How to become fluent in Czech in 3 months

Discussion in 'General Language' started by irishpolyglot, Jun 13, 2009.

  1. irishpolyglot

    irishpolyglot Member

    I know, I know - Czech is really hard etc. etc.
    But I've been studying languages for quite a while now (I can speak 7 fluently) and I've decided to learn Czech in just 3 months! Starting this week!! :D I'm documenting my progress and giving general language learning tips that I've picked up from previous language learning attempts. You can follow my story and see if I reach my goal by the first week of September here:

    Since I know no Czech (my first real studies start this weekend and I've just arrived in Prague), your advice (especially from people who have also studied other languages) and comments would be hugely appreciated!!
    Apart from generally getting used to learning languages, I've already gotten a head-start in some ways (in Irish Gaelic that I learned from my youth we also have the genitive and even the vocative cases among other similarities, and the entire phonetic system is almost exactly the same as Esperanto)

    Am I crazy? Is it possible? :) I'm working full time (translations from home) and I have no intention of taking any courses, so this will be a part-time casual thing. The main reason I'm in Prague is to see if I can do it!
    Advice appreciated :)
  2. rsalc1

    rsalc1 Well-Known Member

    Well... what can I say?
    You already learned several languages and are fluent in 7.
    I am sure you know what it takes to learn a language!

    Languages are my hobby: I have learned about 12 over the years but I am only fluent in 1 besides English (Spanish) and semi-fluent in 2 (French and Esperanto), and just know enough to get by in most of the others that I learned.

    The language that I learned the quickest was Greek. I spent 3 months listening daily to an online Greek course in preparation for a vacation in Athens.
    When I arrived in Greece I knew enough to get by and understand a bit, but definitely not fluent.

    I don't know if anyone can become fluent in 3 months.
    I am eager to watch the result of your experiment.

    If you have learned the secret to become fluent in Italian and Portuguese, please share it with us! I know enough Italian and Portuguese to understand and be understood, but I have not yet become fluent. :) 8)

    Of course, my definition of fluent is very strict :twisted:
  3. irishpolyglot

    irishpolyglot Member

    Ah, well THERE's your problem :p
    My definition of fluent is akin to the C2 standard in most European exams in language levels. I've passed this in French (DALF) and Spanish (DELE) so I've got a pretty good idea! It's NOT perfect (I would personally call that "bilingual", where a native would be surprised that you are foreign for example) and such perfection does indeed take years.
    After 3 months I plan to be speaking "fluently" in the sense of flowing language, no ums and uhs, making very few mistakes (maybe 1 every 20 or so seconds of consistent talking), being very easy to understand (no strong accent) and understand most of what is said to me. Someone who doesn't speak Czech will easily think that I speak it perfectly, whereas those who do will recognise it as "very good".
    It's a very specific goal, and something a lot of people may benefit from considering the amount of expats who still just "get by" (maybe level B1 at best) despite living in a country for a long time.
    It is indeed as you put it an "experiment" :) Maybe I'll reach my goal, maybe not. But I definitely plan on helping people with some general language learning tips along the way.
    Wish me luck :D
  4. dzurisova

    dzurisova Well-Known Member

    So will you be living there the entire time? Also, will you be using self-teaching books or just going by what you experience living in the country. Since you have learned other languages and have the advantage that you spoke of and if you are living there and using self-teaching books, I think it may just be an obtainable goal! Best wishes to you! :D
  5. rsalc1

    rsalc1 Well-Known Member

    I agree that if you will be living there, you may attain your goal!
    In my case, I have learned languages "long distance"... I learned at home (in the US), self-taught. I have good ear for pronunciation, so that is not a problem.
    Then I visit the target country and practice the language during a short vacation.

    Goals attained:
    - back home, people who don't speak the language tell me that I sound just like a Czech, or an Italian, or a Greek, or whatever :)
    - local people tell me that I have no strong foreign accent and pronunciation and grammar are good

    However, I lack vocabulary, so I use many umms and uhhhs :(
    Also, if I watch TV in the target language, I understand very little.

    In your fluency definition, where do you rate "understading a TV show well" :)
  6. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Well, Irishpolyglot, I really commend you for setting such a lofty goal for yourself.
    You have set the bar very high.
    I am most interested in how your experiment turns out.
    Already having proved that you can learn other languages, I am betting on you.
    Go for it, and show that it can be done.
    I will follow your link, and keep us myczech people posted!!!!!
    Starting from scratch, and becoming fluent in three months. That will surely be some kind of record. :D
    Good luck.
  7. irishpolyglot

