Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Adventure #009- The Czech Adventure

Progress Report #1
About a month ago, I started meeting with a woman, who wants to practice her English in order to be ready for a job in the Fall, once a week for a language exchange. Right now, the time isn't evenly shared, but we spend about 20-30 minutes in Czech.

The best part about it: she tries to understand me. Most people usually switch to English before I get an entire sentence out. So far, my vocabulary doesn't extend very far, but on our second meeting I was able to describe the 6 dogs and 1 cat in Reno. Even though the topics aren't exciting, I am able to use the grammar that I have been taught in my classes. And, because I try to make sentences above my level, I am challenging myself and learning new words.

I had a funny experience in Czech a few weeks ago. I was riding the tram illegally with a friend (I forgot my pass, he forgot to buy one) and we got caught. The controller asked us to get off the tram and after we did, she decided to only give us 1 fine, which was really nice of her! I think part of the reason we only got 1 fine was that I tried to tell her that I had a month-long pass in my wallet at home. With a lot of pantomime and half sentences, I managed to tell her that I didn't have my pass because I left it in my wallet in my purse at home. And that I had left my purse at home because I was attending a football match. It was a successful exchange because we had a conversation. There were words I didn't know, but could act or mime for her and she did the same for me.

The weekly exchanges and lessons will continue... Who knows, maybe I will be really good at this language in a few decades ;)

The Challenge:
When I went home for the holidays, my friends and family all wanted to know how much Czech I spoke. The answer was almost none! I can order food and read a menu but beyond that I need to be spoken to like I am 3 years old (one or two words at a time only please!) The more people that asked, the more I felt like I should be learning the language of my adopted home.

I may be exaggerating my lack of knowledge a bit. I had taken a course last spring, but it was quick and I wasn't that committed to learning so I didn't do well or go far. Part of my reluctance to learn the language well was the fact that I kept planning to leave.

Now that I have decided to stop making plans to leave, I figured I should commit to learning the language. It would be nice to be able to communicate with the people around me; in my dance class, when my students start speaking in Czech, saying more to the owner of the fruit & veg shop downstairs than 'dobry den' (good day), etc.

The goal is as follows: if I leave before July, then I will take the level A1 test (beginner); if I leave sometime after, I will take the A2 (pre-intermediate) in November. (For a better explanation of the levels use this link: http://www.linguanet-europa.org/pdfs/self-assessment-grid-en.pdf)

As this adventure will take awhile, I will be posting several updates as I progress in my skill level, or if anything exciting happens (like a conversation with someone random). I am taking weekly Czech lessons and meeting with my fellow student once a week to review, so progress is slow but steady.

Držte mi palce! Wish me luck!

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