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

Czech Intensive, Take Two

We’re finishing up our first week of the two week Czech Intensive portion of this semester. Which means, of course, I’m making my way through the second first week of Intensive Czech. In some ways, this time around is more intense, but in others it is much calmer.

On the more intense side:

  1. We speak basically only Czech. This surprises me and amazes me simultaneously. If you had asked me when I got here if I could survive four hours a day speaking 95% Czech, I’d laugh at you. But here we are, and this is the reality.
  2. We have a new, and intense textbook. I like it though. Yes, it freaks me out to see all the instructions in Czech and the sheer size of it (~200 pages), knowing we’re going through the whole thing this semester. But it also excites me to see how much I’m going to learn, and some of the grammar is already instantly simplified because of the professional presentation of it.
  3. We’re learning dozens of new words a day. This happened first semester, but the words were usually related (like, all the numbers, or a series of logical and important verbs). This semester’s words are more random, dependent on where the conversations take us. New words from today included, but were not limited to: mluví o (speak about), puberták (teenager), přijemný (annoying), obsazeno (taken), čiše (decanter), vrchní (head waiter), přát (to wish), drobné (coins, change), česněk (garlic), zelí (cabbage), kulajda (a specific type of traditional soup with cream, eggs, and mushrooms), potok (brook), krájet (to dice), štouchane brambory (mashed potatoes), žizen (thrist), and švýcarsko (Switzerland).

On the calmer side:

  1. We know each other. Basically everyone in my class I knew from last semester, so it makes personal dynamics less stressful. We know each others’ quirks, and we already have the inside jokes that get us through the long days of studying.
  2. We know what to expect. It doesn’t come as a surprise that we get lunch one day and not the next, or that just becaue the schedule says x, y, and z doesn’t mean that we’re sticking to it; in fact, chances are pretty high that lunch gets shifted up one day and back the next.

This isn’t to say that Czech right now isn’t intense. Because it is. We have pages – pages! – of homework each night, and my brain literally hurts when the day is done. But I’m loving it. Because it means I’m learning, which is what I’m here to do, after all. And I feel like I’m on the verge of really being able to communicate in Czech. It’ll definitely take a lot of hard work, but I feel like I’m right there. Like there are only a few more things to learn and then I can say anything I want to say. The declinations that just a month ago seemed so incredibly impossible are coming to me now. I don’t have to think so hard for them to pop into my head, and more often than not the ones I let pop in without thinking are right. More and more, I’m able to understand a word, or words, from context, which means I have to look up words less and less in day-to-day conversations. I’m starting to consider at what point trying to listen and understand conversations on the trams becomes eavesdropping. I sometimes even find myself looking forward to conversations all in Czech, because I feel like I’ve accomplished something significant in terms of the language. Like this morning’s interactions with Emma:

Emma HATES it when I ask her Jak se máš? (how are you?). Hates it when anyone asks, actually. Because their last homestay, Jorge, who was only in Prague for 10 days, never learned anything else. So he’d ask her all the time. Let’s just say they didn’t get along.

Sometimes, we ask Emma how she is as a joke. To make her angry, because she’s cute, and it is funny. But she’s been sick, and I was genuinely curious to know how she was. So I asked her, this morning, Jak se máš? And she scowled. But I didn’t laugh, or give up. I knew what was going on, so I told her (in Czech, of course!) that I’m not Jorge, but that I actually want to know. And then I asked again. And she answered. And it all happened in Czech.

Maybe next time I ask her, she’ll know I really mean it right off the bat.

Baby steps.

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