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6 TV series to watch in Czech (and improve it!)

It should come as no surprise that having fun when learning a language is much more successful than using textbooks.

Even though watching TV shows can feel like (or lead to) procrastination, it’s a great way to quickly expand your vocabulary and become familiar with idioms and popular phrases. It’s also the perfect listening practice if you’re not able to put yourself out there and communicate with native speakers.

You may also pause and rewind a Czech TV show at any time, as well as write down new words. There are plenty of famous shows you can watch dubbed on Netflix, but in this post, we’ll look at six entertaining Czech TV shows with English subtitles that are available on YouTube and Czech satellite television (HBOgo).

1.Ulice (The Street)
Channel: TV Nova
Subject: This show is about people who live in the Prague suburbs, their everyday lives, issues, relationships, and affairs. It is slow-paced and not very thrilling. It can become very interesting, humorous, well-written, and addictive once you find your favorite characters.
Phrases and vocabulary: The use of common, colloquial Czech language with no strong dialect is the show’s greatest advantage. It’s all about “true people” and “everyday life,” so your vocabulary can develop without you even realizing it.

  • Greetings: dobrý den (“good day”), ahoj (“hello”), Jak se máš? (“How are you?”), etc.
  • Formal and informal voice
  • Basic phrases and questions: Kolik je hodin? (“What time is it?”), Dáš si něco? (“Would you like something [to drink]?” )

2.Pustina (The Wasteland)
Channel: HBO
SubjectPustina is a suspenseful thriller that I’m sure you’ll want to binge-watch right away. A young girl goes missing under mysterious circumstances in a small, derelict village in the Northern Czech Republic.
Phrases and vocabulary: The vocabulary is pretty simple and there’s no confusing dialect.

  • Greetings
  • Occasional crime terms: únos (“abduction”), vražda (“murder”)
  • Un-bleeped bleepy words

3. Terapie (In Treatment)
Channel: HBO
Subject: Terapie is a great Czech television series for Czech learners who don’t like action. This amazing TV show takes place only in the consulting room of psychologist Marek Posta (played by Karel Roden, one of the most respected Czech actors).
Phrases and vocabulary: More complex sentence structure; no dialect; great listening exercise—most characters enunciate properly and talk slowly.

4.Bez vědomí (The Sleepers)
Channel: HBO
Subject: The show takes place in 1989, just a few months after the Velvet Revolution, which ended Russia’s forty-year reign of dominance. A young woman and her husband return from exile in this suspenseful drama, only for her husband to go missing. Marie is caught in the middle of a conflict between State Security and dissidents. This Czech TV series is for you if you enjoy secrets, mystery, and dark drama. It’s not only a fantastic exhibition, but it’s also a fantastic way to learn about Czech culture.
Phrases and vocabulary: More complex sentence structure; basic colloquial Czech without dialect; great listening exercise—most characters enunciate properly and talk slowly.

5. Krkonošske pohádky (Fairy Tales of Krkonose Mountains)
Channel: YouTube
Subject: The main characters include a mystical person-protector of the mountains, Krakonoš, one rich and cocky landowner, and his three servants. One of the greatest Czech children’s TV shows ever, it’s sweet, it’s funny, and it’s heart-warming. And well-acted! It gives you also some cultural background since every Czech kid (and therefore adult) knows it!
Phrases and vocabulary: Basic vocabulary and sentence structure; no dialect.

6. Krajinou domova (Through the Nature of our Homeland)
Channel: Youtube
Subject: This is a documentary about Czech architecture and nature. You should not skip this if you want to improve your Czech while also learning about our beautiful country. It’s entertaining, educational, and stunning.
Phrases and vocabulary: No dialect; great professional enunciation; architecture- and nature-related vocabulary.

Difficulties in learning Czech

(reading time: 3 minutes)

The Foreign Service Institute, or FSI, is an American government agency tasked with teaching foreign languages to US diplomats serving in foreign missions. They teach a wide range of languages and have divided their list into four groups based on how long they believe it would take to learn each one. The FSI teaches languages in an intense classroom environment, where a teacher or tutor works with a group of 5-10 students to achieve high levels of fluency in the language. Having said that, we can use FSI’s numbers to get a rough idea of how complicated the language is. This is how the FSI rating system’s classes look.