    irishpolyglot Member

    Thanks for the encouragement everyone!!! :)
    I will indeed be living in Prague the entire time. I will use some self teaching books for the first week or two (no CD audio courses; I don't like them) and then (as you'll see on the blog) I will immediately stop speaking English and do absolutely everything through Czech no matter how badly I may speak. And I have ways of convincing locals not to veer back to English with me ;) ;) All of which will be revealed!
    Most of what I'll be learning will be from studying the vocabulary in my phrase-book's dictionary while waiting for trams etc. and actually conversing with locals and (here's a big motivation) chatting up these gorgeous Czech girls :p
    Also, I am spreading my blog so that many people read it and more people know about my idea. In just a week and a half I have about 130 subscribers already, and I'm sure I'll get more. That is a LOT of pressure to produce! If I can't speak fluently after 3 months then I'll be famous for being arrogant and spreading lies; imagine the embarrassment! I like that pressure looming over me; it's great motivation :D So make sure to tell any language-interested friends (not just Czech, since I'll be talking about a lot of languages) about my site. The more people that follow me the more motivation I have to reach my goal (for fear of being a laughing stock on the Internet!) More on "motivation" on the blog later ;)
    All advice along the way appreciated! :)
  8. Alexx

    Alexx Well-Known Member

    OK, honestly, I am into languages as well, but I bet reaching this goal in three months is posible ONLY if you are already fluent in some other slavic language (russian, polish, serbian) with similar grammar and vocabulary. I know that more languages you know, easier the way to learning one another is, however... Still, I wish you good luck and would like to meet you and talk with you after three monts (in fluent czech) to judge if or if not you managed to reach the goal.
  9. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    Huzzah another Irish person! How many is that in a year? 5?

    I should do that. I'm very lazy because everybody I know speaks English, I have to speak English at work because it's my job, and with the exception of my friend and Czech teacher everyone else around me every day is pretty discouraging.

    I agree with Alexx that Czech is not a language you can learn fluently in 3 months, maybe 2 years of intense study and using it every day. I'm aiming for C2 in three years, but I'm aiming for the sun so I'll land in the stars if you understand me.
    But you didn't tell us what the other languages you speak are, maybe Slovak? Are you like that fella on the television who got to intermediate Icelandic (i think it was) in a week because of some fancy memory technique he wouldn't share with the viewers?

    If I am around if you guys are meeting in three months I'd like to come, it would do me good to be around two fluent speakers. ;)
    Honestly, you know I am of course expecting and hoping you fail, because I know I can't do it in three months, if you can do it then it won't be exactly encouraging for me.

    I think Irish will help you a little, as it has helped me especially with verb conjugation.. but not with cases... Irish cases are easy, although almost every letter has it's own declension every case declines in pretty much the same way, and you can be understood and understand fine without using them, in Czech they are essential for understanding at higher levels.
    Also we learned Irish cases as children and are now trying to learn Czech cases as adults. There's a difference!

    Anyway despite the negativity I wish you good luck!
  10. Alexx

    Alexx Well-Known Member

    I just realized those 7 languages you speak fluently are:

    Irish and English (say both are native)

    French - all romance, hence similar grammar and vocabulary

    Esperanto - language with easy grammar and vocabulary of romanic languages you already know.

    I do not want to derogate your current knowledge, I by myself would be very happy knowing those 5 (En, Sp, Port, It, Fr) languages, just think switching to another language group then romance is a big step, any other slavic language after czech (russian recomended) will be easier for you again.
  11. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    So everyone is agreed. Irishpolyglot has a big job in front of him.
    But he seems to be the type of fellow that enjoys the challenge. Wants to beat the odds.
    Polyglot...prepare yourself
    Sentence structure....Subject...indirect object...object....can surely vary for emphasis too, though.
  12. rsalc1

    rsalc1 Well-Known Member

    Yes, agreed. Irishpolyglot has a challenge, but he has enthusiasm. :!:
    If he already knew some Russian and Bulgarian (like I do), Czech would probably be easier for him to learn. But look at me, learning Czech (on and off and very irregularly) for the last 5 years, and I still have trouble being fluent in it. :oops:
    Sure, I can type a few sentences but I spend time checking in the dictionary... I read idnes and Mlada Fronta idnes 3 times a week, but I must look up many words in the dictionary.

    If irishpolyglot can become fluent in Czech in 3 months, I'd like to learn his secret. I certainly would like to improve my fluency in Czech, German, Italian, Portuguese, Bulgarian, Greek and Japanese!!! 8)
  13. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    I was thinking that too, why on earth did he choose a Slavic language and not another Romantic one which would have made the aim quite possible, or even a Germanic language, instead of maybe the hardest language in Europe and one of the hardest in the world. It is beautiful, and I can see a thousand reasons to want to learn it, but in three months!? Craiceáilte!

