How do I start learning Czech?

Discussion in 'General Language' started by mahrukh, Jan 4, 2008.

  1. Foocaow

    Foocaow New Member

  2. nils

    nils Member

    Everybody has his/her own best approach, but I can tell you what worked/works for me.

    I started with the 10 and 30 lesson Pimsleur. The advantage of this method is that it will give you some basis for further study. As already mentioned it contains NO grammar (I don't get why at Pimsleur they do not spent a few minutes on explaining some general grammar ideas but let you guess it yourself)

    The Pimsleur method will give you some knowledge on how to use verbs, ask questions etc. But only using a very limited vocabulary. I tried In-Flight Czech for this, but the method did not work for me (at that time). (And I think there are even some errors in the method as well.)

    Currently I'm working with New Czech Step by Step (I'm now at chapter 10) and I think the method is great. I do not have a teacher but most answers are in the back and it contains a lot of exercises. Some of them you cannot make without a teacher but I think it is a great method for self study as well. The method gives a firm basis for understanding an further studying the language.

    Recently I bought BYKI deluxe. I think this program is great and I use it for learning the words of New Czech Step by Step as will. (you can make your own cards in the deluxe version)

    Besides these methods I try to read Czech children's stories. Look at on-line czech newspapers. And look at websites like this one.

    finally I have some Czech friends, which is very handy for learning the language. Since I try out my Czech.

    But this approach still works for me. And it might as well for you. :)
  3. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Nils wrote....finally I have some Czech friends, which is very handy for learning the language. Since I try out my Czech.

    That is the key. Hear it and speak it.

    I'm sure my pronunciation is laughable.

    But I do enjoy the effort at conquering the grammar.
  4. KiwiCroat

    KiwiCroat Member

    I know this is an old thread but if I my experience learning Czech can help then all the better.

    I have very limited contact with Czech people while learning, aside from 10 days in prague when I was three months into learning. Here is my recommendation:

    -Get a course with CD. James McNaughton's Colloquial Czech is the best. If you want to really dive in then get "Chcete Mluvit Česky?" by Harry Putz and Ms. Elga Čechová. It is the most comprehensive learning resource I have seen...
    Buy it direct from

    -There are two thing I focused on early on: How the language is put together and what the cases mean/how they convey meaning. THIS IS IMPORTANT! If you speak English chances are the idea of cases and noun declension is completely alien. Knowing how they work is the foundation of all that follows. Learn a bunch of phrases so you can see the various ways Czech is put together... Get over the idea of using personal pronouns extensively as we do in English... (I, we, you...) In Czech the subject is tied up in the verb while other people involved (object and indirect object of the sentence) are indicated via case forms.

    E.g. Můžete mi to napsát? - Translates to - Can you (Můžete) to me (mi) it (to) napsát (to write). This looks odd at first but becomes very recognisable once you learn that this basic structure of phrase is common and can be used with other modal verbs (can, may, want...)

    -See, Write, Speak and Hear... involve all the senses. Take a chunk of learning each week and focus on it for that week. This could include learning phrases, new nouns, new verbs or entire concepts such as learning how to describe objects and actions with adjectives and adverbs.

    -The place to start is with basic phrases then proceed to asking for things, shopping, and describing. Adjectives and adverbs are really easy to grasp and learning them will accelerate your understanding of the nominative forms of the nouns.

    -My number one tip is to take an idea and expand on it. Sit down with a piece of paper and just go for it... You will expand your understanding and not restrict yourself to a few phrases you may have learned in a book.

    Here is an example:

    Můžete mi to napsát? - Can you write it down for me?
    Můžete mi to říct? - Can you tell it to me?
    Můžete mi pomoci? - Can you help me?
    Můžu vám pomoci? - Can I help you?
    Můžete mu pomoci? - Can you help him?
    Můžeš mi ukázat něco dalšího? - Can you show me something else?


    Ta je těžká taška - That is a heavy bag.
    Ten svetr je moc velký - That sweater is very big.
    Toto jídlo je velmi dobré - This food is very good.

