A cloudy day in Prague
I walked up to the counter of a bakery in Karlín, an up and coming part of Prague, and ordered their summer special.
The shop assistant replied in Czech: “Which one – the salad or the Argentinian baguette?”
I didn’t have my glasses on me, in fact I broke them ages ago, so I squinted at the board in front of me to see what they were offering. I didn’t realise there were two summer specials.
Before I had a chance to reply, the assistant replied in English:
“Do you speak English?”
I replied in Czech: “No.”
He looked annoyed. But we completed the transaction in Czech.
I can order in Czech, zero problem, but this guy couldn’t wait another 10 seconds for me to have a good look at their full menu before telling him my preference.
People across the world complain that expats and immigrants don’t learn the local language but this small exchange is typical of a LOT of transactions I’ve carried out this summer in Prague.
Just because I have an Australian accent when I speak Czech doesn’t mean that I can’t order a baguette in Czech!
I always speak Czech when I go to restaurants and cafes in Prague and quite often the waiters reply in English.
So if you want foreigners to learn Czech, how can we when you respond in English??
This is just one barrier I have to face each time I walk into a cafe or a restaurant or indeed interact with Czechs. I’m a foreigner – so get used to hearing Czech with an accent.
It’s bad enough when we have our own internal barriers to learning a language, let alone what others impose on us.
- What barriers do you have when it comes to learning English?
- Are they barriers that come from within or from others around you?
- How do you deal with them?