in their opinion) will help me more... Czech people speak it like a second language ( if it's true)... and german is really helpful in Europe ... I know that one day, when I move to the CR, I would have to learn the language one way or the other , but is it better to learn German before learning Czech ...
  2. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Hi Paulo,

    It is not really true anymore that German is the number one foreign language spoken in the Czech Republic. It was in the past, definitely before 1989 (besides Russian of course which was not exactly popular - it was forced upon us). It is definitely not true that Czechs speak German as a second language. My goodness, I speak about 20 words of German! :( And none of the Czechs I know are completely fluent in it, some don't speak it at all.

    German is still a popular foreign language and is widely used in tourism but I'd say that English has more urgency nowadays. Many young Czechs study English to be able to communicate when they travel (lots of people visit the US, UK, Australia, etc., either for pleasure or for work), to be able to work for or do business with foreign companies where the official foreign language is often English. Even older people are taking English classes to catch up with the growing need for English. This is all mostly true for Prague and other big Czech cities. I imagine that people in smaller towns, especially older people, still speak some German and no English. Again, this is not the case of young people. Kids as young as 10 anywhere in the country are given a choice of languages to study and they can usually pick between English and German. French or Spanish may be added later on. Italian is also very popular.

    You wrote that your friends say that "German will help you more". Help you with what? What are your plans? If you are planning to live in the Czech Republic, I wouldn't spend my time learning German first. I'd start learning Czech for sure.
  3. magan

    magan Well-Known Member

    Same from my experience. History of German language in Cz. Republic goes back to before 1945 while Cz. was occupied by Germany and many Czechs were taken to Germany to work in factories. And of course, way before that there was always some historical connection with Germany. However, only those who experienced war years are still living So - if they didn't forget, they might still know some german. After 1948 second language in schools was Russian, however, kids just learned to get by with their marks, but not for practical purpose.

    Because Germany is neighbouring with Cz. there is of course need for German language in tourism industry. And of course some German firms invested in Cz. industry.

    There is also huge difference between Cz. and German language as they are two different types of languages. Cz. language is Slavic (so is Russian, Polish and few languages from ex-Jugoslavia) and German Germanic. There are no similarities in grammar or words (except for so called international words which are same in English).

    So, as previous poster said, English is the language to know when you travel anywhere as it seems to be predominant "international" language.
    In Cz. like in every country it counts only in large cities, where you can find some people learning/practicing English, or English people relocated for employment. In no way there is percentage of English speaking people as high as in Sweden where it is their second language they all learn in school (after Swedish).

    So if you are really seriously thinking about learning language spoken in Czech Republic it will be Czech.
  4. Azazel

    Azazel Member

    I will like to work in a Advertising Agencie in the CR, I'm studying Graphic design... They told me that the German market is big event in the CR ... ( But I just realized that they didnt know what they were talking about :) )

    Thank you both for your replies ..
  5. Kikko

    Kikko Well-Known Member

    Azazel I guess the best way to learn Czech is to learn Czech directly and not German before ;)
    First cause German isnt wide spoken, second cause learning German doesnt take a week, but months of hard work.

    I guess a good help comes if you have been studying Latin or Greek at school. This really helps you working with cases (even if also german has if I'm not wrong) ...but why wasting time on German, go directly to Cz ;)
  6. digitaliz

    digitaliz Active Member

    Actually, my experience is that the more languages you learn, the "easier" it gets to learn new languages. It's never easy, but the first foreign language is the hardest to learn.
    I doubt that there are any shortcuts that work...
    However, some people (ie. Esperanto advocates) claim that students who learn Esperanto before studying a foreign language can learn both languages faster than a student that starts off with the foreign language directly. Don't know whether there's any truth in that...
  7. Anke

    Anke Well-Known Member

    Hi, as a German living in Prague and earning money by teaching German, I have to add my opinion to the topic.

    1. Learning German will not help you in learning Czech as the languages are too different.

    2. Only a few Czechs can speak German fluently enough to understand other people speaking it. Except for the tourist centers where people are trained to do it. But English is always a better means of communication.

    3. It´s true that there are many German firms operating on the Czech market or buying shares of Czech firms. But I haven´t seen any advertisment yet there they use German. Czech is the most common language to use in ads, followed by English. So just go on and learn Czech. It´s hard enough to learn. And whenever you should be willing to travel to Germany, you can always use English or take a German course with me in advance. :)

    4. It´s true that learning languages becomes easier the more languages you already know. But it´s also true that you can´t learn German in a month or two.

    So far for this. Go ahead with Czech and learn German sometime later ...
  8. semicek

    semicek Member

    I am an American who is married to a Czech woman and we live here in the U.S. I have spent months at the time in Czech and I can tell you for sure that speaking German first would not help you one bit. As said by someone else, the languages are not even close.
    One of our Czech freinds in Czech is married to a german guy for the last 8 years and they visit my wife's village often. When we all go to the Hospoda for drinks the german guy just sits there and doesn't say a word. He never tried to learn Czech and the only person who can speak to him is his wife. My Czech is not fluent by any means but I can hold a decent conversation.
    I also noticed that when I meet someone new over there and begin to speak Czech with them their jaw drops open because they can't believe that an American has learned to speak Czech. Many of them say they have never heard an American accent. I especially love it when they ask my wife a question about me and I answer them directly. Trust me, if you are going to live in Czech, Czech is the language you need to speak.
    Good Luck, Sam
  9. Azazel

    Azazel Member

    I'm trying to learn czech... I thought that German was an Important language in the czech lives ( I mean, in the business world of the czech republic ) ... I have to say that I am surprised ... Thanks for all of your replies, i'm going to concentrate more on my czech ..