    Hope this helps. You really have to integrate what you learn. Expand on what you learn to encompass other nouns, verbs etc... and you'll learn it solidly. All of this is multiplied dramatically when you are put in situations where you can practice it (real live situtions).

    Mnoho štěstí
  5. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Very good Kiwi. Your system seems to work well for you.
    Not many people say czech is easy. Those are good ideas.
    Create your own sentences. That boosts confidence too.

    I have used that 'Colloquial Czech' too.

    Pan Smith, a pan Ježek, jsou přátelé v Praze, že?
    A mají fantastické dobrodružství. No, přeháním.
    Je také v kniže Czech národní hymna.
    To umím nazpamět.
  6. kibicz

    kibicz Well-Known Member

    Občas, když přemýšlím o českém jazyce, si říkám, jak tohle mohlo vzniknou.
  7. KiwiCroat

    KiwiCroat Member

    Thanks for the feedback. I have learned Czech for the past 12 months out of sheer love of the language. It hasn't been easy and I'm still very much coming to grips with creating what I call an "Automatic Czech Generator" in my head. Through reinforcement I can actually look at situations and talk to people and say basically what I want to say (I know some Slovakian people who understand me).

    My original goal was to learn Croatian as I am half Croat. I can't believe how much easier it is to learn Croatian after a year of Czech study. I can't believe how much more difficult Czech is to Croatian (but to me Czech looks and sounds better).

    Thanks also for the feedback... (psát but napsat). There are plenty of those little distinctions I am learning to notice.
  8. nils

    nils Member

    Well scrimshaw, I think you are doing a great job in your conquest! I admit that being able to speak and listen to Czech is a whole seperate "chapter" in the conquest for learning a new language. A pitty you are not in the position to speak often to Czech people since it is very nice to do. It always feels nice when they get what you try to say so very rewarding!

    When I tried to speak it in the beginning I got those interesting empty looks.
    And it is just like learning the grammar a matter of try, try, try.
    But now (after 3 years leaning Czech, in a very relax speed) I get now quite often the remark "Nemluv jako Pražák!" from my friends. Not really a compliment (I think) but at least now they understand me and I do not have to repeat everyting. :)
  9. KiwiCroat

    KiwiCroat Member

    It is an interesting point about Pimsleur that Nils makes. Without the foundation you aren't really given the key to the vault so to speak. With the key comes understanding and understanding is essential. Pimsleur is great and the aural recognition you get from their courses is fantastic though you're not really given the basis of the whole language.

    It's the same in any field... you can learn try to learn the fancy tricks but without the foundation you're lost... martial arts, musical instruments, sports... any skill you want to acquire will always pose the question: how deep you want to learn it? There's always more...
  10. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    I'm learning using "Colloquial Czech" by James Naughton

    I've only been learning for a week but I find it quite good, the focus is more on living in CZ than just learning for a holiday, you need to adapt it to best suit yourself however, if you just go through it in the manner that seems obvious from the way it is laid out you'll get overwhelmed very quickly.

    You need to :

    Listen to each dialog a few times without reading the new vocab, so that you can get an idea what the new words mean without looking up their literal translation.
    Then read the list of new vocab, and again read the dialog and the transcription of it together a few times.
    Then start pausing after each sentence to make sure you understand every word.
    Read the sentences aloud and then listen to check pronunciation.

    You should do all this before you even THINK of moving on to the exercises or the grammar explanations, it will make the words much much easier to remember and it will give you better listening understanding and reading skills, which is the whole point.

    Also there aren't enough exercises in the book, so it's a good idea to get a copy book and invent your own.
    People are afraid to do this because they say
    "But if I write the questions myself, then I'll know the answers!"
    How can knowing the answers be bad!?

    It helps that at the moment I have a lot of time to dedicate to this, I can learn about 20 words a day.
    Anyway I am still very much in the honeymoon stages, I haven't got to the really hard parts yet, so we'll see how I'm feeling in a few weeks!
  11. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    Take my word for it, you'll curse the language! :twisted:
  12. Tagarela

    Tagarela Well-Known Member


    I'm using James Naughton's Colloquial Czech too, and other books, as Teach yourself by David Short (this one has good dialogues, vocabulary, audio, but the grammar explanations aren't very easy to be understood).

