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Posts tagged “practice

Český Čtvrtek – Ústní Zkouška

Měla jsem ústní zkoušku včera, proto jsem neměla čas na psat moc. Ale, jsem mluvila budu psat každý týden, a pak budu psát každý týden.

Tento týden, jsem měla problemy s můj kreditní kartu. Protože jsem koupíla moc listky pro můj vylet do Italie v Dubnu, Mastercard zastavil můj kartu. Doufám bude dobře, ale už nevím.

Ale, půjdu do Italie! S moje kamarádka, budeme cestovat do Cinque Terra, Genoa, a Pisa. Pojedeme v Dubnu na čtyři dny, protože počasí bude krasný, ale nebude mnouho lídi. Budeme pěstovat blizko plaže, jíst zmrzlina (nebo gelato) a těstoviny, číst, a odpočivat.

Potom Italia, budu cestovat na Maltu. Taky na čtyři dny, ale budu sama. V Italii, máme plan, ale nemám plan na Maltu. Budu plavát a možna se taky potápět. Budu pěstovat a se divět na zajímavý mista. Potom, budeme mít zkoušky, ale protože jdu od Středu do Sobotu, doufám můžu studovat doma a nebudu musit studovat tam.

Před Italia, myslím jdu do Pařiže pro můj narozeniny. A to je bude všechno výlety. Tento rok, jsem cestovala do Berlině, do Dresdeně, a do Muncheně v Neměcke, do Turecko, do Polsko, na Slovensko, do Švycarsko, do Francie, a do Rakousko. Před koneční rok, budu cestovat do decet země!


I had my oral exam yesterday, so I haven’t had time to write very much. But, I said I would write every week, so I will write every week.

This week, I had problems with my credit card. Because I bought a lot of tickets for my trip to Italy in April, Mastercard stopped my card. I hope it will be good, but I don’t know yet.

But, I’m going to Italy! I’m going to Cinque Terre, Genoa, and Pisa with my friend. We will go in April for four days, because the weather will be beautiful, but there won’t be many people. We will hike near the ocean, eat ice cream (or gelato) and pasta, read, and relax.

After Italy, I will travel to Malta. That will also be four days, but I’m going alone. In Italy, we have a plan, but I don’t have a plan for Malta. I will swim and maybe also dive. I will hike and look at interesting places. After, I will have exams, but because I am going from Wednesday to Saturday, I hope I can study at home and I don’t have to study there.

Before Italy, I think I might go to Paris for my birthday. And that will be all my trips. This year, I have traveled to Berlin, Dresden, and Munich in Germany, to Turkey, to Poland, to Slovakia, to Switzerland, to France, and to Austria. By the end of the year, I’ll have traveled to ten countries!


Český Čtvrtek – Lyžovaní

Když opravdu chci být lepší v češtině, musím cvičit. Proto, budu psát můj blog v češtině každý týden. Budu psát každý čtvrtek – bude moje serie: český čtvrtek.

Jela jsem minulý víkend na Slovensko na hory protože jsem chtěla lyžovat. Jela jsem vlakem s novými kamarády, píli jsme moc na tom výletě na slovensku, a jsme lyžovali celý den ve čtvrtek, v pátek, a v sobotu. Na první dva dny, počasí bylo moc krasné. V sobotu, bylo špatné – mocný vítr a sníh. Proto, jsme čekali uvnitř a jedli jsme halušky. Halušky jsou tradniční jidlo na Slovensku a je jako Italské gnocchi. V neděli, jsme jeli domů taky vlakem. Býl to super výlet.

Myslim nebudu lyžovat tuto sezónu. To je trochu smutné protože mám ráda lyžovaní, ale tato sezóna byla dobrá. Lyžovala jsem ve pěti zemích – v České Republice, na Slovensku, ve Francii, v Rakousku, a v Neměcka. Sníh nebýl dobrý, ale lyžovaní bylo pěkné, a pohledy ve Francii a na Slovensku býly moc krásný. Doufám jednou můžu lyžovat ve Rakouských Alpách a v Italii, ale tato sezóna bzla úžasná.


