Czech for Beginners
Here is a very simple initial lesson in the Czech Language, focussing on basic pronunciation and alphabet as a jumping-off point for a deeper investigation.
I am older now, of course, and I like to think wiser. I understand that sometimes you just want basics, and everyone has to start somewhere. I was recently asked to put together a quick lesson in Czech for anyone who might be interested, and I now recognize that this might be a good way for people to decide if learning Czech full-throttle is worth their time. That’s useful information, and so I’ve put together the following for anyone who might be interested.
Czech Basics: Alphabet and Pronunciation
Despite using the Cyrillic Alphabet, Czech is fairly straightforward for English speakers.
The alphabet is as follows: a, á, b, c, č, d, ď, e, é, ě, f, g, h, ch, i, í, j, k, l, m, n, ň, o, ó, p, r, ř, s, š, t, ť, ú, ů, v, y, ý, z, ž. To English-speakers this can look complex, as all those “doubled” letters seem ominous, especially for folks who already feel like they don’t know how to pronounce English words! But Czech is a relatively logical language; once you learn how to pronounce the letters they are generally always the same, which means once you know the rules you should be able to pronounce anything you read pretty easily.
There are a lot rules, but as this is meant as a very basic high-level tutorial, let’s give you nine rules that will get you by, as most of the rest of Czech is pronounced close to how you would in English. Our nine rules are: Pronounce c – ts, as in cats, č – ch, as in chin, ch – as in loch, j – y, as in yellow, ň – nya, as in onion, š – sh, as in shoe, ť – tya, as in stew, w – pronounced like v, ž – zh, as in pleasure. Memorise these and you’ll get by in just about every situation involving Czech.
Czech Basics: Vocabulary
I don’t think listing random words or phrases here is very helpful; A better strategy would be to take these pronunciation rules and simply find a list of Czech phrases and words on the Internet, preferably with sound files demonstrating pronunciation, and start practising. There are plenty of resources out there, and it’s kind of fun to take simple words and apply the basic knowledge here and simply enjoy speaking in an unfamiliar accent!