Why I’m on the second page of the local paper

Nothing very interesting happened this week apart from the fact my name was mentioned in the press. Don’t worry, no one’s found out about how last May we went around parks and hotel facilities in order to cover street lamps using black plastic bags (note: because of Lukash’s diploma project) and, generally, Czech Republic has no grounds to extradite me apart from that one case when I publicly discredited its mustard.

The reason why I appeared in the local daily paper Ústecký deník is… that I’m a foreigner who studies Czech. I have been in the press before but it’s the first time I haven’t done anything special. I just study a language. The fact that it’s enough for a news article to be based on fills me with tenderness: apparently Czechs, like Bulgarians, are happy when somebody studies their language. (They, for that matter, just like us, think their mother tongue is particularly difficult, especially in contrast to English but a student of mine told me once that it’s even more difficult than Chinese. I could choose to doubt her words but, instead, I decided to feel proud with myself for studying and even already speaking a language more difficult than Chinese.)

This is the article and I’ll try to translate it below as well as I can. I will intentionally avoid using dictionaries because I’d like to go back to this post one day and have some good laugh. The rights upon the original text (as well as upon the translation, if he cares, at all) belong to its author!

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No bell rings in the Czech lessons

The Center for the Integration of Foreigners offers a course in Czech language. The students are making [steps].

by Karel Rouč

The Czech lesson doesn’t start with a ring as in […] school; when the teacher arrives, the students don’t stand up but they say “Hello” or “Good afternoon”. And yet, something is similar. Right before the beginning some people finish writing […]. The homework.

The Center for the Integration of Foreigners in the Usti region offers its clients a course in Czech language. “It’s free, only the students need to buy the book, some notebooks and other [things] which makes up around seven hundred crowns,” Hana Tesarkova, the teacher, explained.

Seven foreigners came to the course, from teenagers to people over 50, who come from various countries: Bulgaria (note: yes, baby!), Egypt, Indonesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Russia and Vietnam. They asked me questions like: are you Czech; what do you do; where do you live; what’s your job like. [They did a good job guessing out] that I was the editor of the newspaper Ústecký deník.

In their turn, I had to guess which country they came from. For example, Sukrist comes from a country of thousand islands and its capital city is Jakarta. Tony (note: yes, baby!) lives in a country by the Black Sea which borders with Romania and Greece and Masud’s homeland has two seas – the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. That country has a seven thousand-year old history.

In the classroom there were all students of upper-elementary level. I was surprised by Anar from Mongolia who’s been in Czech Republic for three months and by Lucka from Vietnam who’s been here for half a year. All of them speak with little problems but [well] and comprehensible. From time to time they confuse “ty” (“you” in singular), “vy” (“you” in plural) and “on” (“he”) and [they’re not quite good with] the cases [note: that’s true] but they manage to say what they want and they understand Czech texts.

The topic of the lesson was connected to some adverts they needed to have done beforehand. […]were a bit surprised by what looking for a 1+1 flat meant and when it came to dating adverts, no one knew what “22/184 is looking for” meant [note: it’s not true! I did!]… Hana Tesarkova explained that this was how Czechs point at their age and height in adverts.

Further on, they had to read a restaurant menu. The students were choosing fast and read the text correctly. All of them would rather have salmon but the choice of other meals differed. […] what the waiter would bring them. Sukrist didn’t know what roasted “kachna” with dumplings and cabbage meant. When it became clear to him, he only said, “Mmmm.”

After that there was a discussion about what the difference between “kachna” and “husa” is. And whether it was “husa” or “hus”. [note: I think “kachna” is a duck and “husa” is a goose]

There wasn’t a bell ring in the end of the lesson, too. The class ended around 15 minutes later than planned after the topic chosen was covered and Hana Tesarkova assigned the homework. Nobody was protesting; everyone wrote down the homework and said they’d love to come next time. “Those are people I have no problems with [note: or something like that]. They want to learn to speak and so they try hard,” the teacher explained.

And so… Expect my next appearance in the Usti press when I learn the cases. 🙂

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