    Defense Language Aptitude Battery

    Starting with easiest going to hardest (for native speakers of English)

    Language Categories

    * Category I language: 95 or better[1]

    (Dutch, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish)

    * Category II language: 100 or better

    (German, Indonesian)

    * Category III language: 105 or better

    (Belarusian, Czech, Greek, Hebrew, Iraqi Dialect, Persian, Polish, Russian, Croatian, Slovak, Tagalog, Thai, Turkic, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese)

    * Category IV language: 110 or better

    (Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean)

    So start again, try Dutch, or Scots Gaelic.
  14. irishpolyglot

    irishpolyglot Member

    Wow! Lots of responses :D :D
    Thanks everyone for your thoughts, encouragement and reality checks :p
    To make this challenge even harder, I plan on improving all my other currently spoken languages (why I chose touristy Prague, rather than Brno etc. where I'd really only be speaking Czech), and have been speaking Italian for the last 4 days, French for 2 days before that and Portuguese all of the weekend before; suffice it to say that my Czech studies have yet to really kick off!! Time (and my blog) will tell if I make it or not :p
    @Ctyri I think your 2 year aim will have the result of the work expanding to fill the time you assign it. If I give myself 3 months and do the required work in that time, then I am sure I'll do better in those 3 months than those who give themselves several years in THEIR first 3 months. Even if I don't reach fluency, as you said I can "aim for the sun and land on the stars"!
    I learned Irish in school and have been speaking it recently on many frequent Gaeltacht visits. If you don't believe me, just watch me speaking as Gaeilge :)
    Why didn't I choose another romance language? I've run out of them!! I learned a little Catalan a while back (let's say up to B2, but I've forgotten it), so I think only Romanian is missing really... time to branch out a bit! I want a CHALLENGE. Learning a language similar to one I already know wouldn't be so much fun.
    @rsalc1 IF I do become fluent in Czech in 3 months, then my "secret" will be blogged about of course!! I think it's just a series of secrets that I'm already sharing anyway!

    Feel free to look at my blog and punch holes through my logic! And I'd be happy to meet up around September for those curious to see what my level is at then (although I'll be making a video entirely in Czech and putting it online anyway).
    I've just posted my reasons for wanting to learn Czech. What are all of yours? :)
  15. rsalc1

    rsalc1 Well-Known Member

    Irishpolyglot: don't worry, I've been reading your blog and will continue to do so. I need to find "tricks of the trade" to improve fluency on all the languages that I have "collected" over the years :)

    Your motivation is admirable. Wow! You plann to do a video entirely in Czech?

    Best wishes on your linguistic endeavors!

    P.S. Can you understand my signature line? A small challenge for you 8)

    rsalc1 (aka: René z Floridy)
  16. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    I'm sorry but I think that is nonsense. I study 20 to 30 hours a week (not including watching Czech TV and listening to my students) and I don't think I will learn any more by telling myself i have to be fluent in 3 months (two weeks was my original aim, and surprisingly enough setting this aim didn't help me in the slightest) , because it's impossible for me to study any more without quitting my job. And I know how to study too, I know a lot about methodology and memory techniques etc. etc.
    I think I am maybe at A2 actively and B1 passively, and this took 10 months. I've 2 more Elementary("A2-B1") books I'm going to study over the summer and I'm staring pre-intermediate in September, by February I should be finished 2 or three pre-int books and ready for int, but I'm not sure that any exist in Czech, we'll see.
    The way I see it you have to do a level every 2 weeks. It's normal to do a level in 1 or 2 years (in English) and I'm trying to do a level every 6 months.

    Proficiency in English should take at LEAST 7 years, I have one student who has got to CAE/C1 in 5 but this is something of a record (she is only 14). And English is a world language simply because it is so quick to learn. Czech on the other hand is known as being one of the most difficult.

    I do admire your enthusiasm for learning Czech, and I know with a good attitude you will learn a good bit, but you've set yourself an impossible goal (which is a good thing, like I said you'll land in the stars) But I think it's better to have a set of small goals. E.g. Today I'm going to go to the supermarket. Today I'm going to get a haircut. Today I'm going to order food in a restaurant.
    Not "Today I'm going to order food in a restaurant, tomorrow maybe I'll be interviewed on Prima."
    I guess you wouldn't have 130 subscribers then.

    I'm also not 100% convinced you understand what it means to be at a C2 level. It means you have the vocabulary and grammar necessary to talk about absolutely anything, abstract concepts, nuclear power psychological factors which may or may not effect road rage etc. etc. and not prepared or carefully translated sentences, it means you can produce it and speak naturally and think easily in the language without any problems.
    Fortunately for you as far as I know there is no where to sit a C2 exam in Czech.

    I bet you've read that "The Secret" book heh. I think that's what it's called. "All you have to do is visualize it!"

    My reasons for wanting to learn Czech:

    I love it
    I want to be able to talk to my friends
    I want to be able to read Czech books
    I would like to get a job where I don't have to speak English.

