realistic time to reach level of "fluency"??

Discussion in 'General Language' started by Shane, Jun 12, 2007.

  1. Shane

    Shane New Member

    Hi, I'm wanting to learn Czech after visiting the country last year. I've looked around and I thinking about doing a year of "Czech for foreigners" at either Charles or Masaryk Universities. I may possibly sign up the 3 yrs B.A. in Czech language that both schools offer. It's a big commitment though. I'd like to go for a year before I commited to 2 more years.

    Are there any native English speakers who have a good grasp on the language who can call me what to expect? or anyone who tried but couldn't get a sentence out haha? any advice would be helpful.

  2. Sova

    Sova Well-Known Member

    How quick you achieve fluency will depend on a number of factors:

    1) Your proficiency in learning a new language (previous experience is extremely helpful).

    2) Your learning style. Most people I know try to learn a foreign language word by word, translating in their mind as they go. This, in my experience, is not the best way to go, unless perhaps you are considering a career in translating. If the ability to converse in the language is your goal, learning phrases is the best way, and rather than trying to translate them every time you hear them, to just picture the meaning.

    3) How much time/effort you are willing to put into practicing. This may sound silly, particularly since you will be in the Czech Republic, but believe it or not, there are Americans in Prague who after living there for a year or more never learn more than the basics of "Hello, how are you?" and "How much does it cost?" If you take every available opportunity to speak Czech, fluency will come much faster.

    4) Your definition of fluency. If you mean to speak like a native, it may never happen. There are many quirks, irregularities and exceptions to rules that it is extremely difficult to learn them all, unless you grow up speaking the language (and even then, most native speakers don't know ALL of them). If by fluency, you mean the ability to carry on a conversation on various topics, it may take you several (6 or so) months or it may take you over a year.

    5) Musical ear. This may sound completely unrelated, but I've found a definite correlation between how quickly a person picks up the language, particular the accent, to how good his/her ear for music is. It seems to have something to do with how closely a person listens to others. A musical ear is not essential, of course, but it definitely helps.

    6) I'm sure there are several other important factors, but I can't think of any more at the moment.

    From my personal experience, I found that after about 2 months of learning grammar/basic vocabulary in the U.S., and about 4 months in the Czech Republic, I was able to carry on a reasonable conversation. I must mention that Czech was the 3rd foreign language I had studied (Spanish, 4 years in high school, and Russian 2 semesters at the university), and I had done quite well in the others. I also have extensive experience with music from childhood.

    I must mention that at this stage, I actually found it easier to speak/compose in Czech, than to comprehend, given that I still didn't have a large vocabulary. My active vocabulary (the words I used in speech) was virtually the same as my passive vocabulary (the words I understood). This came largely because I spoke Czech all the time and tried to use each new word as I learned it. By about the 8th month in the country, I felt pretty confident in many areas of comprehension and speaking--of course, you'll always find some topic of interest where you have no vocabulary base--that's only natural when learning another language.

    Anyway, I hope this gives you some idea. Experiences of others will likely vary greatly from mine, however. I hope the few learning tips prove helpful to you.

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