For a typical English-speaking student, Group One languages take between 5-600 hours in the classroom. French, Spanish, Norwegian, Dutch, and other languages that are similar to English are classified as category one languages. Languages like Swahili, Indonesian, and even German, are included in group two. It is predicted that learning these would take 900 hours in the classroom

Students in the third tier, which includes Czech as well as Thai, Hindi, Finnish, and Russian, will require approximately 1100 classroom hours to achieve the high level of professional proficiency that FSI seeks. Finally, there’s group 4, which includes Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Arabic, and Japanese, among other languages. According to FSI, learning these takes a whopping 2200 hours.

But, to return to Czech, it takes 1100 hours to learn the language, which is about twice as long as learning a language like French. (However, it is just half as long as Arabic.) That’s a significant amount of time. (If you put in an hour a day, it will take you about three years.)

However, it is unlikely to apply to you because your end target and approach would vary from those used by FSI. However, it does give us an indication of where the Czech language ranks in terms of difficulty.

Let’s see now what you could find difficult if you’re learning Czech.

Declension

A complex system of case endings for nouns is used in all North Slavic languages (languages that form a dialectal continuum ranging from Czech and Polish in the west to Russian in the east). The grammatical role of the noun is described by these endings (which would be specified by a preposition in English). For example, in Czech, “a book” is “kniha,” but “of a book” is “knihy,” “to a book” is “knize,” and so on. If all nouns were declined in the same way, it wouldn’t be so bad. Unfortunately, there are over 16 different patterns (paradigms) for Czech declension, each with seven singular forms and seven plural forms.

Conjugation

Czech verbs are conjugated according to number and person. In English, you only have to remember to add an “s” in the third person singular (and not to change the verb at all for modal verbs), and that’s basically it (with the exception of “to be”). The good news is that the Czech tense system isn’t too complicated: you won’t have to learn different endings for imperfect, subjunctive, and other tenses as you would in a Romance language.

Irregularity and stem changes

Even if you know what declension class a noun belongs to, mechanically declining it can be difficult at times. Why? Because many nouns are irregular. Fortunately, there aren’t many of them. However, in Czech, there is a clear tendency to avoid such letter classes, resulting in changes not only in noun endings but also in the stem itself.

Other difficulties

Other factors contribute to Czech being “unnecessarily” difficult. Each noun, for example, has at least two diminutive forms (expressing different degrees of smallness/cuteness). This wouldn’t be so bad if diminutive suffixes like -ka, -ko, -ek, -k, -inka, -enka, -eka, -ika, -ul-, -unka, -ek, -nek weren’t so numerous. Unfortunately, you have to remember the correct suffixes for each noun.

Also, some nouns in Czech exist only in the plural form, even though they can express also the singular (like “clothes” in English). This can be very confusing sometimes because many of these also have a singular that has a different meaning.

As you’ve probably gathered from this post, learning Czech isn’t something you can do in a weekend, and it’s also not easy. But it’s not so much grammar, pronunciation, or vocabulary that causes language difficulty. It’s all about determination, perseverance, and consistency.

You must be committed to learning Czech for the long term. The results will not be available today, tomorrow, or next month. But if you keep at it, you’ll eventually be able to call yourself fluent in Czech!

8 podcasts to listen to in Czech if you want to improve your listening skills

(Reading time: 3 minutes)

Many people believe that learning Czech is difficult, particularly if you only speak English. Since Czech is a Slavic language, the way you form sentences, verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and all kinds of other parts of speech differs dramatically. However, don’t let this stop you from studying Czech, as doing so would make learning other Slavic languages, such as Russian or Polish, much easier.

You can learn Czech just like any other European language if you have the right equipment. One of the tools you definitely should make use of? Podcasts for language learning. They can be a fantastic addition to language-learning classes, whether online or in person. Podcasts are widely available, can be listened to at almost any time or place, and are often free or inexpensive.

