Okay, I apologize for the horribly cheesy pun that is the title of this post, but I could not resist. In all the tourist shops here, that phrase is printed on bags, t-shirts, sweatshirts and shorts. Because I will be resisting the temptation to buy a t-shirt in every color for my friends back home, I will simply document the phrase as the title of this post.
Today, I took my Czech Intensive Course final. I anxiously studied the night before in hopes that through the miraculous process of osmosis I would be able to memorize the hundreds of vocab words, phrases, and conjugations that I would need to know. Much to my surprise the exam went well and I was pleased with my results. My teacher, the saint that she is, graded our exams while we watched a movie so that we could relax and not fret over our grades. My experience with the Czech class was very positive. My teacher really wanted us to do well and learn, not because it was a grade but because it would enhance our time in Prague and help us communicate with the locals. Our class appreciated her effort and patience so much that we made her a card and bought her flowers. She was overwhelmed with emotion and humbly thanked us. It was so nice to see how happy she was and I was again reminded of how nice it is to simply show individuals that you appreciate them. She also asked us if anyone would help teach her husband English. It looks like I will be helping out; I think it will be a neat experience.
The past two weeks have flown by. I feel completely comfortable with the city and know my way around fairly well. I consider myself lucky because I adjust to new places very easily and adapt quite rapidly. Sometimes I even forget that I am thousands of miles away from home, but then I hear Czech and I realize that I cannot understand them and I am quickly reminded just how far away I really am. However, the anxiety of daily transactions such as talking to the cashier at the potraviny (grocery store) has dissolved. I now feel able and confident enough to talk to the locals using my basic Czech. The nuanced mystique has worn off and I feel like I am ready to explore the true Prague through the eyes of the people that call it home.
A couple things that I have learned in the last 2 weeks. When you travel, learn,at least the basics of the language that you are traveling in even if it is only a few words. I have observed and experienced that when you at least attempt to use the local language rather than being made fun of, the locals appreciate you making an effort. This is very true in the Czech Republic. I had experienced a few less than friendly expressions when I only spoke in English in certain places. This is not to say that the Czech are not friendly. However, they are accustomed to tourists who come and go and do not necessarily care to delve deeper into their culture and language. The Czech are very proud people and even though English is taught in schools so that most younger people know it, the older generations speak only Czech. Because of their tumultuous history of being ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the German occupation of the former Czechoslovakia and the communist regime in the Eastern Bloc, the Czech people have had their fair share of language take-over. There have been periods where Czechs were forced to learn German or Russian. Now, the Czech people are very proud of their language and maintain it quite well despite the English language’s attempt at a global take-over.
While there may be a time where I am exasperated at trying to communicate and my limited Czech is getting me nowhere, I have to be calm and patient. I try to think of it in reverse, Americans are often less than patient with foreigners who do not speak English. It is important to respect a host country’s culture and language is perhaps one of the most prominent aspect of a country’s culture. I always try to remember that I am a guest, and that if I try politely to use the words and phrases that I have learned I am showing the Czech people that I respect their hospitality.
Since I have used my phrases in restaurants and stores, the people have been overly pleasant and have even taken time out of their day to help me with some more phrases. A little effort goes a long way.
I have a lot in store for this weekend so I will let you know how my adventures go soon.
Happy Reading! Na Shledanou! (Goodbye)
Here’s a picture that I edited for kicks.