Keys to the City – Linguistic Linchpins
There’s no doubt about it – traveling to Prague means a new culture, new customs, and a new language. A lot of people in Prague speak English, and you can get away with just a smattering of Czech if learning the language is low on your priorities list. If that’s the case, here are the words current students in Prague suggest you commit to memory. Sometimes, knowing how to tell someone to go away comes in useful, after all…
- Ahoj – Hello/goodbye (it can be used as both!)
- Bez lepku – Without gluten. Very useful if you’re gluten free.
- Dekuju – Thank you.
- Dobry den – Hello. (Literally, good day.) Use this when speaking with someone you don’t know, or someone older/more important than you. Ahoj is for friends.
- Kolik?/kolik stoji? – How much/How much does it cost.
- Na schledanou – Goodbye.
- Pozor – Watch out/attention/be careful. Used in many different situations.
- Prominte – Excuse me. Pardon also works.
- Prosim – Please.
- Pryč – Go away.
- Zatim čau – See you later.
- Zmrzlina – Ice cream.
Learning your numbers is also very useful in any situations. Buying things, arguing with cab drivers over the cost to get home late at night, asking about getting the right tram, you know…
Also, a note about CIEE’s language classes: They are what you make them. I know people who have gotten through the Czech class with a reasonably good grade and literally don’t know a single word. (When asked for words for this list, they responded with “I don’t know anything in Czech.”) But there are also a good number of people who can carry out simple conversations if they wanted.
The intensive Czech course is two weeks of “oh, crap! What have I gotten into?” but you come out with a solid base, with which you can survive if you want to. If you’re really interested in learning Czech, definitely sign up for the Fast Track course. I’ve talked to so many people who say they wish they’d taken Fast Track. Yes, we get homework. Yes, our tests are a little bit harder. But we also learn more about how the language fits together that makes it a bit easier to understand. Obviously, do what you want with Czech, but if you have anything more than a glancing interest and are willing to put in a bit of work, I’d personally recommend the Fast Track course.
Also, if you’re interested in learning Czech in the comforts of your own home, the Pimsleur Czech language course is a great beginning. I did all 30 of their lessons before I came to Prague, and I definitely felt like I had a grasp on the world around me as a result. Even just the first five lessons give you a good idea of the language and some useful phrases if you want them.