Useful Czech Phrases for Travellers

May 5th, 2013

A brief collection of phrases that any traveller in a Czech-speaking area will find useful and essential.

Czech Pronunciation

A quick note on pronunciation: Czech is a pretty straightforward language, and is spoken more or less how it’s written, so it’s actually a perfect language to learn just a few phrases. Pronunciation is a bit different from, say, English though, so keep the following in mind:

zc – 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

Useful Czech Phrases

Let’s start with the very basic stuff you’ll need just to be polite and get through most situations:

Hello (formal):  Dobrý den.
Hello (informal): Ahoj!
Goodbye: Na shledanou
Yes (formal): Ano
Yes (informal): Jo
No: Ne
Excuse me: S dvolením
Sorry: Promintě
Please (also You’re welcome): Prosím

Now that you’re not getting angry glares from the crowd, here are some more practical phrases. I always think the most useful phrase you can learn in any language is “I would like.” If you can say these three words in a language, then your finger can do the rest. This works in a lot of situations – it’s awkward, but it can be used to find out just about anything. In Czech, “I would like” is Ja sí dam. You can say it and point to a menu, to a toilet sign, to a map – just about anything.

Another very useful word is, of course, “Help,” which in Czech is Pomoc. Sometimes just being able to articulate this one word is all you need!

If you’re relying on phrases, I’d suggest you learn “I don’t understand” (Nerozumím) and “Do you speak English?” (Mluvíte anglicky?). This way you can alert people to the fact that you won’t understand a word they’re saying, and avoid a lot of awkward situations. And finally, for those visits to the pub, the two essentials: “A beer, please” (Jedno pivo, prosím) and “Where is the toilet?” (Kde je záchod?) in case you don’t want to simply grunt Ja sí dam and point at something.

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