    I'm enjoying studying Czech... perhaps I still in the honeymoon part - I've begun in January of this year. I don't have time to study everyday, but I try to take at least some 4-5 hours per week.

    I hope I'm not going to curse the languages...I guess that for now my big problem is pronunciation, grammar is not that scaring, actually, I like it, the cases and so on. =)

    Four crowns, one more crown and you'll would fall in the genitive :D

    Na shledanou.:
  13. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    I was between buying those two books on amazon!

    I wonder if I made the right decision, I think what pushed me towards this one in the end were the detailed customer reviews.
    I wish companies would tell you something concrete, it's generally "What you'll be able to do" and no mention of how you'll get to that point... thank you very much but I already know why I want to speak Czech!

    I really wish there was more opportunity to practise, that sentence they teach you in the first dialog:
    "Trochu rozumim, ale mluvím spatne. "

    I think it will be very useful in the end!

    From kiwi: " -My number one tip is to take an idea and expand on it. Sit down with a piece of paper and just go for it... You will expand your understanding and not restrict yourself to a few phrases you may have learned in a book. "

    That is a great idea! I must do that...
  14. Tagarela

    Tagarela Well-Known Member


    I'm sorry, but did I mention anything about it?

    Yes, practising is a problem. I'm also taking some private classes to help on this matter... it's worth doing.

    And I practice a little with my Czech friend on the web, but we haven't tried to talk yet, only writing.

    Na shledanou.:
  15. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    Not you! Sorry! I was talking to the book! I can see how this would be confusing, silly me.

    Yes I shall be getting classes soon enough, I'm sure I'll find out very quickly that all of my pronunciations are indecipherable!

    Which of the two books would you recommend to someone, over all?
  16. JPS

    JPS Member

    A really good book to learn with (if you are a complete beginner with no teacher on hand) is the 'Czech in 3 Months' by Elisabeth Billington (HUGO).

    Firstly, IGNORE THE TITLE. You certainly won't have Czech in just three months. But what the book does have, I think, is the most clear, simple explanations of grammar available.

    Naughton is good when you have a little grasp of learning languages, David Short 'Teach Yourself Czech' has great conversation examples but very, very messy grammar explanations.

    As someone who had never studied languages before and (at first) having no teacher for Czech, I would recommend the 'Czech in Three Months'
  17. Polednikova

    Polednikova Well-Known Member

    That sounds a good recommendation, JPS. I haven't heard of it but it sounds a good starting point. Hopefully, I'm past that now but I still find it helpful to look at other books; you always pick up some new tip. :)
  18. JPS

    JPS Member

    I would assume you are past the stage of using that book, but, as you said, you may pick up something. I just found that it broke things down better than other stuff by taking more time to explain the details. Very important if you are flying solo (so to speak!).
  19. Tagarela

    Tagarela Well-Known Member


    As probably I have already stated it here, David Short's explanations are really complicated, you'll get tired and probably resign before you understand somethings... Naughton has more didatic (in "Essential grammar" and in "Colloquial Czech" too, by the way, some examples are the same in both books). But David Short's "Teach yourself Czech" still valueable. As said, it has good dialogues and so on, and also some hints about Czech culture.

    I do not know "Czech in three months". I think that two books (from different options), if you can afford for them, is the best option - because something always is lacking in one of them .. but, of course, you'll have repeated things, but don't bother with it. And for last, we have the matter of "teaching order". One author will present you to days of week and weather vocabulary in fourth lesson other in the tenth, and then you may "custom" your own way of learning. At the begging it is hard... I've lost a lot of time because of I didn't know how to study... and then I tried somethigns (such as memorizing declensions tables by patterns) that didn't work very well, and then I've found out how to learn the same things in manners which work better for me.

    And if you may have a teacher, at least to practise pronunciation and conversation, it would be great too.


    Na shledanou.:

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