Foreigners learning Czech at the School for Slavonic Studies

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They say that the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it, and that is exactly what students of the Czech language plan to do at the Summer School of Slavonic Studies here in Prague. The School is an offset of Charles University, and it is entering its 45th year of teaching foreigners the Czech language. Helen Belmont has more.

One hundred seventy-seven students from as far away as Japan, Australia, and the United States came to Prague earlier this summer to try to master the seven grammatical cases of the Czech language. The program is run by the Faculty of Arts at Charles University, the oldest, and arguably most prestigious, university in Central Europe. The month long immersion program consists of language classes, specialised lectures in such topics as Czech folk songs and literature, as well as cultural field trips. I spoke with a Professor at the Slavonic Studies School, Dr. Jan Holub, and asked him what it was that attracted foreign students to learn Czech:

"Well, I think it's mostly a kind of a hobby. Some have some relations to Czech culture. Some were already here in Prague and wanted to know more about the language. Some are really students of Slavonic languages and Czech is among the languages recommended, or let's say compulsory, to be learned besides Russian."

The Czech language has the reputation of being an especially difficult one to learn, making it a frustrating hobby. But that is exactly what attracted student Mike Wojnowicz to it. He comments:

"It's a challenge."

So it's difficult?

"Yeah, it's very difficult."

How well do you think Czech culture is regarded in the States, or abroad?

"I don't think people regard it highly, or whatever the opposite of highly is. I think that people don't know too much about. Usually, the general reaction to my coming here and studying Czech for a year is always extreme shock."

Whatever their reasons for learning Czech, all of the students I spoke to seemed to be enjoying their time in the city and were definitely improving their language skills.

Author: Helen Belmont
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