Czechs and titles

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Last time we talked about institutions and bureaucracy in the Czech Republic. Before we move on to the next letter in the alphabet, let's stop to talk about another typical Czech phenomenon, not so far from the topic of bureaucracy. Titles.

Hello and welcome again to Radio Prague's Czech language series, the ABC of Czech. Today I'm here with Vladimir Tax. Last time we talked about institutions and bureaucracy in the Czech Republic. Before we move on to the next letter in the alphabet, let's stop to talk about another typical Czech phenomenon, not so far from the topic of bureaucracy. Titles. "If you have it, flaunt it" Czechs think, and people with academic titles usually wear them with pride - putting them before or after their name wherever they can: on the doors of their offices, on their letterboxes and business cards or in the Yellow Pages. It is considered good manners to address people with their title. The most usual ones are in¾enýr, from the English engineer - that is someone who graduated from a technical or economic university. The female variety is in¾enýrka. The full title you're supposed to use is then pane in¾enýre or paní in¾enýrko, that is Mr Engineer or Mrs Engineer in the vocative case. Another one is doctor. Not only medical doctors but also doctors of philosophy, teaching, natural sciences and law are called Mr or Mrs Doctor - pane doktore, paní doktorko. University professors are pan profesor or paní profesorka and assistant professors are pan docent and paní docentka. A title recently introduced to the collection is magistr and magistra. Magistr roughly equals a Master's degree, the abbreviation is Mgr. and those who have it are supposed to be addressed pane magistøe, paní magistro. Another recently added title is bakaláø, the equivalent of a Bachelor's degree. Don Sparling from the Department of English and American Studies at Masaryk University in Brno has a lot of experience with Czechs learning English and English speakers learning Czech. He agrees that using titles is deeply embedded in Czech culture.

"Czechs love titles, Czechs have a mania for titles, they're even worse than the Austrians in that respect. I think they inherited this instinct from the Austrians but they developed it a stage farther. And Czechs are always trying to find ways in English of using titles and using titles the way they're used in Czech. You address a person as pane profesore, literally translated as Mr Professor and so on. And you get a lot of comic situations there where it just doesn't sound natural at all in English. And it's a very deep instinct. I once had a man I was doing translations for and he couldn't get over the idea that I didn't want a title and didn't have a title he could use and so he used to address letters to me as Mr Expert Translator Don Sparling. He just had some need to have a title there, you know."

Don Sparling there on how Czechs love to use titles. Not all of them, though. The younger generation in particular feel more relaxed about it and don't insist on being addressed with their full title. And that's all for today, so from me magistra Pavla Horakova and bakaláø Vladimir Tax - until next week na shledanou, goodbye.


See also Living Czech.