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Is the Czech language difficult to learn?

You may have heard that the Czech language belongs to one of the most difficult languages in the world. This feeling might be strengthened after reading a couple of first Czech Time lessons which include loads and loads of rules. But is the language really that difficult? The point of this article is to give you a balanced, thought-provoking view on the question.

External Factors

First of all, the difficulty vastly varies depending on where you come from. People from Slavic countries (Poland, Russia, Ukraine) have the undeniable advantage of having the language which shares grammar patterns, vocabulary and language syntax. On the contrary, people from Asian countries which do not even use the Latin alphabet as their primary means of communication (China, Japan, India) may find it considerably more difficult to master the Czech language.

Also, the student’s determination and intensity of studying contributes to the fact of how the language seems difficult. If you spend half an hour per week learning from a textbook then, yes, you are making it difficult for yourself. However, being surrounded by Czech everywhere around can significantly ease the learning process. Listen to music, speak to natives, read children stories, write fridge notes, learn vocabulary on the street.

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Talent is, of course, also really important, but with little influence over this, it is no use commenting on that to greater details. Put simply, if you already handled several other languages, learning Czech will be a quite routine process (it is like making coffee, you generally know what to do, but the technique is slightly different for cappuccino, filtered coffee and french press).

Too Much Grammar (?)

Yes, I agree, Czech grammar is difficult, awfully difficult. A typical argument from learners is: “How the hell should I learn all conjugations, declensions in 7 cases, perfective verbs, formal aspect, gender-sensitive verbs, reflexive verbs and many more?” I agree it sounds scary, but have a look at this:

Future perfect continuous, mixed conditionals, strict word order, phrasal verbs, prepositional phrases, infinitive/gerund sensitive verbs. Those are just a few English grammar points that foreign students have problems with. Is it really different from the information mentioned in the previous paragraph? If you are a native English speaker, believe that English grammar is far from easy.

Most languages have complex grammar rules and Czech is not an exception. You never study all seven cases altogether, you do not need perfective verbs to order a meal in a restaurant, you will be understood if you change the position of a reflexive pronoun. Generally speaking, once you get over the basics and if you have a structured way of learning, studying Czech can be actually an enjoyable activity.

Lack of Learning Materials (?)

Moving to the availability of learning materials, you might agree with the general opinion that there is a lack of educational texts. But look at the address bar – where are you reading this? Czech Time is here to help you learn effortlessly!

It is true that, compared to other languages, the number of textbooks available in bookstores is quite limited. Also, Youtubers and Facebook Pages dedicated to learning Czech are just on the rise and one has to dig deep to find some good quality materials.

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Český Rozhlas Logo
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When looking for new learning materials, always think outside the box. Do what small children in the Czech Republic do. How about watching kids quiz shows? Try AZ Kvíz junior on Česká Televize. The questions are fairly easy and it is educational on top of that! You can also listen to podcasts on Český rozhlas radio station. Do you rather fancy reading fairy tales? Get a copy of a classic – Malý princ. Fun and full of interesting vocabulary!

Take a look at our articles about using Youtube, podcasts, news sites and freely available books which can help with learning Czech:

Difficult Pronunciation (?)

Yes, this Ř. Ř, ř and ř again. With the exception of the German historical province of Upper Lusatia (minority language of Upper Sorbian people spoken by roughly 20.000 people), the Czech Republic is the only country having this extraordinary letter. But do you really think it is vital to speak Czech? Who cares? Accents are sexy!

A large advantage of the Czech language is that there are only a few rules to learn about pronunciation. Once you start understanding it (which is possible to manage within the first couple of lessons), everything is pronounced exactly the way you learned – almost no exceptions! The pronunciation rules get automatised in no time!

Well, to be fair enough, try to say:

“Tři sta třicet tři stříbrných stříkaček přeletělo přes tři sta třicet tři stříbrných střech.”

What is undeniably difficult is the stress. That doesn’t mean you should be stressed out from the language, I mean the stress as in pronunciation – intonation of each word. The emphasis is strictly placed on the first syllable of each word which makes the rhythm of Czech sentences unique. Prepositions make the matter even more complicated because they swallow the stress of the following word and the two are pronounced together. Am I saying okolo or o kolo? Hmmm…

Speaking of pronunciation, did you ever think about English blood, door and cool?

Good Quality Teacher!

And finally, the last but not least, the difficulty of your language learning vastly depends on your teacher. You should always look for professionals with years of experience. Unfortunately, a lot of native speakers think that knowing how to speak the language makes them able to teach it. Large mistake! A good teacher balances the right amount of speaking, grammar, vocabulary and listening in one lesson. On top of that, all of this should be always accompanied by homework.

Final Words

Remember, whatever means of learning Czech you are using, you should enjoy it and often look back at the progress you have made. It is easy to moan about how little you know but it is always worth it to evaluate what you know already.

Now, what is your answer to the question in the article headline? Is the Czech language really that difficult? Are there any insurmountable obstacles which make your learning impossible? Or is Czech just another language to learn? Let us know in the comments below.

Article Author: Tomáš Ptáčník