    They are strong motivations, for me they are at least.
  17. irishpolyglot

    irishpolyglot Member

    Cyti, Maybe your technique works for you, and I don't dispute that. I'm just saying that giving yourself too much time doesn't work for me, and may just also not work for a lot of other people (if they find the right way to go about it). I don't like the academic approach, and teenagers learning in an "impressive" 5 years would have been sliced down if they were immersed in the language instead of just taking a few hours of classes a week.

    I know very well what C2 means ;) I have a C2 DELE (Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera) in Spanish from the Instituto de Cervantes and I was an English teacher for 4 years, where students were usually interested in taking the Cambridge exams. I have only taken the B2 exam in French and found it way too easy, so I hope to take the C2 whenever I'm back in French speaking territory.

    Since I do indeed know what C2 means and I can speak articulately and spontaneously about many topics in the languages I claim fluency in, I highly disagree with your claim that C2 level requires being able to talk about "absolutely anything" like "nuclear power psychological factors"???? I'm sorry but that's ridiculous!! I can't talk about that in English (like maybe 99.9% of the English speaking population), does that mean my English would be less than C2? I hope not!! :p

    I can understand you not appreciating my approach, but I have literally just posted an article yesterday about short term goals, exactly what you were talking about.
    I've never read the Secret. A positive attitude and efficient work method is what's needed. Not just one, or just the other...

    I won't convince you and that's fine ;) I can understand why you may feel that way; it can seem arrogant to claim to be able to do something so "casually" when a lot of people work so hard for so much longer. You are welcome to see what I write in Czech and see the video I'll be making in Czech in September and see if I am really just dreaming, but do keep in mind that I have learned several languages already. This isn't the first time I'm doing this; I've been reducing my language learning limits gradually each time. Czech is hard, and it's not very similar to those that I know already, but it's a language like any other ;)
  18. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member


    Of course language immersion helps! And interest in the culture and music etc. etc. etc. It's extra practice and study and revision, and once you see a word once and learn it you have to hear it (apparently) 17 times in the next week to remember it forever, so the more contexts the better. But you need to study it to begin with, or you could hear it 17 times and not understand it.
    With grammar as complicated as Czechs without study you won't learn much.
    Even the native speakers have to study the cases in school for years. They can speak without studying it, but they still make some mistakes (especially in plural endings), and they can't spell without knowing the grammar inside out. I vs. Y. etc.

    It was just example of the types of things that are in the books and on the exams! Genetically modified food.. etc. etc.
    I am almost certain a native speaker of English would not get an A in the C2 exam, I'm getting better at them now that I've been teaching them a while, but at first it was mind boggling, but it's just methodology, first you learn English and once you know enough of that you can start to learn the exam.

    I know, I read it, and i wholeheartedly disagree with you. For me those are just as strong motivations as your pride is for you.
    The fear of making an eejit out of myself wouldn't motivate me at all, I do it every day, just yesterday I had to go back to the hair dresser twice, the first time because I had said "next week" instead of "this week" (a mistake I make in English as well) and the second time because I had said 1 o clock instead of 2 o'clock, having forgotten I have a class at 1.
    And each time everyone there laughed at me and I had to explain myself (and my silliness) in Czech as they looked on impatiently while the shampoo seeped into their heads and made them itch.
    But do I care? Not in the slightest (maybe in the slightest). But the fact that I embarrass myself every day and will continue to do so until I reach proficiency does not encourage me.
    And anyway I don't think you have much reason to be too embarrassed when the fall follows your pride, you came, you tried (although it seems you haven't started trying yet, just talking about it) and what matter if you didn't do it you'll still have learned a lot of Czech.
    And a bunch of people on the internet will commiserate you, or say I told you so, either way you tried to do something you really wanted to do and you'll be that bit wiser by the end of it one way or another.

    Hee hee you'll have native speakers helping you with that! You admitted it in your blog! Anyone can reel off a pre-prepared and pre-translated speech!

    And my friend Steve is a unicorn like any other but you've never met a unicorn you've only met horses donkeys and maybe the occasional goat.
  19. scrimshaw

    scrimshaw Well-Known Member

    Čtyři....such a doubting Thomas you are. :D

    Let the proof be in the pudding.
  20. Ctyri koruny

    Ctyri koruny Well-Known Member

    It's true it's true! I'm being too negative too soon! I shouldn't be discouraging people.

    Ach, Pholyglot, nílim ro-cinnte go bhfuail tů díomasach, ach táim an-cinnte go bhfuail tů craiceáilte.

    (Eochairchlár seiceach gan u fada ná o fada, 'is tá bronn orm, nílm ro-líofa as Gaeilge fos, b'fhéidir tar eis cupla mhí ;) )

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