Lesson Notes

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Grammar

The Focus of This Lesson is the History of the Czech Republic


I. Linguistics

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!

Lesson Transcript

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INTRODUCTION
Martin:"Ahoj"! Hello! Martin here.
Gabriella:Hi everyone! I’m Gabriella. Welcome to CzechClass101.com. This is All About, Lesson 1 - Top 5 Reasons to Learn Czech.
Martin:Together, Gabriella and I will be your guides to everything Czech in this series!
Gabriella:That's right. And this first lesson is all about the Czech Republic and the Czech language!
Martin:We’ll take you on a tour through the Czech Republic in this lesson. Let’s start with where the Czech Republic is located.

Lesson focus

Gabriella: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.
Martin:The independent country of Czechoslovakia was formed after the collapse of the Habsburg monarchy, at the end of World War I. The name Czechoslovakia reflected the union of the Czech and Slovak nations within the one country.
Gabriella:But at the end of 1992, Czechoslovakia separated into two independent nations: the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Martin:That’s right. The capital and the largest city of the Czech Republic is Prague, with 1.3 million inhabitants.
Gabriella: Now, we should mention the weather, too. The Czech Republic has a temperate continental climate, but does it also have four seasons?
Martin:Yes. It does. We have spring, summer, autumn and winter. The summers are relatively hot, while winters, on the other hand are cold, cloudy and snowy. The temperature difference between summer and winter is quite high because of the country’s landlocked geographical position. In winter, the temperature goes well below zero.
Gabriella: Keep that in mind if you’re traveling to the Czech Republic, listeners! The Czech Republic is also very famous for having old historical places, isn’t it Martin?
Martin:That’s right. 12 of them are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Czech Republic is also home to many beautiful nature spots. Now let’s talk a bit about the Czech language. It’s actually similar to some other languages in Europe.
Gabriella: Yes! Czech is the official language of the Czech Republic, it’s spoken by about 96% of the population, and is the mother tongue of about 12 million people living mostly in the Czech Republic. About 1 million Czech speakers also live abroad.
Martin: The Czech language belongs to the West Slavic group of languages, and the most similar language to it is Slovak. These two languages are mutually intelligible, and that’s why Czech and Slovak people usually understand each other. Although, there are many local dialects in both languages that make it more difficult to understand each other completely.
Gabriella: To a lesser extent, Czech is also similar to other Slavic languages like Polish, Bulgarian, Croatian, or Russian. Until the 19th century, the Czech language was known as “Bohemian” in English.
Martin: That’s right.
Gabriella: So, Martin, did the Czech Republic always have its own language?
Martin: No, the oldest version of Czech as a separate language is from the end of the 10th century.
Gabriella: The first written evidence of its existence can be traced back to the 12th - 13th century, when the letters of the Latin alphabet were used.
Martin: In the Middle Ages, the Czech language started to expand and develop into a rich and elaborate language, and there’s literature covering many genres.
Gabriella: And with the expansion of the Bohemian state, the Czech language also spread beyond the borders of the country’s national territory.
Martin: That’s right. The 15th century and so-called Hussite period marks an important period for the language.
Gabriella: 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 brought major changes to the written language. He created the system of having one grapheme or letter for every phoneme or sound in the language, by adding accents to some of the letters.
Martin: These changes resulted in the characteristic difference between the traditional standard written, and commonly spoken form of Czech, which is now called Common Czech.
Gabriella: This difference remains noticeable even today.
Martin: That’s right. During the Renaissance Humanistic period in the 16th to 17th century, and with the invention of printing, the grammar of the Czech language finally became prescribed, thanks to the first print and translation of the Christian Bible into Czech.
Gabriella: 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. Then the function of the literary language was limited and cultivated only by Czech expatriates abroad.
Martin: And instead, the German language became dominant in the Czech Republic.
Gabriella: Ah, I remember reading about the period from the 1780s to the 1840s, which 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 their ideas for the renewal of the Czech language.
Martin:Yes. And then during the 20th century some of the Common Czech language elements found their way into the literature too. Since the second half of the 20th century, and because of the media's influence, Common Czech has also been spreading to other previously unaffected regions. After May 2004, the Czech language became one of the 23 official languages of the European Union.
Gabriella: Czech is a fusional / inflecting language and uses the Latin alphabet with specific diacritic marks for writing. Compared to other languages, the differences between standard written Czech and common spoken Czech are quite striking. The changes don’t only involve specific vocabulary, but also systemic changes in declension, and the conjugation of words.
Martin:That’s right!
Gabriella: Ok, so Martin, tell our listeners - how many letters does the Czech alphabet have?
Martin:The Czech alphabet has 26 Latin letters - the same as in English, but with 16 additional letters with special diacritic accents. There are 3 types of diacritics that change the pronunciation of letters. First is a length mark called čárka, which indicates the length of vowels, then a hook called háček that changes the sound of words, and lastly a circle called kroužek that indicates a long pronunciation of the letter “u” only (ů). So altogether, the alphabet has 42 characters.
Gabriella: It seems like a lot, but once you learn the pronunciation of the whole alphabet, you can read any word in Czech, because every word is pronounced exactly how it is written.
Martin: Exactly, but we’ll learn more about diacritics later on in this series, so don’t worry.
Gabriella: For now, Martin, let’s motivate our listeners, and go over the top 5 reasons that Czech is worth learning!
Martin:Sounds great!
Gabriella: The top five reasons are...
Number 5
Martin:You don’t need to study complicated characters!
Gabriella: Czech is a language that uses the alphabet and not any other complicated characters. So it’s more convenient for English speakers to read and write, and make quick progress while learning.
Gabriella: Okay, the next - Number 4 is.....
Martin:If you want to have fun, eat good food and go on an amazing historically rich vacation, go to the Czech Republic!
Gabriella: Rich in cultural attractions and outdoor activities, the Czech Republic has long been one of the must-see tourist destinations in the world. And Number 3...
Martin:You can get to know more about Czech culture!
Gabriella: Learning Czech gives you more opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of the long history of the country and its people, along with the modern life of the society. And Number 2...
Martin:The Czech Republic has great economic potential.
Gabriella: In recent years, the Czech Republic has been offering opportunities for business, especially in automotives, industrial machinery, mining, electronics, glass manufacture and the production of beer. High-tech industries have also been on the rise, which gives business opportunities in the areas of aerospace, nanotechnology and life science. Knowing Czech means you are one step closer to succeeding in business in the Czech Republic. Ok, now what’s number 1?
Martin:Learning Czech is fun! Czech people are very hospitable and friendly. You don’t want to miss the opportunity to make friends with these lovely people, do you?
Gabriella: It’s an amazing experience! Okay everybody, are you ready? Get out your pen and notebook, grab your iPhone, fire up your computer, and whatever else you use to study - and get ready for some Czech lessons from CzechClass101.com!

Outro

Gabriella:Thank you for listening everyone. See you next time!
Martin:Ahoj!