I have lived in the Czech Republic for almost five years and I still can’t read or speak Czech. Sure, I have some base knowledge. I can read a menu, say hello or recognise the occasional spoken word here and there, but I would never say that I speak Czech.
Part of this is completely my own fault. I have not been very proactive in learning Czech. Back in 2006 we had very brief Czech lessons in my TEFL course. This was very basic beginner Czech and I recall being very frustrated and having a hard time with it. I think I gave up way back then. It doesn’t help that most Czechs that I meet tell me not to bother since Czech is a difficult language to learn, and nobody else speaks it. I realized early on that I could get by with english and basic Czech phrases so I stopped trying.
On the other hand, I have a really hard time learning languages. I never took a language in High School, and even growing up in LA didn’t help my spanish skills. When I moved to Mexico I was determined to learn spanish, but I ended up only staying there for four months so there was no need. When I came back to Prague I thought about taking a course, but ended up not doing it. My ex was often frustrated with my lack of Czech (since he is fluent) and never fully understood that even when I tried, I couldn’t learn.
I think there are just some academic subjects of which some people are better at than others. I am no good with numbers or languages, but I am quite good with writing and literature. I don’t know why. Back in college I even attempted to take Greek as a foreign language and realized quickly that I was in over my head. I got as far as the alphabet and gave up.
So here I am going on my fifth year in Prague and I still need help when I go to the post or to the Foreign Police. I should know more, but I don’t. I plan on staying in this country at least another year, so I feel like I should give it another go. I just don’t know if I want to put myself through the hard work and humiliation that is involved. I have watched my adult students struggle with learning english, and I gotta tell you – I don’t envy them. Learning a language is hard. And if I am going to learn to do something hard, I think surfing is more up my alley.