Do you want to know my tongue?

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 I’m starting to wonder whether Czech is really a language or a secret code.  I’ve never seen so many Z, Y and Ks so close together before which made me ask myself if Czech wasn’t just made up of all the letters you are usually stuck with at the end of a game of Scrabble.  In the English version of the game, a ‘Z’ scores a big fat 10 points.  According to Wikipedia, in the Czech version, the ‘Z’ tile only scores a measly two.  A quick flick through the final pages of your Czech-English dictionary will show you why.  For those of you without one close at hand, here are a few highlights.  ‘Zvuk’ may sound like a vicious bird-of-prey that would rip your beating heart out and then swallow it whole, but it actually means the rather more innocent ‘sound’.  To be ‘zbrkly’ – yes, that’s right, no vowels in this word logofiles, not one – doesn’t mean to act like a berk or freeze your proverbial arse off (z-brrr-kly) but to be hot-headed or rash.  And finally, ‘zcizit’ – which I just spent five minutes trying to pronounce until Czechman told me to give up and say ‘ukrast’ instead – means ‘to steal’.

 

Sometimes I’m think I’m not very good at being foreign.  When people can’t understand me I tend to get sulky and stroppy.  I got a bit sulky yesterday when I spent a whole afternoon hanging out with some of Czechman’s friends getting progressively more drunk while playing croquet in the park.  Having a couple of beers with your croquet is fair enough, but moving onto tequila and finally doing shots of plum vodka would result in a conviction for a public order offence these days back in England.  Some of Czechman’s friends are very sweet and try to coax language out of me by asking me lots of easy questions but most realise that I can hardly string a sentence together and then politely ignore me.  When I whine about this on the way home, Czechman is characteristically blunt.  ‘You’d better get used to it, because things aren’t going to get better anytime soon.  Even when your Czech improves you probably won’t understand much when we’re all speaking together.’

 

I refuse to give up though.  I won’t be the typical English speaker who spends years in Prague and hardly manages to expand their vocabulary beyond ‘knedliky’ and ‘pivo’.  

 

The attractive, dark-skinned lady in the picture is advertising a language school by asking if you want to know her tongue.  According to Czechman, this is as dirty as it sounds.

jazyk

8 Comments

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8 Responses to Do you want to know my tongue?

  1. Tereza

    Thank you, this made my day!!! So true about the scrabble 🙂 Keep writing!!!!

  2. Hi English woman,
    just wanted to stop by and greet you, congratulations, thanks for posting 😀
    this in fact is a little bit a double-headed message, yazik is language in the first acception, znat is not the best companion verb, in the sense that “ja chci znat jazyky”, (I want to know other languages … but not particularly yours…) so the trick is probably the possessive adjektiv!
    have a good stay and nice weather!

  3. jednorozec

    Zcizit is tough.
    By sheer coincidence I was enlivening my slow-progressing car slog (pre-Christmas England!) by thinking of vowel-less Czech words. Zvlhl.
    Even a native has to make an effort on that one.

  4. Darina

    Hi Girl in Czechland,

    I just discovered your blog and read some of your posts. And I really liked it, which made me start reading it from the beginning.
    It’s interesting to read what a foreigner experiences in my country, especially when I am an ‘expat’ myself (living in Holland with my Dutchman). I share so much of your experience!
    Your willingness to learn Czech really impresses me. I know how impossible Czech is. My Dutchman is also learning it. And, obviously, I am the one he asks for explanations. I also know how frustrating it can be to try to learn a language – I’m still struggling with Dutch. So, you have my admiration.

    I just have two remarks on this post:
    1. The Czech language considers ‘y’ to be a vowel.
    2. The word ‘zcizit’ does NOT mean ‘to steal’. ‘To steal’ = ‘odcizit’; ‘zcizit’ = ‘to alienate’ (so for example donate or sell). That is just fyi, way too many Czechs don’t know the difference and make this mistake.

    Good luck with Czech!

    • girlinczechland

      Hi Darina,
      Really glad you like the blog and thanks for your encouraging words in regard to my ongoing battle with Czech. I will win in the end (at least I hope so…)!
      GIC

      • Krista

        Hey, I also thought that “zcizit” means “to steal” (And I’m czech)!

        But there are words in czech having more meanings than one:
        Jazyk – tongue / language
        Kolej – train truck / student’s dormitory
        Září – September / is shining
        Společnost – Company / Society
        Hodiny – Clock / Hours
        etc…

        My English teacher’s favourite sentence: “Your eyes September!”

    • Mori

      Actually both “zcizit” and “odcizit” do mean to steal, but I consider them rather archaic (though “zcizit” even more then “odcizit”). For alienate I would use reflexive “odcizit se” (not so archaic in this sense).
      Good news: as we Czechs are lazy to pronounce difficult words too, most of them get archaic 🙂

  5. Jiri

    Hey, this blog is cool, and it looks so much as my “live in England” one (which for a change is written in Czech): http://www.storm.bloguje.cz/tema-9-zivot-v-anglii.php

    It’s indeed true that to foreigners Czech may seem just a higgledy-piggledy of consonants, but don’t forget that “y” is in fact a vowel in our grammar, so there is one vowel in “zbrkly”. And we do have plenty of vowely words (e.g. “auto” 🙂

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