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Slovak—Czech similarities

I am interested in hearing about the level of mutual intelligibility from Slovak to Czech from someone who has tangible experience in either language. What is the extent of this?

October 10, 2017



Native speakers in either language don't need to learn the other language, just some exposure is enough to start understanding. Generally, Slovaks are more exposed to the Czech language than the other way around, so they tend to understand Czechs well; young Czech people might get confused at first when they come across Slovaks suddenly.

We usually just speak our respective languages to each other when we communicate.


Interesting. Thanks for the response. Do you have any knowledge of how that commonality functions with individuals learning Czech? I read recently about this connection, I have some friends from Slovakia, and I started the Czech course on here because I thought it would be cool to have some of those words when I talk with them. Obviously exposure will help, but do you have any knowledge of how that communication would work going forward starting with nothing from Czech?


I'm not sure learning Czech is such a good idea if you actually want to know some Slovak. The similarities are more obvious to people who know the languages well - sometimes the cognates might be a word that is common in one of the languages but rare in the other. And when it comes to grammar, the case endings will be different so the Czech ones will probably confuse you. I know there is no Slovak on Duolingo, but you'd probably do better to look up Slovak resources elsewhere, rather than learning Czech here. (Unless you have other reasons for learning Czech, of course.)


Yeah of course. I think some exposure is better than none, and I like Duolingo as a resource. I don't have a strong interest in getting into high level, just more basic familiarity with a language that is similar.


I am re learning Czech which I spoke with my grandparents until I was starting school. I was never truly proficient in the language and as a native English speaker let me just say Czech grammar is an other breed of unusual because there are proper ways of saying things but not at all how they are pronounced :P with that said I am in just the last month or two hitting the intermediate level and I am able to understand a bit of Slovak when its topics I have a lager vocabulary in for Czech like about family or food but over all Slovak is still quite difficult. my Slovak friend says that when he hears Czech he can get about 80-90% depending on the clarity and speed of the speaking but that in his experience when he speaks Slovak to someone from Czech Republic that their understanding is much less but that there are some terms that he tends to use when he is speaking to a Czech speaker as they are more similar to the Czech... I am sure its not the case for everyone but I also was privy to a conversation between my Czech friend and a random polish man at a hotel he spoke in polish and she in Czech and they were able to exchange conversation for hotel check in and directions to restaurants and such speaking their own languages. so there is a bunch of similarity. the best I have heard it is that its like the difference between Austrian German and high German (maybe even the difference between swiss german?) a few difference in grammatical endings and additionally about 500 words in everyday situations that are different. (much more than 500 in in-depth conversations)


I have a Slovak Girlfriend (and Live in CR, have spent time on Czech Duolingo)... It's really easy for me to switch between the two - in fact I've been told off for speaking 'Czechoslovakian' :D

Idem pryc, potom.


I'm not sure about Slovak but Czech has some words similar to Serbian. Compare:

syr vs sir

my jsme vs mi smo

chleb vs hleb

lisku vs lisice

dobrou noc vs dobro noc

So, I'd assume Slovak must have some words similar to Czech too.


Maybe this can help you: A considerable amount of 2.68M learners of Duolingo English course for Czech speakers are Slovaks. My personal guess is about 15%.


Oh. What is your guess based off?


On the number of Slovaks I meet in Czech (English course for Czech speakers) discussions.


The proportions might be a little off - the Slovaks struggle a bit more due to the differences.


I see a difference between my generation and generation of kids who are around 30 and below. At least on Czech side. People older than 30 were exposed to Czech-Slovak daily in media. TV news anchors came in couples, one Czech, one Slovak and they alternated, each reading different piece of news. Other TV programs were similarly mixed. The only exception were programs for very small children. Thus we all grew up exposed and are "fluent". When I say fluent, I mean we understand but since there was no need to speak it, as the other side understands our native language, we cannot really speak it. The younger generation has not been exposed and albeit they still understand, the level of fluency is not always there. Slovak TV still broadcasts a lot of Czech programs, so younger Slovaks are better off being fluent.

  • 1738

Czechs and Slovaks understand each other. It is even expected on TV, there can be a person of the other langague interviewed and translating what he says is not done and would be ridiculous. The level of understanding depends on how much one is exposed to the other language. Generally Slovaks understand Czech language better, since they are still exposed to it on TV, for example I believe the show "Simpsons" doesn't even have a Slovak dubbing and is played on Slovak TV's in Czech. Czech people of younger generation (under 30 years) often have similar experience with Slovak like Tibro3 described, unless they have relatives or other ties to Slovakia and are connected to the language. They will understand but it will be more frustrating for them than for older Czechs or for people like me who live close to the Slovak border. I would think a foreign learner of Czech or Slovak (after actually getting very advanced in the language) would understand and if they spend some time to "adjust" and to look at the most important grammar differences and some distinct words that each language has it would get even better. This would only really work for someone who has at least B2 or C1 level in the first language.

I wouldn't recommend learning Czech here because someone wants to learn Slovak (some people have asked about that before). They are two different languages and if you only want to learn one of them then go for the one you want to learn. If you want to learn both then going for Czech here could be a start (of a very long journey) :-)


This is a good overview of the dialect mutual intelligibility: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Czech%E2%80%93Slovak_languages


Yeah read that. I wanted human testimony.


I'm an expat living in Czechia. I have a decent passive understanding of the language (I'm here to work on my active understanding). But Slovak gives me headaches. Literally. I have some Slovak friends and when we don't resort to English their native language sends me for a loop. It's close enough to Czech that I strain to follow, but distinct enough to throw me off and give me fits. I find it really frustrating. Which is compounded by the fact that my Czech friends have no problem understanding. I actually have an easier time, passively, with Polish than I do with Slovak. But please don't tell my friends that.


Haha. Slovak person here. Sorry about that ;).

Honestly though I am quite confident that Slovak will stop sounding quite so unfamiliar the more Czech you learn. You'll catch the root of the word here and there and will suss the meaning instinctively. I can imagine that Czech/Slovak could be a tricky language to learn which is why I admire anyone who chooses to tackle either of those two languages. The prize then is near enough two languages for the price of one.. Just what we like when trying to tackle multiple languages here on Duolingo, don't we :) And don't worry, your secret is safe with me. SVK: Neboj sa, tvoje tajomstvo je u mna v bezpeci. CZK: Neboj se, tvoje tajemstvi je u mne v bezpeci. (ok that one was easy)


haha I totally understand English speaking expat in czechia here as well. :P


Just for fun, in a TV show (the reprise aired on a Slovak TV just now) they asked 10 Slovaks whether they know what "sličný" means in Czech. Only one knew the answer.


I imagine it's something like Ukrainian and Belarusian, very similar but at some point you'll encounter words and phrases that make absolutely no sense to you.

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