#16: Learn to speak a random language

For the last fortnight I have been listening to Pimsleur’s Czech in the car whenever I go anywhere. With the result that I can now confidently say excuse me, hello, yes, no, thank you, goodbye, and ‘I understand Czech very well’. That last is unlikely to get me into a helpful situation.

What I really need is ‘Can I hire 5 sets of skis for 8 days’; ‘Where is the nearest beer spa?’ and ‘Get me 3 hot chocolates for these feral infants and fast, please’. But maybe that will be covered in lesson 7.

For now though, here we are, and I have the chance to test my linguistic prowess on some real people. It has produced very mixed results! Some are delighted that I trouble to greet and thank them in their own language. Great. Others are openly irritated at the impossibility of communicating with me at all – my few words sadly don’t get us very far, and when they default to German, (in Czech minds the universal language), they find I am pretty poor at that too. The third response, and my favourite, is undisguised derision. Several people have burst into peels of laughter and summoned their friends to come and hear the freak show.

Arriving at our hostel and home for the week, I attempted to ask someone ‘Mluveti Anglitsky?’ (do you speak English?). Both he and the 4 women within earshot laughed so hard they may well have soiled themselves. Possibly my accent turned the question into ‘Do you blow goats?’ or similar. That is always a risk.

But today I was delighted to ask directions in Czech and have my question understood. A breakthrough. Never mind that the response was incomprehensible, it was the nearest I have come to a conversation.

And it will have to be good enough to tick that one off the list, because I am not sure I have the energy to take my Czech endeavours much further!

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