The Focus of This Lesson is the History of the Czech Republic
Czech is the official language of the Czech Republic, spoken by about 96% of the population. Czech is the mother tongue of about twelve million of people. Most of them live in the Czech Republic while around one million Czech speakers live abroad. Czech belongs to the West Slavic group of languages. Czech is very similar to the Slovak language, so much so that these languages are mutually intelligible. Czech and Slovak usually understand both languages in their written and spoken form, although there are many local dialects in each language that might present difficulties in understanding each other completely. To a lesser extent, Czech is also similar to other Slavic languages, such as Polish, Bulgarian, Croatian or Russian. Until the 19th century, it was known as "Bohemian" in English.
The Czech language developed at the close of the 1st millennium from common West Slavic. The oldest stage of Czech as a separate language started at the end of the 10th century. The first literal evidence of its existence can be traced back to the 12th - 13th century when the letters of the Latin alphabet were used.
In the Middle Ages Czech started to expand and develop into a rich and elaborate language with a literature of many genres. With the expansion of the Bohemian state, the Czech language also spread beyond the borders of the country's national territory. The 15th century and so-called Hussite period marks an important period for the language. Around 1406 Jan Hus, who was a Czech priest, philosopher and reformer suggested a reform of the orthography (the so-called diacritic orthography) in his work De orthographia bohemica, which consequently brought major changes into the written language. He created the system of having one grapheme (letter) for every phoneme (sound) in the language by adding accents to some of the letters. These changes resulted in developing the characteristic difference between traditional standard written Czech and commonly spoken language, so-called Common Czech. This difference remains noticeable today.
During the Renaissance Humanistic period (16th to 17th century) and with the invention of printing, the grammar of the Czech language finally became solidified thanks to the first print and translation of the Christian Bible into Czech. The literary form of Czech was based on the Czech biblical text from here on. After the lost Battle of White Mountain in 1620 the development of the Czech language was affected by confiscation and emigration of the Czech scholars. The function of the literary language was limited, cultivated by Czech expatriates abroad. The German language predominated the environment.
The period from the 1780s to the 1840s is also referred to as the National Renaissance. In 1781 Joseph II abolished the serfdom which caused migration of country inhabitants to towns. The Czech national reformers started to implement the ideas for the renewal of the Czech language.
During the 20th century, elements of the spoken language (of Common Czech especially) penetrated literary Czech. Since the second half of the 20th century, Common Czech elements have also been spreading to regions previously unaffected, as a consequence of the media's influence. Since May 2004, Czech has been one of the 23 official languages in the European Union.
Czech is a fusional/inflecting language that uses the Latin alphabet with specific diacritic marks for writing. In comparison with other languages, the differences between standard written Czech and common Czech are quite striking. In particular, this is because it does not just concern a specific vocabulary, but primarily involves systemic changes influencing declension and conjugation.
II. About the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a small inland country in Central Europe. The country borders Germany to the West, Austria to the South, Slovakia to the East and Poland to the North. The Czech Republic includes the historical territories of Bohemia and Moravia and a small part of Silesia.
Following the collapse of the Habsburg monarchy at the end of World War I, the independent country of Czechoslovakia was formed. The name reflected the union of the Czech and Slovak nations within the one country. At the end of 1992 Czechoslovakia separated into two independent nations: Czech Republic and Slovakia. The capital and largest city of the Czech Republic is Prague with 1.3 million inhabitants.
The Czech Republic has a temperate continental climate with four seasons. There are relatively hot summers and cold, cloudy and snowy winters. The temperature difference between summer and winter is relatively high, due to the landlocked geographical position. In winter, the temperature goes well below zero. The Czech Republic is especially famous for old historical places; twelve of them are listed in UNESCO's World Heritage list. The Czech Republic is also home to many beautiful nature spots.
III. Where Czech is Spoken
Czech is mainly spoken by over ten million people in the Czech Republic (96% of the total population) and over 1.5 million abroad. A large number of these Czech speakers are based in the United States, Canada, Australia and in European countries, including Germany, Austria, Poland, Slovakia, and the Ukraine.
IV. Writing System and Pronunciation
The current Czech language uses the Latin alphabet with specific diacritics as part of its writing system. Its basic principles are "one sound, one letter." Czech consists of twenty-six Latin letters as in English plus letters with special diacritic accents. There are three types of those accents: the acute accent čárka (length mark) for indicating the length of vowels, háček (hook) for changing sound, and lastly kroužek (circle) indicating long pronunciation of the letter u only ů. Altogether, the alphabet includes forty-two characters. Once you learn the pronunciation of the whole alphabet, you can read any word in Czech. Every word is pronounced exactly how it is written.
V. Why it is Important: The Top Five Reasons to Learn this Language Are...
1. The Czech sense of humor especially is specific to the language: when you're conversing in and comprehending Czech, it can be fun to understand shared jokes! Particularly interesting are Czech movies that are worth seeing in the original language. Czechs particularly like drama, comedy, comedy/drama, war/drama and animations.
2. Czech is considered one of the gateway languages to business in Central Europe.
Learning the Czech language might bring you new business opportunities in Central Europe as well as new opportunities in your own country. Having a well developed industrial base, the Czech Republic offers opportunities for business especially in the automotive industry, industrial machinery industry, mining, electronics, glass manufacturing and in beer production. In recent years and thanks to high-tech industries being on the rise, business opportunities are arising, particularly in the areas of aerospace, nanotechnology and life science.
3. The Czech Republic is a beautiful country! It is rich in natural and cultural attractions and is a very popular and must-see tourist destination in the heart of Europe. Without exaggeration, Prague is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world and attracts over five million visitor per year. The Czech Republic has several spa towns out of which Karlovy Vary is thought of as the Jewel of the West Bohemian Spa Triangle'. Every year, this city holds one of Europe's most important international film festivals, which has welcomed many movie stars from all over the world, including Hollywood stars.
4. Understand two languages by learning one!
Czech is in some ways similar to the Slavic languages. Both Czech and Slavic belong to the Western branch of the Balto-Slavic language group. The languages are therefore closely linked. By learning Czech it is possible to understand other Eastern European languages too, namely Slovak, Polish, Bulgarian, Croatian, and some Russian.
5. And finally...it's fun!