Text Book Review

Discussion in 'General Language' started by Joss, Jan 5, 2004.

  1. Joss

    Joss Active Member

    I would be interested in anyones view on the many and various text books available from which to learn Czech. I think I must have most of the main ones for english speakers. Some are great and some are enough to make you cry. My favourites for getting started are Step by Step by Lida Hola which is grammar focussed but friendly, and Colloquial Czech by an english guy named Naughton which is conversational and lets you pick up grammar on the way.
  2. manny

    manny Member

    Great question! I would also like to know if there are any structured, Czech lesson plans floating around on the 'Net, or available for purchase (computerized or hardcopy), that would follow the format of a formal, Czech language course taught in school. Having gone through dozens of Czech language websites, and seeing all the grammar rules, declension tables, useful phrases, and such, I would like to work with a step by step lesson plan that teaches Czech in an organized fashion. If anyone knows of such a resource, please let us know. Thanks.
  3. Kikko

    Kikko Well-Known Member

    Have you guys ever had a look at Slavic Languages courses at Universities? They adivce several books (usually grammar + textbooks)
  4. Hokahay

    Hokahay Member

    I have a bookshelf full of them. It seems that each has good points and bad points.

    Teach Yourself Czech has tapes and dialog but the presentation of grammer is haphazard at best and for me the book advanced to fast to be of good use at the very beginning. The binding is also very poor.

    A Modern Czech Grammer (first published in 1953 hahaha) goes at a reasonable pace. But, does not have any pronunciation aids. It presents the grammer from an English point of view, however it is somewat outdated. This is the book that got me started. It helped alot to have a young Czech woman to set me on the right path with pronunciation. :D

    The Pimsleur Tapes give a good start to pronunciation and listening. It's shortcomings include little explaination of grammer ( no book ) and a touristy dialog.

    InFlight Czech is a CD with many phrases. Good for hearing and pronunciation but zero grammer.

    Froneks English Czech Dictonary is a great 1200 page resource. It has declentions and conjugations for every word, tons of idioms and more. But, being a dictionary has no lesson plans. The size makes it a burden for looking up a word.

    Mina Trnka's Czech-English Dictionary is a handy small book for looking up words. No help with grammer, however.

    Čeština Pro Cizince by Smičkova is one of my new favorites. No pronunciation, but Engish(and French!) is only used to provide word definitions. It gradually expands and explains the grammer in Czech.

    I have a childrens book with english on the left page and czech on the right page. It is Tracy's Tiger by Saroyan. This book is useful only after basics of grammer and pronunciation are mastered.

    I have a few pocket phrase books. These are good since they fit comfortably in your pocket. I carry it along so I always have something to study. I like Say It in Czech because of the sturdy binding. the Berlitz phrasebook quickly fell apart.

    I recently bought Spoken Czech. It was expensive. It has 15 tapes and an 8 week lesson plan. But, I have not started in on it yet.

    Each book, except for the ones with poor bindings, is useful and each gives a different emphasis. The best resource is the young Czech woman. I would have given up without her help.

    Sometimes I think I should have picked an easier hobby. Like brain surgery or Rocket Science.


    michael t
  5. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    Hi Michael and welcome to the boards! Wow, I sure am impressed with your vast library! What made you start learning Czech? How long have you been studying and how is it going?

    I hope to see you here again.

  6. Hokahay

    Hokahay Member

    Ahoj Dano. Těší mně!

    It's nice to see such a quick and friendly response. I am a self taught software engineer by vocation. I wondered how learning a spoken language would be compared to learning a computer language ( C++ ).

    When I was very young, I lived in a small town in South Dakota called Tabor. It is famous for "Czech Days"(try googling that). That was forty years ago. I like the sound of the language and I like the people I have met. Although the sample set is small, you can count them on one hand! :cry: Any country with the national beverage pivo sounds like my kind of place. It is also in the slavic group but with a roman alphabet. German, French and Spanish seemed boring. And It's too cold in Norway and Sweden. Of course, you can probably squeeze "czech girls are hot" in there someplace as well.

    I began a little over a year ago. It is in some ways like learning a computer language, but it is certainly alot harder. I have been working at it regularly for the last seven months and making progress slowly. Pronunciation is getting better and was difficult to learn and do. Veronika saved the day for me with it.

    I am on Chapter 10 in Modern Czech Grammer and it has 30 chapters. I also have a good part of InFlight Czech memorized. I listen to it when I drive. I just recieved Čeština Pro Cizince and I like it very much, so I am working on it now. I rotate around to make it more interesting. Working on vocabulary and listening mostly right now.

    I see you are a very valuable rersource on the board here. And I humbly submit to be one of your occasional pupils. I can use all the help I can get!

    The people around here think I'm one brick short of a load in this endeavor, but I enjoy it.

    michael t
  7. Dana

    Dana Well-Known Member

    I know about Tabor Czech Days, it's in our Links. :)

    I give you (and everyone else here) credit for trying to learn Czech. It's a hard language and I'm glad I don't have to study it myself! Of course I'm only one of the resources on these boards, there are other good helpers around here. I'm always happy to provide tips or advice.