If I really want to get better at Czech, I have to practice. Therefore, I will write on my blog in Czech every week. I will write on Thursdays – it will be my series: Czech Thursdays. *

Last weekend, I went to the mountains in Slovakia because I went skiing. I went by train with some new friends, we drank a lot on the trip, and skied all day on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The first two days, the weather was very beautiful. On Saturday, it was bad – strong winds and snow. Therefore, we waited inside and ate halushky. Halushky is a traditional food in Slovakia and is similar to Italian gnocchi. On Sunday, we went home, again by train. It was a great trip.

I think I won’t ski again this season. This is a little sad because I like skiing, but this season has been good. I skied in five countries – the Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Austria, and Germany. The snow wasn’t good, but the skiing was nice, and the views in France and Slovakia were very beautiful. I hope someday I will be able to ski in the Austrian Alps and in Italy, but this season has been amazing.


The word for “Thursday” in Czech starts with a “č” just like the word for “Czech” in Czech. This sound is the same as the “Cz” sound at the beginning of the English word “Czech.” Basically, my title for this series – and my reason for writing on Thursdays – is entirely alliterative and completely impossible to make clear in English. Just go with it. Return

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!

January Resolution

I don’t like making New Year’s Resolutions. I think they’re stupid. If you want to make a change in your life (actually want it), why wait until the first of January? But that doesn’t mean I don’t make them. I do. Every year. One or two, and I almost always fail to keep them, like the vast majority of the world. I always say I’ll exercise more – in the beginning of 2012, I kept that all the way through the end of February. In 2012, I made the only New Year’s Resolution I’ve ever kept – to read 52 books over the year. I did that in 2012, and I did it again in 2013, and I plan to do it again in 2014. But not as a resolution, but because now I’ve gotten into the habit of reading a book a week. Obviously, when it comes to finals week and show week and other stressful weeks, I don’t find the time to read an entire book. But then there are times, like summer and Christmas, when I’ve got more time than I know what to do with and I read a book a day. And, obviously, some of these are re-reads, or children’s books, but sometimes they’re Murakami novels or classics like Pride and Prejudice or nonfiction about wars.

This year, I’m not making any big year-long resolutions, but I am making a little year-long resolution and a giant January resolution.

1. 2014 – Learn something you want to share everyday. It doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be academic. It just has to be something I find exciting and want to share with someone. It could a single vocabulary word that is funny, or some new theory about the origin of the universe. It could be something silly about our favorite TV shows to share with my friends from home, or something intellectual to ponder over dinner with my dad. It doesn’t matter, but it has to exist.

I’m already full of random facts, that I share with people all the time. Sometimes in appropriate contexts, sometimes not so much. So maybe I’ll have 365 new facts at the end of the year. (In reality, we only remember about 1 in 10 things we learn, so maybe I’ll have 35 new facts to share.)

The impetus for this resolution is simple, really. I have always thought of myself as a learner. As I get older and people ask me what I want to do with my life, I don’t have any good answers for them. When I ask myself, I decide I want to learn every day. What better way to make sure I am doing that then to make sure I’ve learned something to share with someone every day? I don’t know what I’m doing with my life at this point, I don’t know what I’m going to be doing after I graduate, or even next summer. But I do know that I am in college to learn, and I’m in Prague to learn, and so that’s what I’m going to do. And that brings me to my second resolution – my January resolution

2. January – Learn Czech. I am making a resolution to learn Czech this month. Which sounds silly, because I’ve been learning Czech for the last four months, and will be learning Czech for the next five months. So why am I making it such a big deal for the month? There are a bunch of reasons. For one, I don’t have classes for the entire month, so I might as well give myself something to study. Two, I came to the Czech Republic to learn Czech. I came for the year so I had a better chance of learning Czech. If I’m not going to do it now, then when? Three, I feel like I’ve stalled a bit in my learning of the language. As if I got to a point sometime middle of last semester when I said “I can survive. I speak enough Czech to get my basic needs across, and if there is something more complicated that I need, there are always English speakers close enough to help me.” Which is not the attitude I want to have. See reason #2. So I’m spending the month of January learning Czech. I’ve broken it down for myself into four tasks, which will hopefully bring me closer to the fluency (or at least conversation abilities) I desire.

My first task is to learn 1,000 new words over the month. It sounds like a lot, but the reality is that 1,000 words isn’t that many. 1,000 words represents approximately the vocabulary of a 3 year-old, and approximately 1/30 of the vocabulary of a native speaker. Plus, it means memorizing 32 words every day. Which isn’t that hard.