Trying to figure out which podcasts can help you learn Czech? Choose one of the eight options below. There’s bound to be something that matches your skillset and interests.

Podcasts for beginners

  • CZECHCLASS101: CzechClass101 offers a variety of beginner and advanced podcast episodes to help you learn Czech. The series covers a wide range of topics related to the Czech language, from basic vocabulary terms to cultural topics to basic tip-type topics such as how to get the most out of your Czech language lessons. There are plenty of short episodes to choose from, so even though you only have 10 minutes, you can learn something new. The bulk of the content on CzechClass101 is behind a paywall that includes a subscription, but the costs aren’t prohibitively high.
  • ONE MINUTE CZECH: Although this podcast is no longer published, it still contains a few episodes that can assist you in your quest to become fluent in Czech. Although the episodes aren’t all one minute long, they are all fairly short and simple to follow for newcomers. The podcast gives you a taste of the language, igniting your interest in learning Czech and laying the groundwork for more difficult concepts.
  • LEARN CZECH: This older podcast is also no longer active, but it contains over ten episodes, all of which are under half an hour long and include an introduction to basic vocabulary and Czech grammar concepts. Listeners can use pdf tools on the podcast’s website in addition to the podcast audio to better understand the concepts taught in each episode.

Podcasts for intermediate level

  • CZECH WITH IVA: Listening to a few episodes (at least!) of Czech with Iva will help intermediate Czech language learners. The podcast discusses daily life in the Czech Republic in Czech, at a pace that is understandable to intermediate language learners. New episodes are released every three months or so, with the majority lasting about 15 minutes.
  • RADIO PRAGUE INTERNATIONAL: It’s always a good idea to start learning more about a language’s culture and history. You can learn more about the problems concerning and perspectives of those living in and around Prague by tuning in to Radio Prague International.
  • PRAGUECAST: PragueCast, a similar podcast created by students at New York University’s Prague branch, is helpful for learning more about the community, history, and lifestyle of Prague and its residents. There are episodes on a variety of topics, including death, money, food, and fear. There will undoubtedly be an episode that piques your curiosity.

Podcasts for advanced level

  • SBS CZECH: SBS Czech is a podcast produced by the Special Broadcasting Service that covers world events and news in Czech. However, since the podcast takes an international approach, you’re probably already familiar with the topics discussed. This makes it easier for you to follow along and pick up new vocabulary terms that you can use in your daily life. The SBS Czech podcast is extremely popular, with new episodes being released on a regular basis, ensuring that you will always have something new to listen to, learn from, and enjoy.
  • FREECAST: Do you like rap music? Then you would like to listen to Czech rap music. D-Toc, an underground rapper from Prague known for his mixtapes and promo songs, has a podcast stream available. All of the episodes are in Czech, and there are a lot to choose from. The majority are just a few minutes long, and the podcast is updated on a regular basis, despite how infrequently it is updated.

Curiosities about Czech language

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Whether you’ve just started to learn Czech or you have already an intermediate level, there might be some little pieces of information about this language that you don’t know. Although it’s a bit difficult, there are some aspects of the Czech language that are really fascinating.

Czech used to have more pairs of letters to express sounds.
During the Middle Ages, European peoples began to use their languages also in written communication, taking as a starting point the traditions of classical writing: Latin in Western Europe, Greek in the East. However, an alphabet, that is suitable for one language, will not necessarily be suitable for another. Each language has its peculiar sounds and this also applies to Czech. The Czech language tried various solutions to express its sounds, such as the use of the Glagolitic alphabet or pairs of letters, but the best choice was made by Jan Hus in the 15th century. In his task of rationalizing the Czech spelling system, he chose to insert special diacritical symbols. This system is now followed by four other Slavic languages (Slovak, Slovenian, Serbo-Croatian and Sorbian) and by two Baltic languages (Latvian and Lithuanian); in addition, it is used by linguists for the scientific transcription of the Cyrillic alphabet.