  8. Hokahay

    Hokahay Member

    Not only are you lucky you don't have to study Czech, your English is just as good. For that, you deserve all the credit. Do you speak other languages as well?

    I went thru the first four grades of school in Tabor. Starting in 1960, I think. The first two grades were in a one room school above the firehouse.

    Ale to je už dávno.
  9. Joss

    Joss Active Member

    :) Guess as I started this string I'd better list all of my books too!

    BBC Czech Prase Book - This was to go with a BBC Czech language programme. It is small and friendly and is useful as a handy reference.

    Hypocrene Language Studies Czech Phrase Book - A good phrasebook based on topic areas with phonetic pronounciations. Mini-grammar section on the back of the book.

    Colloquial Czech - James Naughton. This is a full beginners course in 18 chapters. This is a Czech Language book written by an English guy. That means that it is sympathetic to our way of thinking. He does not push grammar at you but feeds it in with dialogue and keeps the pressure low. The course comes with Cd's and tapes. The CD's are spoken by native speakers so pronunciation is correct and precise. A good basic book.

    Hypocrene Language Studies - Beginners Guide to Czech - Iva Cerna & Jolana Machalek. This is a good light reference book with a little more focus on grammar which is essential. It has quite good grammar tables and dialogue but is brief in nature.

    Eurotalk Interactive Talk Now - Learn Czech. This is a CD based learning tool and is possible one of the best very basic pronunciation tools and introductions to spoken Czech I have found. The CD uses memory games and testing to help you absorb vocabulary. It also has male and female readers to help you get used to hearing spoken Czech. This is a good system especially for those with no access to spoken Czech. The inteactive nature of the course makes it feel conversational in nature. This is a very basic course but there is a new more advanced course out which I have not yet seen. A good buy!

    Communicative Czech - Elemnetary and Intermediate Ivana Reskova & Magdalena Pintarova. This is I understand one of the main series of text books used in formal teaching of Czech. These are very comprehensive but to be honest, not good if you are learning alone. The books are really geared to formal courses and I found them hard going. The books seem to be designed leaving space for the teacher to interpret and guide. Without that guidance you often fall down. Only my opinion. Go back to these when you have done the book listed below. There is no replacement for the depth and quality of this series of books but you need a run up first.

    Czech Step by Step - Basic Course by Lida Hola. This book is a gem - the star of the pack. It starts where all good Czech language courses should with pronunciation and grammar. BUT it does it in a friendly and helpful way. Cases and genders are colour coded and it is well illustrated. The only book I have seen where the case system seems clear and well explained. I like this book! There is a free teachers manual on www.czechstepbystep.cz.

    Also available are a number of small pamphlets available, this one is good:

    Map of Czech Gramar isbn 80-85836-13-0 Nice clear regernce guide with helpful illustrations.

    Given my choise again I would start with the interactive CD, then Step by step and for conversation and the essential practise in the car Colloquial Czech by Naughton. ASpend a good amont of time in Local Lingo as well. It is a great resource.

  10. rsalc1

    rsalc1 Well-Known Member


    Very interesting thread!
    I am a beginner and here are the learning materials that I am using to learn Czech:

    Teach Yourself Czech (by W Lee): this is an old edition with poor binding, but I found it to be very helpful. The grammar concepts are introduced gradually and painlessly.

    A Modern Czech Grammar: Another old edition. I use it to review certain grammar concepts

    Pimsleur: Great to learn pronounciation and touristy phrases. I love it!

    Colloquial Czech (by Naughton): This is a recent addition to my collection. I like this book and I am memorizing many of the dialogs on the tapes. :)

    As far as dictionaries:
    http://slovnik.seznam.cz/: A very good online dictionary

    Anglicko-cesky, cesko-anglicky slovnik (by Poldauf): Pretty good.

    Okay, that's all for now. Zatím ahoj!
  11. dankameny

    dankameny New Member

    Hi. I just finished a year's worth of czech language classes here in prague and i have to say all the czech i learned was not from a book or class. I learned the most czech from a phrase book and then from friends that spoke czech. In terms of books I can talk about two: czech step by step and cestina pro cizince by hronova and turzikova. I used step by step in class and hated it and i used cestina pro cizince on my own and liked it better. The bottom line is that i hate book learning especially for languages. Cestina pro cizince was more problem oriented for me because it's like an ESL book but in czech, there is no english at all it's all in czech starts out easy and progressively gets harder and uses lots of pictures. I have become keenly interested in linguistics while over here and i think the cestina pro cizince book is better because after using that book i feel like i think in czech more. I associate pictures with czech words, i don't try and translate everything from english to czech, etc. I think it doesn't matter what book you have as long as you have the desire but the longer i am here trying to speak czech the more i realize it's about strategy. I learn as much as i can from magazines, billboards, signs, etc. and i make sure i have phrase books and dicitonaries on me at all times so i can look things up when i want to. The only thing my textbooks do is to serve as references. I am finding them more useful as of lately because i realize my grammar is horrible and that i speak a lot more than i write so i say things wrong often because i don't know what they look like cause i don't write it that much. It seems as though i learn more from free czech publications i find in restaraunts like "zoom" and "houser" magazine. Incidentally along the line of phrase books i'd have to say my reccomendation would be Lonely Planet phrase books. I have used a berlitz phrase book for a long time and people laugh at me because nobody speaks like that. Lonely planet phrase books are more colloquial. And that colloquial czech book by naughton seems good especially if you can get the audio. The place where i live there is a girl that has the whole book on MP3 and i download them off our network....really good method.

