Czech is the only official language of the Czech Republic, and it is spoken by about 96% of the population. Other languages that can be heard in Czech Republic, are Slovak, German, Polish and Romany.
The Czech language belongs to the group of West Slavic languages. From another perspective, Czech is an inflectional language, which means that the words “inflect” (their endings change). The meaning a given word has in a sentence is primarily determined according to this inflection.
Czech is also one of the 24 official languages in the European Union.
The Reach of Czech Language
Many Czech-speaking people are to be found in Austria (particularly in Vienna), Poland, Germany, Ukraine (the Volhynian Czechs), Croatia (especially around Daruvar), and in western Romania (Banat). Several tens of thousands of Czechs live in Slovakia, where they have remained since the break-up of the Czechoslovak Republic (in 1992).
Czech is also spoken outside of Europe – in Australia, Canada, and particularly in the United States, where the greatest number of Czechs reside outside of the Czech Republic. The largest communities are in New York City, Chicago and Cleveland, but they are also to be found in agricultural regions of Texas, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Nebraska. Altogether, more than 90,000 Czechs live in the United States (according to the census in 1990).
Everyone who speaks Czech can understand each other without difficulty. At the same time, as regards the state of the Czech language, there is a relatively large characteristic difference between traditional standard written Czech and the language that is commonly spoken.
Written Czech tends to be regarded as a ‘phonetic’, what you see is how you pronounce it. Spend any time in Czech Republic and you’ll hear this is not the case. In Prague, you will hear most people pronounce ý so it sounds like ‘ay’ rather than ‘ee’, so ‘dobrý kamarád’ sounds like ‘dobray kamarád’. Another common deviation is to saymlíko rather than mléko for milk. Lastly, Czechs sometimes place a ‘v’ before words starting with ‘o’. For example they might say vosm instead of osm. Some people consider this last style of speech an indication of low education.
Outside of Prague there are other variations. The so-called Ostrava dialect is a prominent example. It is said that people of Moravian city shorten their long vowels. Brno goes one step further and has its own unique dialect called hantec, with a distinct vocabulary. For example, in hantec pivo is bahno, which means mud in Czech. Admittedly, the dialect is more common among older residents.
When it comes to writing Czech, one of the immediate differences is remembering to use the diacritic marks – the lines, hooks, and loops above letters to change their sound. ,
a – á – b – c – č – d – ď – e – é – ě – f – g – h – i – í – j – k – l – m – n – ň – o – p – q – r – ř – s – š – t – ť – u – ú – ů – v – w – x – y – ý – z – ž
To conclude,if you’re someone who has struggled to learn Czech, you may not be in the worst position: a lot of people here, Czech and expat, claim there is no point, since so many people in Prague -though not necessarily the rest of the Czech Republic, either speak English or want to learn. On the other hand, the language gives you greater access to the culture and society around you, which is important if you’re here for a while.