The Czech language almost disappeared in the 17th century.
In the 17th century, the German-speaking Hapsburgs ruled Bohemia (which is now the Czech Republic). The Hapsburgs forced the people of Bohemia to speak German in public. Everyone from the intellectual class down to the peasants was required to comply with restrictive language laws.
However, there was an ancient tradition of puppetry in Bohemia. Woodcarvers there made amazingly detailed marionettes – and the marionettes were allowed to “speak” Czech in their public performances.

A word that you didn’t know that was a loanword and a word that should be one.
The most famous loanword imported from Czech is the word “robot”, a term coined by Karel Čapek in 1920 based on the word used to say “slave”.
A really interesting word that should be an international loan is “ptydepe”: it means “incomprehensible bureaucratic jargon, or newspeak intending to hide its true meaning”. It was coined by the playwright and future president of the republic Václav Havel.

Czech is the only officially recognized language to use ř.
The letter ř is almost unique to the Czech language – the only other languages that use it are in the related Upper Sorbian language of Germany and a few isolated dialects of Norwegian.

Czech and Croatian are the only languages not to use a variation of the indigenous australian word for kangaroo.
In languages around the world, the word for “kangaroo” has a common origin: gangurru, which is what the Aboriginal Guugu Yimithirr people call the creatures in their language.
It’s kangourou in French, känguru in German, 캥거루 (kaeng-geolu) in Korean, but it’s klokan in Czech, Slovak and Croatian. During the Czechoslovak National Revival in the 19th century, language reformers added new Czechoslovak words to express modern scientific and philosophical concepts. Their reforms included creating a word for kangaroo, which Croatian speakers also adopted.

Apps to train your target languages in 5 minutes!

(Reading time: 2 minutes)

Languages need training and frequent use, but this is often incompatible with our schedule: how could we train our language skills if we work full time? Well, a great solution is an app on your smartphone or tablet: in this way you can spend just a few minutes studying the language and you can be daily exposed to it. You also need to find out which app fits better your needs: you have to read a lot of reviews and feedbacks about them, and this means losing time, which you don’t have. Well, in just 2 minutes you can find out in our brief article which app can help you stay focused on your language goals! Please, note that some of them are both free and premium.

Duolingo

  • Operative systems: Android, iOS, iPadOS, but you can also access it via browser.
  • Pros: 35+ languages, it includes English-Czech combination, completely free, increasing difficulty levels, you can set your daily goal to 5 minutes a day (Relaxed mode)
  • Premium version: ad-free, offline mode, additional features

Memrise

  • Operative systems: Android, iOS, iPadOS, but you can also access it via browser.
  • Pros: 23 languages, you can choose the days and the time you can exercise, it includes the Explore function (you can capture the words around you using the camera), taught words and phrases are put in real-life contexts.
  • Premium version: complete access to all the available courses, offline mode, additional features

Mondly

  • Operative systems: Android, iOS, iPadOS, but you can also access it via browser.
  • Pros: 41 languages, it includes Czech, focus on vocabulary, augmented and virtual reality, access to a chatbot.
  • Premium version: cheap life access, you can compare your progress with other students

Busuu

  • Operative systems: Android, iOS, iPadOS
  • Pros: up to 12 languages, you can choose the days and the time you can exercise, set personal goals, conversation opportunities with native speakers
  • Premium version: ad-free, offline mode, additional features (customized study plans, access to additional grammar and vocabulary lessons), an international certificate with McGraw-Hill

Drops

  • Operative systems: Android, iOS, iPadOS
  • Pros: vocabulary training based on visual learning, 5-minute exercises/little games, perfect for the basics
  • Premium version: ad-free

Quizlet

  • Operative systems: Android, iOS, iPadOS, but you can also access it via browser.
  • Pros: Quizlet has a system for browsing user-made flashcard sets, including language vocabulary.
  • Premium version: log in offline, study without advertising, format the texts, personalize audio and images, create diagrams, scan documents, personalized study paths, see your progress

Our best tip is to download 2 or 3 different apps because a combination can give you extraordinary results (for example, you can combine Duolingo and Memrise, because they have different focuses)! Also, if you alternate the apps you don’t get bored 😉