  12. rsalc1

    rsalc1 Well-Known Member

    After reading this Forum, I've become interested in buying "Cestina pro cizince" and maybe "Czech step by step".
    I live in the USA. I have checked some on-line bookstores (Amazon and others) but apparently these books are already Out-of-Print.

    Does anyone know where I could find these books?
    Thanks :!:
  13. ondrejana

    ondrejana Well-Known Member

    Same exact books to learn from as Joss has:

    I adore my inventory, actually, which are excactly one-in-the-same, Naughton's Colloquial Czech and Lida Hola's book (which I just acquired last week). Together, they are truly wonderful resources.

    We also went to many antikvariats and purchased children's books for me (Ondrej Sekora, Capek, etc), so that I could at least have a goal of reading at a 7-8 years old level.

    the TY series is also rather good (i learned Danish that way, and my husband is learning Cantonese through its offerings too), but I didn't feel it necessary to have. Overall, my experience with TY is very positive.

    Naughton and Hola: winning combination. The former gives a great overview of everything, and I feel that Hola's simple formula-reduction memorization techniques and many exercises are great practice and review. By the way, does Step by Step have answers in the back? I was just going to have my 'manzel/ucitel' correct them for me!

  14. rsalc1

    rsalc1 Well-Known Member

    Ahoj Jano,

    Just wondering: did you go to the antikvariats in the States or while you were in the Czech Republic?
    I would like to improve my reading skills in Czech, but just I can't find books online or in my local bookstores.

    Zatím se mej,
  15. ondrejana

    ondrejana Well-Known Member

    Ahoj Reno!

    I just received your message to me. We (hubby and I) went to antikvariats in Praha, actually, to locate very reasonable-priced used books. For example, at least 4 of my children's books purchased were in wonderful (I'd say perfect) shape, and they cost me about $1-2 each.

    there's a particularly good antikvariat with great inventory in Vinohrady (close to Nam. Miru). Its website is www.antikariaty.cz
    and its address: Belehradska 96 120 00 Praha 2 tel: 222 521 043

    We hit a good # of these all over Praha 1, 2, and this one was quite good. Best wishes :wink:
  16. rsalc1

    rsalc1 Well-Known Member

    Ahoj Jano!
    Moc dekuji za informace.
    I checked out the website of the Prague antikvariat that you mentioned, and it seems to have a wide selection of books.

    Thanks again!
  17. MikeStribrny

    MikeStribrny Member

    My dad's from the Czech Republic and he's helping me learn some Czech before I move over. Apparantly the problem with text books that you find most of the time is that they teach you to think of the Czech language in terms of English which makes it harder to grasp the essence of words as you still think of it in terms of your native tongue and not the context of the Czech language. He's recommended I go and buy one of these 'Basic English' books that has everything in English with no translation. The idea is that you associate the English word with the picture and not a word in your language. He's going to translate the Basic English text into Czech so we'll see how that goes. Man its hard finding stuff in Czech, its not exactly a popular language to learn eh?
  18. Meme

    Meme Member

    Another pretty good one is Czech for You by Milena Kelly--large-format textbook and a set of 8 (I believe it is) tapes. I bought them in Prague last year (published by Anglictina Press). Kelly lives in Prague, and was very helpful in replacing one or two of the tapes that had some problem.
    (That should NOT discourage anyone, by the way; all subsequent sets had been corrected.)
  19. babicka

    babicka Well-Known Member

    I wish to add a further book to this Text Book section and that is:-
    The second edition of "401 Czech Verbs" by Bruce Davies and Jana Hejdukova
    This latest edition was publlished in October 2004 in Prague.
    ISBN 80-239-3692-1
    This book lists the conjugations of the most commonly used verbs together with precise definitions (both formal and colloquial), and examples of useage.
  20. czechchris

    czechchris Well-Known Member

    I would add a useful little book I carry with me when visiting Czech Republic, and that is Přehledná Gramatika - Čeština from infoa. Their website is www.infoa.cz - use the search box to find the item.

    Also I use bilingual texts, where the text is English on one page and Czech opposite. I have Dubliners by James Joyce and the Merry Wives of Windsor in this format.

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