  10. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member


    The Slovaks have a saying, "Na Slovensko, po-slovensky" (In Slovakia, [speak] in Slovak). The same could be said for the CR (or for that matter, probably most places in the world). Definitely start learning Czech now and save German for when you go to Germany or Austria. I can relate to semicek when he said that Czechs really respect foreigners (especially Americans) who learn their language. It may be because most of the foreigners who live in the CR don't speak Czech, or do so poorly at best. For example, when I lived in Prague, there were approx. 10,000 Americans living there, mostly business-types I think. Of those other American business-types I met there, there was only ONE who seemed to really speak any Czech beyond the basic, "Hello, how are you?" Definitely study Czech for the CR, not German!

    Some advice: don't be too concerned about not knowing much Czech language when you arrive in the CR. It's much easier to learn a language when you're surrounded by it, than when you are just trying to pick things out of a textbook. If you have Czech friends, practice your Czech whenever you get a chance, even if you feel like you're butchering the language. I heard that in learning a foreign language, one typically makes about a million mistakes before attaining a decent level of fluency. My philosophy is to hurry up and make as many mistakes as possible early on and get them out of the way so that I can become fluent faster.

  11. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    To digitaliz:

    Perhaps the Esperanto advocates' claim is the same is based on the same logic as the one you listed at the beginning of your comment. That is that learning a second foreign language is easier than the first. Czech was my 3rd foreign language, and I became fluent a heck of a lot quicker than with my first (Spanish, which I consider much easier by far to learn than Czech). Of course, learning Czech after Russian (foreign language #2), didn't hurt either, although Russian was also easier after having learned Spanish.

  12. shawn

    shawn Well-Known Member

    Not to get all tangential, but does anyone here, with more than one extra language, think it would be helpful for me, knowing only English and studying Czech as my first-next language, to learn Latin (only 5 cases, methinks...)? I have English-Latin translations of my favourite classical literature (Ovid, Virgil, St. Augustine I've been hoping to purchase), if that would help, I do not know.

    Just curious...

  13. Kikko

    Kikko Well-Known Member

    Shawn I've learned French and English (and well i speak Italian)
    And let me tell you, neither english nor french helped me out learning Czech cause they are different.

    Czech is a highly inflected language
    (In an inflected language, words change form according to grammatical function - this is called inflection)

    While French, Italian, English, Spanish are analytic languages
    (also known as isolating language, a language in which almost every word consists of a single morpheme)

    I told you latin may help cause it's another highly inflected language (others are greek, russian, ...)

    And that eally helped.

    Also, learning a language doesnt take a week, takes months, maybe some year, so if you wanna learn a language to help you learning czech well... go with czech directly. To be able to help you would need months of study of another (hard) language
  14. maartenv

    maartenv Well-Known Member

    Nice topic!! :)

    First of all, I agree with all the replies given. It's interesting to hear much of the same from a different angle. What you are about to read comes to a point, and it's not intended to be a topic about me :)

    I'm born in the Netherlands in 1975, and still live there. I have travelled around, and I've been at different places. The Czech Republic is in my heart, Just like Minnesota.

    Growing up, and attending to school I have always had a hard time with studying languages. Even Dutch, since I had a mild version of a dislexic disorder. (which was only discovered by professionals when I was 14 !!)

    English was always my best language in school, since it's a nice and simple language. I like English !! The standard of the English for grading is a little bit lower than for Dutch, so that explains why I got better grades at English. French I have studied for two years, and it was my biggest drama in school. :cry:

    German was tought to me also two years in a row, and I was not good at it. (still can't write the language properly, but for the rest i get complements from germans now)

    Currently I find it eazier to write in english, than in Dutch :) (I make standard mistakes, and I allways write dubbel ll in always, really, without me noticing it, but for the rest I'm fine) French : forget about it. German : I earn my living in Germany, since I visit factories there roughly 3-4 day's a week. Now I'm beginning to learn Czech.

    There is a real good reason why I can speak and understand the languages like English and German very well. It's television. English is all around the clock on TV, and in the Netherlands we use subtitles, and never dubbing. When I grew up, there were two Dutch televison channels, and three German ones I could receive. (nowday's hundereds in all languages like in the states)
    And I never had the opportunity to watch French television when I grew up, so this also relatively easy language is hard for me to learn.

    This gave me the basics for speaking and understanding the English and German language. When I had to write the languages it was a different story, and that's why I still can't write proper German. There was no Learning by coming in contact with it.

    A year ago my German was poor, since I only spoke German on vacation. But I picked it up in a few weeks when I came there every day.

    Where does this story relate to the Czech Republic? Well, in the Czech republic they dubb almost all English and German into Czech (or Slovak in the old day's). Most older Czech, and German people never came in contact with foreign languages, and therefore they hardly speak and understand it.

    The youth has the challenge of learning it along with all other stuff.

    Ofcourse it wasn't a piece of cake to learn English and German, but it helped a lot. And I was never affraid to make mistakes, since practice is the best teacher.

    I now listen to Czech radio over the internet a lot, to help me familiarise with the pronounciation etc. I hope this will help my subconsionse (?) to help me learn the language.

    What goes for me apllies to almost everyone I guess.

    (I'll throw this through the spellings check later, since my PC is acting up now)

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