As the two cultures grow apart Czech TV dubs Slovak serial for first time

Zachranari, photo:

Czech and Slovak were both the official languages of Czechoslovakia; prior to the country's split in 1993, Czechs and Slovaks were regularly exposed to each other's languages and had no problems whatsoever understanding one another. Now, though, Czechs at least are no longer finding it so easy to understand their former federal brothers, and - for the first time - Czech public television has dubbed a Slovak serial.

Zachranari, photo:
The Slovak-produced serial Zachranari (Mountain Rescuers in English) is the first programme for adults Czech Television has felt the need to dub from the original Slovak. Martin Krafl is Czech TV's spokesman; he says that the decision to dub Zachranari was made with the younger generation in mind.

"We don't have any special market research, but we have feedback from our viewers, because they write us letters and emails. And we've just recognised in the last one or two years that the young generation have problems understanding Slovak. And we know it of course from young parents."

Karel Oliva of the Institute for the Czech Language concedes that some young Czechs would have trouble understanding Slovak.

"They were at the very beginning of their school career when Czechoslovakia decided into the Slovak part and the Czech part. Then they really might have problems understanding everything because they are not exposed to the Slovak language in their childhood, or in their school years."

But that said, Karel Oliva finds research suggesting up to one third of Czechs aged around 20 find Slovak hard to understand a little hard to believe.

"This is generally exaggerated because what they don't understand is the - I don't know, 500 maybe - words which are really different between Czech and Slovak, and they really have to learn them."

Some Czech people I've spoken to are saddened by the news that Czech Television is dubbing a Slovak serial - do you understand that sadness?

"Yes, I understand the sadness. And I would say it has at least two reasons. One is nostalgia. And the other is that it's absolutely, according to my standards, it's absolutely unnecessary, and, according to my opinion, an economical loss for Czech TV."

So it's a waste of money you think?

"Oh...for political reasons I would not formulate it as sharply as this, as you put it, but basically yes (laughs)."

For their part Czech TV say dubbing from Slovak is a lot cheaper, and easier, than from other languages.

And finally an ironic twist: one of the actresses in Zachranari is from Prague; she spoke Slovak during filming, and later dubbed herself into Czech.