My second task is to memorize the 7 noun declinations. I keep putting it off, because it is plain, old, boring memorization. But not knowing the declinations is a problem when it comes to speaking, and though some of them are coming to me, the process is too slow. So memorization it will be.

My third task is to have at least one conversation entirely in Czech every day. It can be as simple as ordering coffee (as I did this morning) or talking about what I’m studying (as I did around midnight on New Year’s Eve). The goal here is to not limit my learning to reading and writing, but to practice it in real life. And, ideally, I’m able to have the shorter conversations – especially ones that happen every day – without the native speaker knowing that I am not a native Czech. Hopefully, as the month goes by, my conversations can be longer and less nerve-wracking. I’ll be using the network I’ve set up over the last four months – of family and friends here in Prague – to try to have more complex conversations as often as possible, especially in the second half of the month; this will help me start to learn new words from context instead of the dictionary and to understand and speak at a more native (aka, quicker) pace.

My fourth task is to finish reading Matylda. I have the book in Czech and English, as well as the audio book in Czech, so I’ll finish it in Czech first (I’ve got about 50 pages left) and then read it while listening to the audio book over and over again. Here, again, the goal is to get used to a native speaking speed, but also to work on my reading-out-loud fluency and my pronunciation – all with the goal of sounding more native. Because the reality is that imitation is the best way to learn.

I know that these are big goals for one month, especially since I’m planning a week-long vacation to Switzerland and orientation starts the last week of January. But when the new CIEE students show up in January, I want to feel like I’ve accomplished something when it comes to the language.

Wish me luck!

Also, seeing as today is the second of January, it seems appropriate to share what I learned worth sharing yesterday. When Czechs do fireworks, they do fireworks right.


Loděnice is a little town about 30 minutes outside of Prague, with nothing particularly interesting. It is, however, home to a school with an English teacher who has a friend who went to CIEE. Aka, a perfect place for an exchange. So that’s exactly what we did.

On Friday, my Czech class took an all-day excursion to Lodenice, where we went to English classes with four different grades, taught some English, practiced some Czech, and played some games.

When we first arrived, the sixth graders were standing at the bus stop waiting for us, with a giant sign that said „Welcome to Lodenice!“ It was absolutely adorable. As we walked from the bus stop to the school, we were supposed to introduce ourselves. Most of the kids were too shy, but a few were adventurous enough to talk to us in twos or threes. I met a very cute girl, Maria, who was 11 years old. Her favorite animal is a dog and she has two sisters. We also discovered that there is a pair of twins in their class. (Who knew that knowing dvojčata means twins would be useful?) They also kept stopping to tell us things about the city – the kids were all in pairs, with a few sentences each about random things – the city, the history of the school, their cloakroom, their classroom, etc.

It was funny to me to see how surprised the Americans were by the cloakroom. Perhaps because I’ve been to Japan and seen students taking their shoes off at the school entrance, perhaps because I wore slippers myself in middle school, perhaps because I’ve already been to Emma’s school many times, I was not surprised to see the cloakroom. Kids show up to school, take off their jackets and outdoor shoes, put on indoor shoes, and their stuff gets locked during the school day so it doesn’t get stolen. It makes a lot of sense, actually. Less dirt tracked through the building. No bulky jackets to deal with in the classroom.  Plus, the kids have to keep it tidy or they get extra homework (that there is some of the best incentive I’ve ever heard of…)

After the 6th graders gave us our tour, we met the 4th graders. They were, unsurprisingly, excited to meet us. I was in a group with two girls, one of whom was full of questions, and one of whom was extremely shy. We were given a sheet of paper with categories, and our task was to fill it in with words in English and Czech. For example, one category was Rodina – Family. We had to write as many words as we could think of that had to do with family. Mother, father, sister, brother, cousin, aunt, uncle, etc. Part of our oral exam on Tuesday is like this – we get a category and have to give at least 8 words in the category. Our teacher was shamelessly getting us to study, but it was actually quite fun and I learned some new words. Plus, they made copies of the sheets, so all the kids will get the lists with some new words for them too.

