Hundreds of students say 'dobry den' to Czech summer schools

Die Sommerschule für slawische Studien an der Philosophischen Fakultät der Karlsuniversität Prag, Foto:

August sees month-long summer schools in the Czech language kicking off all over the country. Students from all over the world converge in the towns of Brno, Olomouc and Prague to study intensively all things Czech. Former student Rosie Johnston follows this year's intake here in Prague.

It was in such sombre, and non-Slavic a manner that the annual Czech summer school was opened at Charles university in Prague. Despite the sober Mozart recital, organisers had a lot to be cheery about. With 215 students, coming from 30 countries and spanning 4 continents, the summer school is this year enjoying record participation. A brief roam around with a microphone reveals some of the participants nationalities:

"My pochazime ze Slovenska"

"I'm from Switzerland"

"Jsem z Francie"

"I'm from South Korea"

"I'm from Sweden"

The summer school is celebrating its 49th birthday, and has changed in size and in the background of its students over the years. But director of the Charles University's summer school, Jan Kuklik, tells me what its goal has always been:

"We are aiming towards Czech becoming at least the second most studied Slavic language. This summer school gathers lots of renowned Czech language specialists, who I'm afraid to say, often don't get the respect and consideration that they deserve. But here at the summer school, they are honoured guests."

The students of Summer School of Slavonic Studies
Not surprisingly for such a diverse group of people, students are participating in the summer school for all sorts of reasons. Here are but a few:

"My husband comes from Czechia, and I have tried for 35 years to speak Czech; I can understand it when I hear it, but not enough, and now I want to improve. And I had time to do the summer school this year."

"I have wanted to learn lots of Slavic languages since I was very young. I have lots of Polish and Czech friends and so forth, so I decided to learn Czech and the more I study the language, the more I love it."

"I wanted to come on this (summer school) just to perfect my Czech, and get my spoken Czech going."

"This is my third time here and I began doing this as a hobby, because I like languages, and I am now teaching some Czech, so I'm here to improve for that reason."

And what can students expect over the coming month? Well, as an 'absolvent' or graduate of a Czech summer school myself, I can predict daily struggles with tricky Czech verbs, a whole gamut of lectures from the very interesting to the... less interesting, and of course evenings singing folk songs with one's teachers, that would put these two to shame...

... So good luck and 'zlomte vaz' to the class of 2005; and let's hope that this 49th summer school here in Prague is a vintage one.