Introduction to new series

Heather, photo: Kristýna Maková

!!!NOTICE!!! In order to properly view letters from the Czech alphabet it is necessary to set your browser to Central European languages (ISO).

Heather Bowne
Ahoj and welcome to the first in a new series of ABC of Czech. I am Heather Bowne and over the next few months, I'll be your guide through some of the intricacies and surprises of the Czech language.

We'll be taking up different aspects of Czech: from the various Czech words for shoes - boty to the origins of some Czech surnames - příjmení, as well as tips from a non-native speaker on how to remember everyday expressions. And to get the pronunciation just right, I'm always joined by a native Czech speaker, today Dita Asiedu joins me.

As you may notice from my voice and especially my name, I myself am not Czech. In fact I am from northern New York State, and in fact I do not have any Czech background at all. I came to the Czech Republic - Česká republika or Česko, as Czechs frequently say, as an exchange student after I finished high school when I was eighteen. Many people have asked me why I chose to come to the Czech Republic - do České republiky... the truth is I came because I did not know anything about the Czech Republic. Well that is not entirely true.

Heather, photo: Kristýna Maková
I have a vivid memory of my grade-four teacher showing us the map of Europe, and telling us that there were more countries in the World now. I only remember focusing on the shape of Czechoslovakia, which, little did I know, was not a new country at all. I also remember, when I was around seven, hearing a bad joke - špatný vtip about going to heaven, and the punch line - pointa was that the bad guy had to spell Czechoslovakia to get in. As a seven year old, I had no idea how to spell Czechoslovakia, and I think that instilled a bit of curiousity about the language of (to paraphrase Neville Chamberlain) a small country a long way away, about which I knew very little!

When I arrived I did not know even one word - ani jedno slovo of Czech. After spending one year at the gymnazium in Zlín I was not satisfied with what Czech I had learned and wanted to continue learning Czech language - čeština. I decided to study in Toronto - v Torontu, where I was for the past four years, which explains my Canadian sounding English.

As you, yourself may be learning Czech with no background in Czech language or culture, you may wonder what it is like coming here for the first time... One of my favourite things is how people say my name - Heather, a strictly English name, which is often difficult for people who don't know English to pronounce becase of the 'th' sound. A few months after I was here someone enlightened me to the fact that Heather sounds like hadr - the Czech word for rag. Before long the Heather -

This brings us to the end of the first of a new series of ABC of Czech. Be sure to tune in next time! Until then, take care! Mějte se! And bye-bye! Čau-čau!