Strč Prst Skrz Krk. This Czech phrase, which quite literally translates to “stick a finger through the throat,” is one that is made up entirely of consonants- no vowels in sight. This difficult to pronounce and confusing phrase basically sums up how I feel about the Czech language: confusing and difficult to pronounce.
During the first week of orientation here in Prague, we were required to go to 3 hour long Czech language classes. While the classes were simple in the beginning, once we got past the basics, such as learning to say “dobré ráno” (good morning) and “ahoj” (good bye), I had a difficult time keeping up. The one word that was, and will forever be, the most difficult word for me to pronounce would definitely have to be the number 4: “čtyři.”
Dobrý den! Sem Erica. Dekuji! Hello! I’m Erica. Thank you! This is the extent of my Czech language knowledge (what I managed to absorb from those Czech classes), and so far, it’s surprisingly been extensive enough to get me through my time here in Prague. At nearly all of the restaurants, bars, cafes, and stores I have been to, there have been employees who can understand and speak English. I haven’t had much of a problem ordering at restaurants, since I mostly just point and exclaim, “prosim,” “please”, and it’s quite rare for me to run into someone who doesn’t at least understand a bit of English. There’s also always an English version of menus and if there is something I don’t understand, I always have my trusty phone to help me translate words. However, even with all of this, there still have been a few instances where language barriers have caused misunderstandings and where I’ve struggled a bit because of my lack of Czech knowledge.
Often, when my friends and I walk around Prague, we enjoy attempting to pronounce different store signs and words that we see. “Trh” “Elektronický obchob” “Zverimex.” Most of the time we can’t pronounce the words correctly, but there have been instances where we manage to get the pronunciation correct, though very rare. It’s funny to see how each of us interpret how we think a word is said or how an accent is pronounced. Coming to Prague has been the first time I’ve ever seen actual words without any vowels and I’ve never been so confused as to how a word could possibly be pronounced. And due to all of this, I think simply walking around Prague, without the assistance of any translator, would instantly get me lost.
I think one of the hardest parts about living in a country where you are not able to speak or understand the language is having to do various chores. One of the hardest parts of living in Prague would definitely have to be going grocery shopping. Whenever I visit an Albert, one of the chain supermarkets that they have in Prague, I always make sure to bring my phone, fully charged, and open on Google Translator. I’ve used the “Czech to English” option so much, that it’s the first option that pops up in my search bar. Simply trying to find out whether the item I’m holding is cream cheese or a stick of butter requires a lot of effort, a lot of typing, and a lot of “What is butter in Czech?” And, what was supposed to be a simply, quick visit to the grocery store, ends up becoming this whole ordeal that ends up taking way too much time and effort just to grab a few items.
Overall, while I haven’t had many problems occur due to not being able to understand/speak Czech, there have definitely been times where I’ve struggled and have wanted to “Strč Prst Skrz Krk.”