Wherein DF travels to Mitteleuropa and recounts his merrie adventures to his adoring broad readership.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Czech: I got nothin'

You know me, broad readership--I like learning the languages. Spanish I've got down pretty well, I know some French, can read the basics in Dutch, am coming along nicely in German, and I took some Latin a while back. But when it comes to Czech, I got nothin'. Not a phrase, nary a word, and next to no instinct for how anything should sound so that even the simplest statements (e.g., someone telling me the price of a bottle of water) are a complete mystery.

That said, this has not actually posed much of a barrier. Lots of people here speak English (thank God it's the universal language), and with gesturing and pointing at menus and liberal use of prosim (please) and dekuji (thank you), I've been able to eat and do pretty much what I want.

Another good thing about my utter linguistic cluelessness is that it's made me comparatively more confident about my abilities in languages that I do know to an extent. Compared to Czech, I'm perfectly conversant in German (as long as the conversation turns at some point to voltage converters and plug adapters), I'm the equivalent of a damned native speaker of Spanish, and with English, the greatest linguistic genius of our time. It does make me look forward to Austria, though, as I'll be able to re-practice the Deutsch with newfound boldness (timidity or at least a desire not to look like a total jackass having hamstrung me in past attempts to communicate in the local tongue when abroad).

Another lesson of being in the C.R. is that at least at this point I've no desire to get into the linguistic--and in many cases, orthographic--mess that is the family of Slavic languages. I'm going to keep the Spanish sharp, develop the German, maybe brush up on French or Dutch if I'm in the mood, but the language buck stops there. (With the possible exception of Serbo-Croatian (or B.C.S. as it's now polite to say, for Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian) if I do a trip to the Dalmatian coast sometime). Na shledanou for now, Broad R.