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Speaking the Language

Czech Republic - Speaking the Language


Czech is the official language spoken in the Czech Republic. It is spoken by almost everyone living there, unless they have been brought up in another country. However, English is part of the mainstream education system in the Czech Republic and has been for almost 30 years. As a result, most young people will have a basic grasp of English, whilst many who have travelled or who work in an English-centered industry will be fluent.

German is also widely spoken. The proximity of the two countries and some similarities between the two languages mean a lot of people have at least a basic grasp of German. Newspapers printed in German can usually be found in city centers.

Unfortunately, the Czech language is difficult to learn. However, Czech people are sympathetic to this problem, and will try to help anyone who is struggling. Luckily a great many resources are available for anyone willing to make the effort to learn the language.

There are a number of websites that teach Czech words and phrases available. Many of these sites are free, and learning is based around games or fun activities. These sites aim to teach you the basics to get by, and include:

Duolingo
Loecsen
Surface Languages
Local Lingo
101 Languages

A number of YouTube videos about speaking Czech are also available. An advantage of these videos, as with the websites listed above, is that you can hear the way words are pronounced. YouTube presenters will also often respond to questions and recommendations from their audience.

Grammar and phrase books can be readily found on the websites of book retailers and other online stores, where you will often find reviews from previous customers. Such books have been redesigned and enhanced over the past twenty years, making the Czech language more accessible.

For those who want personalized help learning Czech, there are a number of private language schools, especially in Prague. These offer courses of different lengths, times and level of difficulty.

The Czech language uses different forms to denote the level of formality between the parties talking to each other. Informal terms would conventionally be used within close friendships and family members, whilst formal terms would be used for everyone else. If you get confused on this don’t worry, you will not cause offense. However, do remember to include an individual’s title or rank, should they have one, such as doctor or professor in all written correspondence, even if you are sending a quick email.

The good news for fluent English speakers who don’t speak Czech is that they can still find work in the Czech Republic. Hotels, bars, restaurants and shops in Prague and other tourist areas will always be seeking polite, cheerful and fluent English speakers to serve their international customers, who seldom have even the basics of the Czech language. Obviously there are disadvantages to this type of work. It can be seasonal and precarious, and you may be asked to work flexible hours. You are likely to be working late nights and weekends, as well as over holidays. Despite this, you will still have to compete hard for the job, and if you are obtaining a work permit, the employer must show that no suitable locals applied for the advertised post.

Many international businesses operate in the Czech Republic. They are drawn by the country’s proximity to important European economies such as Germany, whilst enjoying the much lower costs of property and staff that are on offer. International companies will often bring in their own highly qualified, skilled employees from overseas, and there will be a close liaison with the company’s international head office. As a result, it is normal in these companies to communicate in English throughout the working day.

Even if you are able to conduct all your business in English, be aware of cultural and business practices in the Czech Republic. They may have an impact on the success of your job interview or sales pitch. Arrive on time and appropriately dressed. There should be no exception to this, whatever the location. Anywhere connected to business or formal social events is likely to have a smart dress code, so unless you are told to the contrary, wear a suit or at least a jacket and coordinated outfit. Greet people confidently and with a firm handshake. Introduce yourself with a pleasant smile, and remember the names of the other people who are introduced to you. Avoid greetings which can be misinterpreted as personal intrusion. In the UK “How are you?” or “Are you OK?” are a mark of politeness, but a Czech business contact will think it is an inappropriate question.

When discussions are underway following introductory small talk, avoid direct hard selling, or boasting, as these are not appropriate in the Czech culture. Instead, think ahead about what the other party needs and whether you can deliver that, and at what cost. Make the sales discussion revolve around their needs and listen to what the other person is saying. Business cooperation can develop into a long term relationship which benefits both sides, and lead to you being recommended to other people within the business community.

If you have been invited to someone’s home, it is important to arrive punctually and be clean and presentable. You should bring a bottle of wine or bunch of flowers for your host. Do not be surprised if you are given a pair of indoor shoes to wear; it means you should leave your own shoes at the door. Many Czech households include grandparents as well as parents and children. Dogs and cats are greatly loved by many Czech families. As soon as you have finished eating, your plate will be taken away even if others are still eating. If you are offered seconds, your acceptance infers praise for the cook. As always, do not drink and drive; the high level of deaths on Czech roads means the police will come down hard on anyone caught over the limit.

Many Czech people dealing with you in a business relationship will prefer emails. This allows them time to absorb any English phrases or words they are unsure of. Avoid jargon, and keep your sentences short and to the point.

When you are living in the Czech Republic, you will need to buy a license to watch TV or listen to the radio. Subscriptions fund television channels ČT1 and ČT2, whilst channels Nova and Prima are funded by advertising income. You can also obtain further TV channels by purchasing a digital box and connecting it to an existing aerial. You can then watch channels such as ČT24 (for news), ČT4 (for sports), 24cz (for politics), Top (for shopping) and Očko (for music videos) without making subscriptions or other payment. With all these channels you will find some access to English programmes containing Czech subtitles, but the content will be overwhelmingly broadcast in Czech, which will help you learn to speak the language.

Cable services may be an option for TV viewing if you can pay the monthly subscriptions, and if the cable company has connected the street in which you live. Most city dwellers will gain easy access, but it is rarely an option along quiet country roads. Subscriptions to satellite television are usually the best option for those wanting to watch English channels in the Czech Republic.

If you are in a part of the Czech Republic which has been affected by the 2014 changeover to the Astra 2E and Astra 2F satellites, you may find a subscription for IPTV from UKTV2C is a good alternative.

Access to physical newspapers published in English will depend on your location within the Czech Republic, as imports will rarely go beyond airport vendors or newsagents based in prime tourist and popular expat areas. However, access to UK and US newspaper websites is easy; some are free whilst others have paywalls. There is nothing to stop you subscribing to a US or UK digital newspaper.

The Prague Monitor is a daily online news site in English which can be emailed to you each day. The online Prague Post is more of a news blog, written by a diverse group of contributors, which includes domestic and international content.


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Expat Health Insurance Partners


Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.

Cigna

Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.