People often say that Czech is one of the most difficult languages in the world. I do not really believe in “difficult” and “easy” languages. For instance, a Russian speaker will have no difficulties to learn Czech because both languages belong to the same language family. An English person, however, might find Czech very hard because the grammar structure and words are very different to English. Our students are mostly English speakers and they know that learning Czech is not always a breeze. We have asked them what is the most difficult thing in learning Czech.
“I think learning a Slavic language for the first time is extremely difficult if you only know Latin based languages. The 7 declensions that include not only verbs, but also nouns, pronouns, adjectives and adverbs and other things are very difficult, and actions that fall under each declension often makes no logical sense. Add in masculine animate and inanimate, a feminine that has many different endings and neutrum that sounds similar to feminine, and one feels like running away! Seeing a word like Petra in a sentence, thinking it is about a girl called Petra, and then discovering it is actually about Petr makes you realise how easy it is to misunderstand what you read or hear. And as soon as you know some verbs, the perfect and imperfect tenses are introduced! Learning dative in terms of being ill, unwell, liking something, that is different for food, colours etc. is also very difficult. Going somewhere that is indoors, outdoors, can be classified as an activity, a country, region or island can be either “do” or “na”, but then there are also so many exceptions that you only learn by speaking the language regularly.” CH.J.
“I think the grammar is the most difficult thing in learning Czech, particularly use of the different cases and conjugation that always change the word endings etc.” A.F.
Evil Cases (Nominative, Genitive, Dative and Who Knows Which One is Next)
“From an English perspective the cases take sometime to get your head around. Additionally the formal use and perfective verbs are different and difficult to detect when hearing/using Czech.” G.C.
“Declining multiple times in a sentence is most difficult for me – since you may be changing words combining locative, accusative etc. – you need to think ahead of the sentence how you will decline, so that can be difficult. But it starts to become automatic with practice. Pronunciation is also difficult when you have lots of vowel-less words all next to each other – it can feel like your tongue is doing backflips!” J.E.
“In essence the difficulty is the cases. I know that Latin has a somewhat similar structure but I was never taught to speak Latin. That may explain why I can read Czech better than speak it. It has taken me a long time (largely, it must be admitted, through arrogance and indolence) to get into the cases but I feel they are the key to understanding and progress.” S.P.J.
“Most difficult, when learning Czech: endings – remembering the right ending in the right case with the right preposition and getting the adjectives and the nouns to agree.” M.G.
Pronunciation of Mouthful Bunches of Consonants
“The most difficult thing about learning Czech initially is pronunciation due to the differences between some letters in the Czech vs English alphabet. Seeing multiple consonants together can also initially be daunting and seem more like a tongue twister! Those hurdles soon seem minor when you consider that Czech has 7 cases to learn, each with masculine, feminine and neutral … and then there are the plural forms to consider! I find understanding which case to use the most difficult part, particularly when some prepositions are used across cases.” D.G.
“Remembering that I don’t need to say “I am shopping”, because the fact that it was “I” is in the ending of the word. In fact the whole way that Czech handles “I”, “we”, “she” etc is very different. It also changes depending on the tense. This is especially hard, because unlike a lot of Czech, in the past tense, the word order really matters. I often forget the “Jsem” in the second position.” M.P.