Shared Joy is Twice the Joy, Shared Pain is Half the Pain

January Reconsidered

It is the second day of February, which means that my month of Czech is officially over. This is a very strange feeling for me, because in a lot of ways January wasn’t any different than December was, or February will be. I spoke more Czech on a daily basis during January than I had in December, which was my ultimate goal. I intend to speak more Czech daily during February than I did during January. This could be because I’m going to classes every day and will be able to speak with my Czech professor, other professors (who are Czech) and all the staff and buddies at CIEE.

Nonetheless, I feel like I need to look back at my goals from January and see how well I did.

1. Learn 1,000 new words. Well… my success here depends on your definition of learn. If we’re going by the “I didn’t know the word January 1st and know it today” definition, I failed. There is no way I can claim that I memorized 1,000 words and could recite them to you today. If, however, we consider learning a word being exposed to it, remembering it for some period of time, and writing it down, then I definitely succeeded. I wrote down more than 1,000 new words over the month of January, and for the most part remembered them for a few days at least.

Even though this isn’t a success in the way I first expressed my 1,000-word-goal, I think this was successful. In my experience learning new vocabulary in Japanese, I never really remember a word the first time I learn it. But the second time, for whatever reason, it really clicks. So I’m thinking of these 1,000 words as round 1, and round 2 will be highly successful.

2. Memorize the 7 noun declinations. Easier said than done, it seems. I have been working on them, and I’m definitely a lot closer than I was at the beginning of January. But I’ve still got a way to go. Interestingly, though I struggle with them during normal day-to-day conversations, I almost always get them right when I’m drunk. (As evidenced by various Czech friends complimenting me for my mastery of declinations while at the bars in the past few days.) This tells me that I’m absorbing the declinations and I need to stop worrying so much about them during normal (sober) conversations.

3. Conversation in Czech every day. This definitely happened. Whether I accomplished what I hoped to accomplish by setting this as a goal is questionable, but I had these conversations. I ordered coffee/tea/cake/whatever, I bought stamps, I had conversations over lunch and dinner and instead of studying. I learned about what it is like to be blind or deaf in the Czech Republic, and talked about the different types of bullying. I explained American drinking games and learned some Czech history. Most of these conversations were completely in Czech; the more complicated ones were often interrupted by asking what a word means, but always asked and answered in Czech. I’d say this one was a total success.

4. Read Matylda. I can also check this box off. I finished reading Matylda, I read other books to my host siblings, and continued listening to as much Czech (reading, conversations on the trams, TV shows) as I could.

In addition to these, I discovered this month a host of English TV shows that have been dubbed into Czech, and started watching them. Most notably, I’ve been watching Gilmorová Děvčata (Gilmore Girls) online, and Castle na Zabiti (Castle) and Pan Času (Dr. Who) on TV with some regularity. Also on TV in Czech sometimes: Friends, Full House, and The Big Bang Theory.

Was January successful as a month to forward my Czech knowledge? Yes. Did I learn as much as I wanted to? Probably not. Did I learn more than I expected? Yes. I’ve gotten to the point where I can sit at the table and understand the majority of what is happening around me, even if I can’t understand every single word. When I’m on the trams, I no longer try to listen for a word I recognize, I now am trying to comprehend entire sentences at a time. Next up, hopefully in March or so, listening to entire conversations. (At what point does this action go from desperately trying to learn the language by practicing in every way possible to awkwardly eavesdropping on people’s conversations?)

Intensive Czech starts Monday morning, which I’m certainly looking forward to. I have a suspicion that the amount of work and effort this semester’s class is going to require will be much greater than last semester; the textbook we’re supposedly going to use looks awesome, but we’re also apparently going to go through all 20 chapters…

I’m setting for myself another language-related month long task (although only one for February): I will ONLY speak in Czech to the CIEE staff and buddies. This includes whoever is at the front desk, everyone working upstairs, and any flat/dorm/homestay buddies that may be attending any event. I cannot get out of this by not having conversations; I will have at least one such conversation every day that I am at CIEE (which means at least 4/week.) In addition, any emails I send to them will be in both Czech and English.

Once again, wish me luck!

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