“I work in Brussels as a professor of Czech language at the Free University of Brussels (ULB). At first I wanted to study French. I’m from Ostrava, where there is a secondary school specializing in the French language. I started this language when I was 13 years old. I also had the opportunity to do several internships in France and Brussels. At the end of my studies, I had the opportunity to apply for this vacancy at the Free University of Brussels, and that is how I work there today. »
Where does your passion for the Czech language come from?
“I had a passion for the French language, so when I was thinking about what I wanted to study, I looked for something I could learn from French. It was suggested to me that it would be convenient for my mother tongue to be part of my work. I started my studies at Masaryk University in Brno, where I studied philology of the French language and the Czech language. Then I specialized in education. »
Pride of the Czech Republic and the Czech language
Why is it important to share and teach Czech, not only at home but also abroad?
“I have to admit that I feel more and more proud of the Czech Republic and the Czech language, and I love sharing them with foreigners. It is really enriching to be able to present our culture, mainly through language. Much of my work is dedicated to this. »
Do you think Czech should only be spoken in the Czech Republic, or is it a language that someone might want to learn just for the fun of learning and openness?
“Our students study Slavic languages, that is, they study not only Czech, but also Polish and Russian. Their motivations are often very diverse and sometimes they really enjoy learning an ‘exotic’ language. For me, exoticism is really something else! But in Brussels, students often come from different backgrounds and therefore often speak their mother tongue, but also French or Dutch. Slavic languages are often the ‘missing part’, which is why they start with Czech. From there, they can continue their career in the labor market of these countries thanks to the doors that these Slavic bases open for them. »
Among the Slavic languages, which would be the best to start with in your opinion?
“It depends on your profile, but I think West Slavic languages are much more accessible because they use the Latin alphabet, which allows us to read the words from the beginning. »
Summer school and methodological symposium
Can you tell us about the Czech Summer University, which takes place every year, and the methodological symposium you participate in?
“At ULB, we not only offer university courses, but also evening courses for the general public. There was a great demand from our students for an intensive course, so every year at the end of June we organize two weeks of courses, at the end of which we can really see significant progress in our students. This intensive course is organized in cooperation with Charles University, which gives students the chance to have teachers from this school. We will start on June 13th and there are still a few spots left for beginners in case anyone wants to participate, mainly because it will also be held online. »
“I also have the chance to participate in the methodological symposium organized for teachers of Czech working abroad, and it is really very gratifying to be able to work with my colleagues from all over the world – because Czech is taught in many foreign countries. During this symposium, we can follow training courses prepared by the Institute of Languages and Vocational Training at Charles University (ÚJOP UK). It is interesting to exchange with more experienced colleagues during this event, which is organized every year in June. In 2022 the fifteenth edition took place. I can’t wait to come back next year, because the work of a Czech teacher abroad is quite lonely, and this symposium is a unique opportunity to compare our methods, our experiences and our work with students. »
Are there variations or regional expressions in Czech that are the subject of debate or division, such as pain au chocolat and chocolatine in France, for example?
“Yes, it is, and it must be very difficult for the students. For example, if they come to Moravia, they will hear different endings than those used in Prague. It is well known that in Brno, for example, we call trams ‘šalina’, not ‘tramvaj’ as in the rest of the Czech Republic. Sometimes it’s the accent that varies a little bit, but I think the more you are immersed in the language, the more you appreciate those little differences. »
Hear the melody and character of the tongue
What are the top tips you would give to someone just starting to learn the Czech language without the basics?
“In the beginning, I would advise above all to listen to Czech. Don’t open manuals, but try to find podcasts or recordings in Czech to try to hear the melody and character of the language. The biggest issue is pronunciation, so if you focus on it from the start, you avoid potential problems in the future. »
Do you consider Czech an easy language?
“I would say at the beginning, if I said that there are all these variations, these 7 cases and these sounds that don’t necessarily exist in French, necessarily, that’s a lot of new information! But when learning the language, we go step by step; so you discover Czech as you go along. One student told me that for him Czech represents yoga for the brain! It shows that this language makes you think, but in the end, you should, above all, realize that through this language you can communicate with people, so you don’t have to worry too much about grammar and declensions. »