Five days to fluency in Czech, progress report #3 – happening!

Today was an eventful day, in a way.

I played hockey this morning and we lost. Then I stopped for a dim sum brunch on my way back home. Once home I was able to leave my hockey equipment out in the sun to dry, since we play again tomorrow and the next day.

This was followed by an hour and a half of Czech discussion via skype with Ondrej and Jarda. Then I dowloaded my dose of Czech podcasts on to my mp3 player and drove to the office.

I drive along a windy road to the office. The whole ride is about 15 minutes. There are bus stops but not too many buses along the route. There were two girls waiting for a bus, and as I approached the bus stop they started hitch-hiking, almost pleadingly. So I stopped and picked them up.They told me that they had been waiting for an hour.

My Czech podcast was still going on my audio system. “Is that the radio?” they asked. ” No”, I answered “I am learnng Czech”.

“We are Czech!” they announced.

There followed a lively discussion in Czech. I must say that I held up my end, although the case endings are totally hit and miss, or random at best. I thoroughly enjoyed it. My first spontaneous conversation in Czech!

I drove them another ten minutes past my office to the main bus stop.

I should have taken a picture.

Remember that my “5 days to fluency” plan is a strategy of developing a strong passive knowledge base in the language, and then converting it into comfortable active fluency in the language during 5 days in Prague. The key to success is in the preparation. I am focused on this goal, and this helps keep me motivated in my listening, reading and LingQing. When I reach Prague I want to be able to understand comfortably. I have also been stepping up my online Czech discussions, as I am now a little more than a month away from the day I arrive in Prague.

10 comments on “Five days to fluency in Czech, progress report #3 – happening!

How much of the conversation were you able to understand? How often did you have to ask them to repeat what they said? How many words did they use that you didn’t know?I find that looking at these metrics–how smoothly a conversation goes with a native speaker–is one of the best metrics of my skill with a language.Yes, you should’ve taken a picture :DOh well, we’ll get plenty of pictures from when you go to Prague, right?Cheers,Andrew

Steve Kaufmann

I basically understood what they were saying and essentially most of the words. I did not ask them to repeat, but then I was probably doing most of the talking.Yes, lots of pictures from Prague and some more videos and audios from my online lessons.

Janine Kruger

Hi Steve,That’s a great story! I’ve been wondering – when you go to Prague, how do you plan to practice the language? Do you have a specific program in mind, or will you just travel around the city doing typical tourist activities? The reason I’m asking is this: it seems like gaining proficiency for travel (asking directions, ordering in restaurants, etc) is much easier than really becoming conversationally fluent in the language. For this, it seems you would need more active conversation partners. (I am hoping to do the same thing when I visit Korea next year, so I’m really interested in how to accomplish this!)Thanks,Janine

Ok, sounds like you’re progressing along nicely. I look forward to seeing how you do in Prague and, of course, those pictures (Prague is such a gorgeous city, it’s at the top of my list of places that I desperately want to visit some day).Cheers,Andrew


Janine brought up (indirectly) the matter of phrasebooks. Some people – academics, bilinguals, professional interpreters – tend to sneer at them, but they can be highly useful, even if you have a pretty good knowledge of a language. They can be useful even if you’re not planning a trip, as one more source of comprehensible input or a pronunciation model (Most don’t seem to offer nearly enough practice with numbers, though.)This summer the online site of a Belgrade newspaper has been offering a series of phrasebooks for travelers in 8 foreign languages – (the usual European languages plus Greek and Turkish – but no Albanian. Maybe next year?). The format is flv files – the written text is shown as the audio plays – and there are pdf’s with the complete text with translations. The "native language" in the pdf’s is of course Serbian, but the English version can be used as a key. The menu is here: The files can be downloaded, meaning that you don’t have to worry about the site being offline just when you’re ready to go to work.

Love the blog Steve!I’m really looking forward to following your Czech progress. Right now I’m tackling Vietnamese … and I’m really longing for a "nice, easy" Slavic language!

Laura Forryan

There’s nothing quite like the rush that comes from any opportunity to speak a language you are trying so hard to learn!

sheonagh schultz

Steve, I just want to say how valuable your blog has been to my language learning journey. It is incredibly beneficial to have someone who with so much language experience, light the way for the rest of us! I find that when my motivation lags out of frustration at the process, I can find specific advice which has bolstered my studies! Thank you!

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