If you are interested in knowing the language not just for emergency situations, but so that you can get a feel for it, and brighten the day of the receptionist at your hotel / your taxi driver / your restaurant server, you can make use of this guide.
The Czech language – even for some Czechs – is notoriously difficult to pronounce. Even saying hello in Czech, or goodbye in Czech, isn’t easy. One letter (ř) has a sound that exists only in Czech and Polish. It is pronounced something like a combination of a rolled “r” and a “zh” sound. Foreigners rarely get it right, so don’t worry if you are unable to pronounce it. You can always use a regular “r”, and the Czechs will understand you. The emphasis is on the first syllable of every word (as shown below). In the interests of simplifying the pronunciation, the stress is only shown for the first syllable, omitting other syllables that are also emphasized.
Certain consonants change their pronunciations when they occur at the end of a word. “B” is pronounced “p”. “D” is pronounced “t”. “G” is pronounced “k”. “Ř” is pronounced “sh”. “V” is pronounced “f”. And “ž“ is pronounced “sh”. (Keep in mind, this only happens when the consonant is found at the end of the word.)
If you are looking for a few books to take home, keep in mind that “ch” is a separate letter in Czech, and it comes between “h” and “i”. Although, in bookstores, the English-language books are generally alphabetized correctly, it helps to know where to look if you don’t find a particular author whose surname begins with “ch”.
Let’s get some of the emergency situations out of the way. It may happen that, as you are out and about, an accident will occur. Violent crime, fortunately, is very rare here, but theft is all too common, and even alert tourists can discover that their wallet has been stolen, or perhaps an item of jewelry. Here are a few Czech phrases for such situations. The pronunciation is given after the word or phrase.
|We need a doctor||Potřebujeme lékaře||POH-tzhe-bu-yeh-meh LEHK-ah-zheh|
|My wallet has been stolen||Moje peněženka byla ukradena||MOY-eh PEN-yeh-zhen-ka bila OO-krah-dehn-yah|
|Call the police||Zavolejte policii||ZAH-voh-ley-teh POH-li-tsee-yeh|
|My child is missing||Mé dítě chybí||May DEE-tyeh HEE-bee|
If you want some casual words and phrases, here are a few.
|Hello||Dobrý den||DOH-bree dehn|
|Goodbye||Na shledanou||Nah SKLE-dahn-oh|
|Please / You’re welcome||Prosím||PROH-seem|
it should be noted that Czechs often shorten this word to “No”, which means that you will often hear a Czech in conversation saying “No, no, no” – when he/she is saying “Yes”.
|Good morning||Dobré ráno||DOH-bray RAH-noh|
|Good evening||Dobrý večer||DOH-bree VEH-tcher|
|I don’t know||Nevím||NEH-veem|
|How much does it cost?||Kolik to stojí?||KOH-leek to STOY-yee?|
|What time is it?|| Kolik je hodin? ||KOH-leek yeh HOH-deen?|
For getting directions, these will be useful:
|Where is it?||Kde je?||Gdeh yeh?|
|Where is the bathroom?||Kde je zachod?||Gdeh yeh ZA-hote?|
|Around the corner||Za rohem||Za ROH-emm|
|Is it far?||Je to dáleko? ||Yeh toh DAH-leh-ko?|
|Where is the train station?||Kde je nádraží?||Gdeh yeh NAH-drah-zhee?|
|Where is the airport?|| Kde je letiště?|| Gdeh yeh LEH-teesh-tyeh?|
Czech certainly doesn’t lend itself to quick learning, but foreign visitors often pick up a few words during their stay. Who knows? You might find yourself wanting to learn more of this fascinating language.
Hodně štěstí (Good luck)!
Written by Erin Naillon