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Re: [S-R] Learning Czech

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  • J Michutka
    ... One of my friends swears by Pimsler tapes (probably CDs now) for learning foreign languages. Otherwise-- A few years ago, I read a good review (by a
    Message 1 of 9 , Aug 20, 2007
      On Aug 18, 2007, at 10:43 PM, gregory majercik wrote:

      > Anyone know of good ways to teach oneself the czech language?

      One of my friends swears by Pimsler tapes (probably CDs now) for
      learning foreign languages. Otherwise--

      A few years ago, I read a good review (by a language teacher, I
      think) praising James Naughton's revised edition _Colloquial Czech,
      The Complete Course for Beginners_, published by Routledge. (So if
      you go looking for a used copy, make sure it's the most recent edition.)

      I'm not familiar with Czech language textbooks, but Naughton also
      wrote _Colloquial Slovak_ for the same publisher, and it is my
      preferred start-from-scratch-learning-Slovak textbook. So I would
      imagine that he brings the same knowledge and quality to _Colloquial
      Czech_. Also, the publisher's many language textbooks follow pretty
      much the same format.

      Whatever textbooks you consider, make sure they have TWO glossaries
      in the back, Czech to English and English to Czech. Surprisingly,
      many language textbooks only have Foreign Language to English
      glossaries; not very helpful when you're doing an exercise or writing
      an email and you can't remember a word in the target language, or
      haven't learned it yet and want to look it up. Also check the charts
      for word forms--are they easy to figure out? Do they have example of
      both regular forms (whether for nouns, adjectives, or verbs) and
      irregular forms? Guess what--the most common verbs in most languages
      are irregular--to be, to go, to do/make, to want, (sometimes) to
      have, to see, etc. See if those are charted in the appendix or
      grammar summary. Is there an index? It's not necessary, but it's
      helpful. If there isn't one, there are probably a couple of blank
      pages in the back of the book--start your own index, write in
      (pencil) topics and page numbers you find yourself looking up more
      than just a couple of times, or that you are sure you will be looking
      up (eg: dative forms, singular, p. 72, plural, p. 85).

      Are the dialogues or readings long enough to tell a little story or
      illustrate an exchange between a couple of people? Do they employ
      vocabulary and sentences that you would be likely to use in either
      correspondence, conversation, or a visit to the Czech Republic? eg
      checking into a hotel, talking about family, words for food.

      Are there exercises, and a variety of them? Are some of them open-
      ended, not just lists of words to change ("put the following nouns in
      the accusative plural")?

      Buy a textbook with tapes/CDs, and use them. The advice from previous
      posters to listen to Czech on-line is great, but you won't understand
      it for a quite a while.

      Pencils and sticky tabs, your best friends! Mark up your language
      textbook, but in pencil. If you had a vocab item in chapter 3 and it
      occurs again in chapter 5's dialogue and you find that you keep
      forgetting it, take your pencil and add it to the chapter 5 vocab
      list. Pencil in a star next to an important grammatical point, and
      if you later master it, you can erase the star. Underline
      prepositional phrases in the dialogue/reading when you're learning
      case endings. Etc. Do NOT, however, write in a translation above the
      lines of the dialogue, reading, or text--no no no no! You will not
      learn that way! Get out a piece of notebook paper and write your
      translation on that.

      Put a sticky tab on the page for the beginning of each of your
      glossaries; another on the grammar appendix. That way when you look
      up a word, you get right to the glossary instead of flipping pages.
      Put sticky tabs on whatever you're studying; if you're learning
      dative plural, put a sticky tab back at dative singular where the
      author explained the *use* of the dative. If that helps you--do
      whatever works. When I'm working on case endings in general, in
      Slovak, my largest textbook will have a sticky tab labeled with each
      of the cases. If I'm working on dative plural endings, I might have
      3 textbooks in a pile, each with a sticky tab labeled "dative pl".
      And when I'm done or move on to another aspect of grammar, they
      easily peel off the page.

      Be critical of your textbook; keep track (pencil inside the front
      cover, maybe) of things you don't like, wish were different, or are
      absent and you wish were there.

      Figure that you'll end up getting a second textbook. Get through
      about chapter 5 of your first textbook, or six months of study, or
      whenever you start having "aha!" moments, and then get that second
      book. By then you will have an idea of what you like and don't like
      in your textbook--consult your penciled notes critiquing your first
      textbook, and go shopping. Take a break from textbook number one and
      start over in the second textbook--hey, look, you know most of this
      stuff! Don't you feel successful! But wait, here's a few vocab
      items that text #1 didn't have; and doesn't this author explain this
      grammatical concept differently, and now you *really* get it. Etc.
      Have fun playing back and forth with your two textbooks and their

      And that is the most important part--have fun! And then go to the
      Czech Republic and try out your new language skills; my goodness,
      walls come down and doors open (figuratively) when you speak to
      people in their own language; the very expressions on their faces
      change! OK, so sometimes you will mis-pronounce a word and/or
      butcher the grammar. Be the first person to laugh about it, and say
      in Czech, "I'm sorry, I don't speak your beautiful language very
      well." If they're anything like the Slovaks I've encountered,
      they'll smile back and say "no, super!" and give you a thumbs up.

      Julie Michutka, language junkie
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