Sitting on top of the tourist bucket list is the Czech Republic, giving travellers a taste of Central Europe. Get to know the locals with these Czech phrases.
Although it’s one of Europe’s smaller nations, the Czech Republic doesn’t disappoint travellers looking for a taste of Central Europe. It’s extremely affordable, boasts some of the best beer in the world, contains excellent national parks, is full of charming old villages and towns (many unchanged since medieval times), is home to fine old churches, palaces, and public squares, and of course, has that famous astronomical clock dating back to 1410.
Since Prague is a top popular destination amongst tourists, I wanted to create a Czech travel phrase guide as part of my ongoing travel guide series that encourages travellers to learn the local lingo (even if English is spoken). I mean, what’s the point in travelling unless you put yourself out there and learn a thing or two? You never know who you’ll meet and what new friends you’ll make.
Although the Czech language can be difficult to learn, I still recommend trying to learn a few phrases. The Czechs will welcome your effort and will be all the more willing to help you.
I’ve asked a dear Czech friend, (who I met when I first moved to London) to help me create this guide and provide all the pronunciations, so you won’t have to learn the Czech alphabet!
Let’s take a quick look at the Czech language so you’re a bit more clued up on its origin, use, and vocabulary.
I hope you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed bringing it together. If you have any requests for other languages, let me know in the comments section!
Where is Czech spoken?
The official language of the Czech Republic is Czech, which is spoken by over 96% of its inhabitants, or by 10 million people. But don’t worry, even if you don’t master my Czech travel phrase guide, you’ll have no problems communicating in English in most towns, or even in German! What’s interesting is that older people often speak Russian and German.
There are also Czech speakers in Portugal, Poland, Germany and the USA. Czech is closely related to Slovak, Polish and Sorbian.
A Brief History of Czech
Traditionally, the region where Czech is spoken is called Bohemia, nowadays the Czech Republic. It was named after the Boii tribe, who, according to Roman sources, have inhabited the area since the 1st century AD.
The dialects spoken in Moravia are also considered forms of Czech. The language of Bohemia was known as Bohemian until the early 20th century when it became known as Czech.
Czech literature started to appear in the 13th century. But after many years of Austrian rule, during which German was the main language, there was a revival of Czech literature at the end of the 18th century.
The most prominent writer during the early period of Czech literature was Jan Hus (1369-1415), Jan is perhaps best remembered for reforming the Czech spelling. He created the system of having one letter for every sound simply by adding accents to the letters.
Now for the tricky stuff!
The Czech alphabet has 32 vowels and consonants. What makes things easier is that the consonants are pronounced the same way as in English! Hurrah!
If you want to take this seriously, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Vowels with an accent (ý, í, á, é, ú) or a small circle (ů), are long.
- The specific accent placed on some consonants and vowels (š, č, ř, ž, ě) modifies the pronunciation of the letter. For example, š is pronounced “sh”, č is pronounced “tsh”, and ě is pronounced “ye”.
- The letter “r” is pronounced similarly as in Spanish in that it is rolled.
You will often see several consonants one after the other in many Czech words as if the use of vowels had completely been forgotten… a nice challenge for most foreigners who can expect many fits of laughter when trying to read signs and other writings in the streets of Prague!
Just remember that the appearance of an accent doesn’t mean a vowel is stressed. It just means it’s long. Czech is basically an unstressed language, meaning all syllables are given equal stress, but the (light) stress is always on the first syllable.
Czech vocabulary derives primarily from Slavic, Baltic and other Indo-European roots.
Some loanwords have been restructured by folk etymology to resemble native Czech words such as hřbitov meaning “graveyard” and listina meaning “list”.
The more recent loanwords derive primarily from English and French, and also from Hebrew, Arabic and Persian. Many Russian loanwords, mainly animal names and naval terms, also exist in Czech.
Some Czech words have been borrowed as loanwords into English and other languages, for example, robot (from robota, “labor”) and polka (from polka, “Polish woman” or from “půlka” “half”)
Czech belongs to the “synthetic” language group, which means that unlike English and other “analytical” languages, different grammatical aspects are expressed in one word by changing the structure of that word by adding a suffix or prefix, modifying the core of the word.
In analytical languages such as English, the same is achieved by using separate auxiliary verbs, pronouns or adjectives while the actual word remains unchanged.
In Czech, one word is often sufficient to express what English can only achieve by using multiple words!
P.S. If you’re reading this on your phone and can’t see the pronunciation column, turn it to landscape mode. For some reason tables aren’t mobile friendly. Sorry!
Want the infographic to take with you? Scroll to the bottom of the page.
|Good morning||Dobré ráno||dob-reh ra-noh|
|Good evening||Dobrý večer||dob-ree ver-chair|
|Good night||Dobrou noc||dob-roo nots|
|How are you?||Jak se máš?||yak se marsh|
|I’m well, and you?||Jde to a ty?||yee-deh toh ah teh|
|Good, thanks||Dobře, děkuji||bob-je geh-kweh|
|You’re welcome||Nemáš zač||neh-my zatch|
|I’m sorry||Omlouvám se||om-loh-vaam seh|
|I don’t understand||Nerozumím||neh-roh-zah-mim|
|Do you speak English?||Mluvíš anglicky?||mloo-vish ang-gli-skee|
|How much is…?||Jak moc je…?||yek moht yeh|
|Where is…?||Kde je…?||geh-day-yeh|
|May I please have…?||Mohu prosím …?||mo-hoo proh-sim|
|I don’t eat…||Nejiji …||nay-yee|
|I’m a vegetarian||Jsem vegetarián||sam ve-geh-tar-ree-aan|
|The bill, please||Účet, prosím||oo-chet proh-sim|
|Straight ahead||Přímo vpřed||pree-moh predt|
|Turn left||Odbočit vlevo||od-botch-it vleh-voh|
|Turn right||Odbočit vpravo||od-botch-it pra-voh|
|Bus stop||Autobusová zastávka||au-toh-bu-so-vah zas-taf-kah|
|Train station||Vlakové nádraží||vla-ko-veh na-dra-gee|
|I need a doctor||Potřebuji lékaře||poh-tree-bo-ee lehk-ah-reh|
|I don’t feel well||Necítím se dobře||neh-zee-keem seh dob-jeh|
|Call the police!||Zavolat policii!||zah-voh-laat poh-li-zee-yee|
Ready to improve your Czech? Visit my handy language resource guide.
Plus, if you want to know how the experts learn languages, I asked 11 top polyglots to share their language learning secrets. Find out how they start learning a new language, overcome plateaus, and maintain multiple languages.
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Over to you!
Which of these Czech phrases are the most useful? What other languages would you like a travel phrase guide for? Are you planning a trip to the Czech Republic or have already been there?
Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.
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