Our next class was with some younger kids. I think some were in 3rd grade and some were in 1st grade.  Regardless, we sang some songs and played some games. We sang a colors song in English, and then in Czech to the same tune. (Although it only kinda worked, because the names of colors in Czech are longer than in English). Then we sang „Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes“ in both languages. The Czech version has a different tune, though, which was confusing. But now I know some body parts…

  • Head – hlava
  • Shoulders – romina
  • Knees-kolena
  • Toes –prsty
  • Eyes – oči
  • Ears – uši
  • Mouth – ústa
  • Nose – nos

We finished with a playground game in Czech that loosely translates to “Mr. Stork lost his hat. He’s looking for something colored…” And you say a color, after which everyone has to touch something that is that color.

Our last class was with the 9th graders – the oldest class in the school. As such, their English is actually quite good, and we were working on grammar. We were put into pairs, and each person got a sheet with the beginnings of sentences in their non-native language. For example, “on the weekend, I like to…” or “In five years, I …”. After we filled it out, we checked each other’s grammar, fixing spelling or adding missed articles. We finished with two quizzes – one about the Czech Republic and one about the USA; we again were given the assignment about our non-native country. With a bit of help from my buddy, I got 10/10, and he also got 10/10 with a little help from me. Unsurprisingly, though, the majority of the Czech students knew all 10 answers about the Czech Republic, but the majority of the Americans only knew 7 or 8 questions about the USA. (The youngest president in history, anyone? Was he 40, 43, or 50? Bonus: who was he?)

We finished our day with a late lunch in the cafeteria at the school – real chicken and mashed potatoes. The lunch wasn’t great (nothing compared to dinners at home), but it vastly exceeded anything I’ve seen at an American elementary or middle school.

All in all, the day was pretty awesome. We got to meet a lot of kids who were very excited to speak English and meet real Americans. We got to see a new village that I can’t imagine I would ever have any other reason to visit. And, I got to sleep in! Even though we met at 8:15 on the outskirts of Prague, we met at the end of the metro line closest to my house. Via tram and metro, it would have taken me over 40 minutes to get there, not unlike my daily commute to school. BUT, the buses are not restricted by where the rails are, and it took me just 8 minutes by bus to get there. I literally left my house at 7:55, walked to the bus stop (a little further than my normal tram stop – about a 10 minute walk), waited for the bus, and arrived in Zličin at 8:16. It was great. Anyway, chances are I have the same teacher next semester for Czech, and will thus have the same trip to the same school. It’ll be interesting to see the difference as to how much conversation I can actually have with the kids when I’ve got another four months of Czech classes under my belt.

Types of Czechs

By the time this actually gets put online, I’ll have been here for over a month. I’ve done so much, been so many places, and met so many people that it’s hard for even me to imagine. What I’ve written about here has really been just a smattering of my experiences, but mostly the best ones. I’ve noticed, over the past month, that there are a variety of types of Czechs when it comes to languages.

The easiest to describe are those like Anna’s mom, who speak no English. With them, either you try some Czech, or you stay mute. By the way, the Czech name for Germany and the Germans, Němestko, comes directly from the word němí, meaning mute; the Germans, back in the day, were unable to communicate verbally with the Slavs, so they had to use their hands. Anyway… my interactions with these people have come in two varieties: those instances in which muteness is an option, and those in which it is not. Muteness is almost always an option, though it is often preceded by that favorite phrase: I don’t understand Czech. I am then free to wander, or browse, or sit and read as I please. Sometimes, in stores, a different person then comes up and speaks English, in which case the conversation happens in English. But there are some situations when muteness in not an option. For example, when you go by yourself to the post office. Way back in orientation, we were told to be careful – that you should probably take a Czech buddy with you to the post office, because the postal workers very rarely speak English. I found this to be true (the English part, not the needing a buddy part.) Here’s a story:


Domácí Úkol = Homework

Today was day #2 of our intensive Czech course, and when we say intensive, we mean it. We are learning easily 100 words per day (and trying to retain them… I think I’m running around 50% retainment, if that), and a lot of them are confusing. For example,

  • Být (pronounced beet with a long “e”) – to be (vocative/dictionary form)
  • Byt (pronounced beet with a short “e”) – flat or apartment
  • Bít (pronounced byeet with a long “e” and a slight “y” sound) – to beat or hit.
  • Bit – ?