Starting to Learn Czech

Discussion in 'General Language' started by mark, Jul 12, 2001.

  1. mark

    mark New Member

    Hi! This is a note to introduce myself. I found this site while browsing & it looks good, so I thought I'd join...

    I'm starting to learn Czech. So far I have a 1950's czech dictionary, and a Czech and English copy of Agatha Christie's 4.50 from Paddington (Vlak Z Paddingtonu) and am working may way though it VERY slowly! I've found this site, which has a useful guide to grammar, and another (can't remember its URL, but can get it if you like) which also has a good guide to Czech grammar.

    Don't get me wrong - it may sound like I'm being flippant by starting off with just a novel and a dictionary, but I really am interested in learning Czech!

    A couple of points/questions...

    1) Czech looks very like Latin in the way words are declined etc. Am I right in thinking that there is just one family for each gender of noun?

    2) The dictionary I have is a 1950's one from the communist era - I don't know how much the language has changed since then and am concerned that if I carry on with this dictionary I'll end up speaking a version of Czech that is out of date/offensive nowadays - any opinions?

    Thanks for your replies,
    Mark. (York, England)
  2. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Hi Mark and welcome to Local Lingo! First of all, I must say that I hold a lot of respect for you for starting to learn Czech by jumping right into reading a book! It must be quite a challenge and I hope you stick with it!

    You are right when you compare Czech to Latin with respect to the declension of words (namely nouns, adjectives, pronouns and numerals). You asked whether there is only one family for each gender of noun. Well, the situation is a little more complicated. As you probably know, Czech nouns come in three different GENDERS - masculine, feminine and neuter - and there are 7 declension CASES for each noun. Each gender then has several different groups of endings that are used when declining the noun - 6 groups for masculine nouns and 4 each for feminine and neuter nouns. E.g. your name, Mark, will have different endings than the word "vlak" (train), although they are both masculine nouns. Each group has its one sample noun or paradigm that you can use as guidance when declining a particular Czech noun. You can memorize the endings of these sample nouns and then apply the endings to any noun after you determine which group that noun falls into.

    As far as your dictionary is concerned, you are probably fine for now with the one you have, especially if you just use it to look up words from the book. I don't think there's a great risk of learning an old version of Czech just because you have an old dictionary. It's true that some of the words are probably outdated by now and you won't find some new words in it but I wouldn't worry about learning a completely bad version of Czech. The language hasn't changed that dramatically in the last 50 years. You'd notice some changes in grammar and the usage of some words (some have gone out of daily use while some new ones have appeared, especially after 1989). If you are really serious about learning Czech and are going to continue, then I would suggest buying a new dictionary. If you're uncertain as to how deep into the language you'd like to get, then you can probably continue using the one you have.

    Hope this information helps and good luck in your studies!
  3. mark

    mark New Member

    Just to let you know I'm still hangin on in there! I've now got a copy of Dorling Kindersley/Hugo Czech in 3 months, so who knows, perhaps my next message in december will be in Czech! :)

  4. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Good to hear! I look forward to reading it! :)

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