The Czech Republic, a country situated in the heart of Europe, is known for its ornate castles, native beers, preserved medieval towns and most notably, for its wealth of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings. It was formerly known as Czechoslovakia until its separation with Slovakia, and today it is bordered by Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland. This month, we are going to explore a fact or two about Czech, the official language of Czechia (the new shortened name since 2016).
Czechia’s official language
Czech (čeština or český jazyk) is a Slavic language, developed from the olden Proto-Slavic and is considered to be mutually intelligible with Slovak. While spoken Czech has several regional dialects, the differences among these dialects mainly involve the pronunciation of vowels and the names of local or regional dishes, plants and costumes.
Like other Slavic languages, Czech is a fusional language with a rich system of morphology and relatively flexible word order. It is also similar to Polish, as well as Russian and Croatian.
Of fun facts and trivia
Czech is spoken almost exclusively in the territory of the Czech Republic (i.e. a whopping 95%). It is possible to come across small Czech-speaking enclaves in Romania, Ukraine, the USA, Canada and Australia. Tourists here will definitely get by in English and quite often, even in German or Russian.
For some culture and language trivia, did you know that the word “Czech” is an adjective and therefore, must not be used as the abbreviated name of the country? That’s probably why the Czech Government decided to go with the name ‘Czechia’ as an English one-word alternative for the Czech Republic in September 2016.
Our language enthusiasts will also find it extremely interesting to know that the U.S. Defense Language Institute has recognised Czech as one of the most complicated languages in the world! Other languages in this league include Finnish, Russian, Bengali and Thai.
Tracing back the links
The oldest records of the Czech language appear in Latin and German texts of the 12th century. There was no standardized Czech language during the Old Czech period (11th–14th century), although the literary language became increasingly uniform during the Middle Czech period (15th–16th century)
Interestingly, prior to the ‘Velvet Revolution’ in 1989 (Czechoslovakia’s separation), Russian was compulsory in schools and is still spoken by the older generation. German was also fairly widely spoken until the mid-1990s, when English became more popular as the international language of business. However, is not unusual to hear German spoken in towns and villages close to the German and Austrian borders. English is certainly taught in schools and universities in major cities today.
Being Global does not simply mean being a citizen of the world. It means to provide value to your society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.
So #BeLingual – linguistically and culturally. Learn about a new culture and see the world through another lens. It isn’t simply about knowing new people, their practices & lifestyles, sometimes it’s about breaking the ice to develop new relations and creating opportunities.