Today (Thursday, 19 Sept) marks the official end of our intensive Czech course. And, unsurprisingly, the course was intense. Though they say it is two weeks of Czech, it was technically only eight days of classes. (Today was just our final test, and tomorrow we have a trip to the ministry of the interior…) It may have only been eight days, but we had over 34 hours of Czech lessons, either in the classroom or out and about in the city (practicing ordering food by going out for breakfast before class, our directions, our requesting phrases in stores, etc.).
All in all, I really enjoyed the intensive Czech period, though I know a lot of people did not. I’ve already mentioned that my primary goal in coming to the Czech Republic is to learn the language, so I intentionally enrolled in the “Fast Track” Czech course. I heard a lot of other people complaining that their classes have one or two people who don’t care about the language, or who just don’t get it; the fast track is nice because everyone there wants to be there. We all either are really motivated to learn Czech, really good at languages (there are two linguistics majors), or already know Russian, which is (un?)surprisingly similar.
On the flip side, a lot of people in the program were not ready for a significantly different language. With Japanese as my second language, I’m used to not only different sounds and words, but also an entirely different written language, so Czech hasn’t actually been that bad. But for people whose second language is Spanish, or even French or Italian, Czech must be insane. A lot of words sound nothing like their English equivalents, the sentence structure is flexible, but only because each word’s formation is incredibly strict, and there are sounds in Czech, like ř, that they’ve never seen before. Even though I loved the last two weeks, as did the majority of my class, for some of these people, the intensive course was basically two weeks of torture.
Technically, the intensive course was the same for all classes, but it’s clear to me that we learned more in the fast track course than people in the other classes. The biggest difference is that our professor entertained almost all of our questions. When we wanted to know a word or a phrase, she took the time to explain it to us. In addition to the material we had to cover for this morning’s test, we began to speak about more verb conjugations and noun declinations, which I’m sure we’ll be learning as the semester progresses.
The test itself wasn’t that bad. It consisted of a three page written test and a short oral examination. There were a few things I know I spelled wrong, but I’m pretty sure my intentions were clear. The oral was totally fine, because we’ve been doing so much speaking practice in class.
So here we are, at the end of the two weeks, the end of orientation, and the beginning of the legit semester. Even though the officially phrased Intensive Czech Course is over, I know that learning Czech will be a year long and continuously intense process. As of now, I’m both proud and disappointed by how much Czech I’ve learned, which confuses even me when I think about it. I am impressed by how many words I’ve learned, and by how many simple situations I can get myself through without any concern. But there are also so many instances where I know I’m totally helpless. This morning, I went with Filip to take the kids to school, and Jachym’s preschool teacher was talking to me. I had literally no idea what she was saying, but I used my favorite phrase and eventually figured out that Jachym has been talking about me at school.
If I could wish for one thing, it would be the ability to remember everything. If I could remember every word or phrase from the first time I heard it, I would be able to say so many more things, but instead I have to fight myself every time I try to use Czech. It’s difficult, certainly, and I can feel myself getting increasingly frustrated when I’m surrounded by conversations I cannot understand (especially at home), but I just try to listen for a word here, or a phrase there, and figure stuff out from context.
Anyway, my two “intense” weeks are done, but I have a suspicion the semester is about to get harder. We start our real classes on Monday – I’ve already skimmed my courses’ syllabi, and one of them has 125 pages of reading due the second day of classes (readings which we have not yet received). And my personal intense Czech is really just about to start. Again, I am here to learn the language, so I’m going to dive into it head first. My professor has offered extra work if we want it; if after the first week of classes I don’t feel like I’m keeping up a similar pace in terms of the language I’m learning, I’m taking that extra work. Plus, I get the sense that Anna, who used to be a teacher, really wants to teach me too. So I want to set up “lessons” with her, maybe on the days I don’t have Czech classes, to practice, maybe by reading the newspaper or something. We’ll see how next week goes, but I’m super excited about the next stage of the semester.