This blog is not a democracy. 😉
Learning a language is a process. But if I’m learning Czech, you have nothing to complain about in English. (Yes, that’s the secret reason why I do it.) Without further ado, let’s get to the hilarity…
“Okay everyone, take out your slovíčka.”
(For the English speakers, this means “little word” – a diminutive of “word” like “kiddie” is of “kid” – vs. slovníček – dictionary/vocabulary list)
I confuse kočka (cat) and čočka (lentil). My most famous mistake to date was saying, “Can you call a girl a čočka just like in English?”
Though I know the difference between the words, it’s hard to correctly pronounce maso (meat) and máslo (butter).
English speakers, it’s a matter of holding out an accented vowel slightly longer. You’d probably be surprised too if I told you I was cooking butter for dinner.
“Jsem horká.” That isn’t the real mistake. I’ll let you guess what it was. (Sorry English speakers, this is a Czech-only joke.)
The worst word in Czech is not řeřicha (watercress) or Předklášteří (the name of a village). It is zaneprázdněný (busy).
Too many syllables… accents in all the awkward places… I have never said this word and been understood.
Přinést – “bring” (by carrying) vs. přivést – “bring” (by leading)
“Musím přinést studenty do jídelny.”
(“I have to carry the students to the cafeteria.”)
CASES 😦 (pády)
For a long time, I was like every other American who said, “English is one of the hardest languages in the world.” Um, no it’s not. Seriously. First, Czech is like Spanish and Hebrew in that numbers and adjectives have genders and must agree. Okay fine, not so bad. Let me blow your mind for a second. Imagine that every noun changes its ending based on where it is in the sentence / its function – for example, what preposition it’s next to. And all the adjectives and numbers have to agree with this extra change too.
Take for example: “Jsem v Brně” (I’m in Brno) vs. “Jedu do Brna” (I’m going to Brno)
That is the absolutely simplest example, so I think you can see how this might get confusing.
Internal dialogue: “Okay Chloe’. You want to say, ‘It’s the end of the world.’ You can do this. Hmm, how do I say it? To je konci světu. That sounds horrible. You are the worst Czech speaker ever. Oh, I know. Konce světa. No, that doesn’t sound right either. Konec světa?”
Honestly, what did I do to this language that it hates me so much?
Learning Czech is like exchanging your brain with alphabet soup and taking lots of wild guesses. But the problem is, the correct answer is always the one you don’t pick.
Now that I’ve put myself out there, here are the funniest mistakes I hear in Czech. 🙂
Confusing soup and soap.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I had tomato/pumpkin/chicken soap for lunch.”
Confusing bear and beer. “I like drinking bear.”
Confusing bird and beard. “I like your beard earrings.”
Confusing chicken and kitchen. Which obviously results in hilarity.
To be fair, my Israeli students made the same mistake.
Confusing laugh and love.
No matter how many times we practice, my students just can’t say the word “laugh” correctly. Which results in conversations like,
“He has a really funny love.”
Confusing “through” with “true” and “three” with “tree”… and so on.
“I have tree sisters.” You know you do it!
Confusing fun and funny.
“We went on a trip to the mountains this weekend. It was so funny!”
That’s really cute, but nope! Funny means vtipný, legrační, komický. Fun means zábava or zábavný. But “fun” is not an adjective in English like in Czech. We are less likely to say the simple, “It was fun” than “It was (a lot of/really) fun,” or “I had (a lot of) fun.”
Confusing paste and pasta (because pasta means toothpaste!). “I brush my teeth with pasta.” I bet your dentist likes that.
Confusing dress and sports jersey (because dres means sports uniform). “I wear a dress to football practice.”
“I got a recept for antibiotics.”
When you say this, I’m not sure if you mean you got a paper that shows all the things you bought at the store (receipt) or if you got instructions to cook something (recipe).
If you get something from the doctor, it’s a prescription.
Confusing “actual” and “relevant.” (aktualní = relevant)
“The information on the website is very actual.” *cue wrong buzzer*
“Actual” in English actually (see what I did there?) means something like skutečný.
Reading sentences like, “Olaf is a snowman, witch loves summer.”
English has stupid spelling rules, I get it. Still, I facepalm (sympathetically*).
Finally, ask yourself… do you really know what impregnace is?
Please, do not try to “impregnate your shoes,” the wall, your house, or… just… anything. Thank you for your cooperation.
You meant to say “waterproof.”
Listening to anyone who isn’t a native English speaker try to say the word “squirrel.” 🙂
That’s how it goes – I sound silly in Czech, you sound silly in English, everyone’s happy.
*By the way, sympathetic does not mean sympatický! It’s a “false friend.” Sympatický means “likeable.” Sympathetic means soucitný.