Crash course in Czech

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Ah! The beauty of the Czech language. Too bad it is only spoken by ten million people... and mostly incorrectly at that. To be honest, we always discourage anyone from trying to learn Czech in any serious fashion - it's just too difficult and only takes you that far. Jan had an English colleague at work who lived in Prague for over a decade and gave up after about 12 years of trying with these words:

"I'm giving up. The Czech language only goes to show how much you hate all other people. You gave a completely new meaning to language barrier."

However, we do love when our guests make the effort and try to learn at least the basics, just like our guests today, Gwen and Jennifer. We actually think that getting a few words right will make a great impression and may at times guarantee better service from the smiling local staff. On the other hand, be prepared that starting a conversation in Czech may inspire a response in what many (especially older) people in consider to be the universal language: Czech spoken veeeeeery sloooowly. (That does not happen only in Prague. We were on the receiving end of a slow-Hungarian treatment in Budapest, to the enjoyment of many other people who happened to be on the same bus that night.) In general, we recommend that you approach someone younger when you need assistance in English from a local.

Anyway, without further ado, here are some basic words and phrases in Czech. If there is any interest (in the comments below), we will post additional words and phrases.

English

Greetings

Hello

Hi!

Good morning

Good night

Good bye

Bye

Understanding

I don't understand

I don't speak Czech

Do you speak English?

Small talk

Thank you

Thanks

Please

You're welcome

Sorry! 

How are you?

What is your name?

My name is...

Getting answers

Why?

How much does it cost?

Where is...?

In a restaurant

Bill, please!

Do you have a table for two?

Where are the bathrooms?

Can I pay with card?

Bon appétit!

Czech

Greetings

Dobrý den

Ahoj!

Dobré ráno

Dobrou noc

Nashledanou

Nashle (informal)

Understanding

Nerozumím

Nemluvím česky

Mluvíte anglicky?

Small talk

Děkuji

Díky

Prosím

Není zač

Pardon! 

Jak se máte?

Jak se jmenujete?

Jmenuji se...

Getting answers

Proč?

Kolik to stojí?

Kde je...?

In a restaurant

Účet, prosím!

Máte stůl pro dva?

Kde jsou toalety?

Můžu platit kartou?

Dobrou chuť!

Pronunciation

Greetings

[Do-bree den]

[A-hoy]

[Do-breh rahno]

[Do-bro notz]

[Nah-s-hle-dah-no]

[Nah-s-hleh]

Understanding

[Ne-ro-zoo-meem]

[Ne-mloo-veem czeh-ski]

[Mloo-vi-teh anglitski]

Small talk

[Dyeh-koo-yee]

[Dyee-ki]

[Pro-seem]

[Neh-nyee zach]

[Pardon!] 

[Yak seh mah-teh?]

[Yak seh yme-noo-yeh-the?]

[Ymeh-noo-yee seh...]

Getting answers

[Proch?]

[Ko-lik toh sto-yee?]

[Kdeh yeh...?]

In a restaurant

[Ootchet, proseem!]

[Maateh stool pro dvah?]

[Kdeh yso to-ah-le-ti?]

[Moozhu platyit karto?]

[Dobro khooty']

We also think it is handy to post a simple and incomplete pronunciation guide, which may help getting things right when you read them loudly, e.g. from a menu. The English and Czech pronounciation of many letters differs dramatically:

Letter

a

e

i/y

u

c

ch

j

Czech pronunciation

[ah]

[eh]

[i/ee]

[oo]

[ts]

[kh]

[y']

As in...

armáda [armaadah]

eletrický [elektritskee]

vypiplat [vipiplat]

as in President Truman

celta [tseltah]

chechtat [khekhtat]

Jan [yan]

We also have to explain the accents. Single accents above vowels mean long pronunciation of the vowels (e.g. elektricky [elektritski] vs. electrický [elektritskee]), and accents above consonants change the sound completely:

Letter

č [c with an accent above it] 

š [s with an accent above it] 

ť [t with an accent above it] 

ž [z with an accent above it] 

ř [r with an accent above it] 

ď [d with an accent above it]

ň [n with an accent above it] 

Czech pronunciation

[ch or cz] 

[sh] 

[ty'] 

[zh] 

[rzh] 

[dy'] 

[ny]

As in...

český [czeskee], which means Czech 

šepot [shepot], which means whisper 

oběť [obyety], which means victim 

žízeň [zheezeny], which means thirst 

řízek [rzheezeck], which means schnitzel 

ďábel [dyaabel], which means the devil

oheň [oheny], which means fire 

Anyway, we hope you have found this small glossary helpful. We started slow and easy. If you miss words that would be vital in some important situations you may encounter during your stay in the Czech Republic, please let us know - we will definitely include them above. Have fun!