REQUEST FOR INPUT: What do you find most difficult about learning Czech?
As you may know, the Czech-from-English team has begun developing the next version of the course. As a fellow learner, I invite you to share what you find most difficult about learning the language, because your observations can help identify those things that might be approached differently next time out.
Please keep in mind that the question here is simply: What do YOU find particularly challenging about learning Czech?
If you choose to share your experience, please let us know whether English is or isn’t your native language.
Thanks in advance for your help!
I'm a native speaker of US English. I studied Russian at the university level and I thought that knowledge of a Slavic language would help with Czech, but Czech has been more difficult for me.
For me, the word order is the most difficult thing (harder than German or Russian, in my opinion).
I also have a hard time with the declensions for the demonstratives because they change so much. I know I just need to keep practicing this in order to improve, but Czech demonstratives have been a bigger challenge for me than in any other language I've studied.
I've also been using the Pimsleur Czech course, and word order is a problem for me there, too, and that's after repeating what a native speaker has already said. I often have to stop the lesson and try to write down the words so I can see what's going on with the word order and then try to make sense of it.
And of course there's the pronunciation of the letter "ř", which I can get to sound sort of correct in certain words when I'm doing Pimsleur, if I repeat the word over and over, but seriously, does a non-native ever really master that sound? I know that Duo isn't the place to acquire the best pronunciation, but I thought I'd mention it anyway.
I'm enjoying the course and am glad to hear that you're already working on the next version. Thank you for your work and for asking for input!
I spent years learning "ř". This is what finally helped me:
1) Pronounce RRRRRRRR like in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsfgBrTFlvY The tip of your tongue has to vibrate right behind your upper teeth.
2) Put your upper and lower teeth together
3) Repeat that vibrating sound with your upper and lower teeth together. Voilà, the resulting sound is ŘŘŘŘŘŘŘŘ.
i would like to appreciate the word order challenge you are facing a bit more. unlike with declensions (where it is a matter of providing good explanations and enough examples), to make the w.o. stick requires an overall teaching arc, with nearly all skills keeping an eye out for opportunities to build on what came before. our first tree is certainly not ideal in this regard, but it is a good opportunity to appreciate where our target user (a native speaker of english, possibly with no background in flexible w.o. languages) runs into trouble.
could you please digest my I do not drink coffee. comment here and let me know if it gets anywhere close to addressing the w.o. issue you have been facing?
yes, this is a known limitation of duolingo. in its current form, it is not well suited for teaching languages like czech.
we can try to compose compound sentences that contain enough context to catch at least some errors. the trouble is that even longer sentences will show up in translation exercises to english, which means a higher failure rate and probably low frequency of presentation to users.
For me as a native speaker of German, who is accustomed to the concept of cases, rather flexible word order, and putting things in special places for emphasis, I am particularly interested in the rules, the hard ones (e.g. for the position and order of clitics) as well as some softer ones that may be mere "gut feelings". The problem is that word order is usually not dealt with thoroughly in all the text books I possess (and these are many).
So I really like the hints of this course's moderators on this topic, e.g. this one https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/30304525 helped me a lot.
I find that the theory of putting the new or important information at the end often does not correspond with what I see, for the simple reason that it is subjective and context-sensitive. So the word order seems totally random to me. I also have to spend too much effort on trying to use the right declensions, conjugations and translations to even bother about word order. I'm quite happy if I've got all the words right, even if they're not in the right order since I'm hoping I'll eventually get the order right by reading a lot of stories (once I've mastered the declensions and aspects).
Thanks. I read your I do not drink coffee explanation and placing the most important element last is a lot like Russian. That much is more or less familiar to me.
But Czech word order still seems more complicated to me than Russian word order. As I mentioned, it's not just here, either: the same thing happens with Pimsleur, where all I have to do is listen and translate. I end up trying to translate word by word in my head or on paper, because otherwise I don't understand what's going on. I actually had to buy a Czech grammar book to help out with word order, but I'm still struggling with it.
I haven't been working on Czech for a few weeks (I tried a couple days ago but got discouraged by the demonstratives), but I'm definitely not giving up and will post again when I can give better examples.
russian has lost its pronomial clitics. not so czech, which has two versions of many personal pronouns like the english "him" for use without prepositions, and they differ in where they want to go in their clause and in whether they can go somewhere else at all (and what it means if they do). even polish is slightly less of a w.o. chore because it does not have the reflexive dative clitic (czech has not only "sobě" but also "si"), hence one less moving part to track.
so as far as the slavic w.o. nut goes, you did choose to crack one the tougher ones. (it is not you.)
we should probably post the hard rule for the ordering in the clitic cluster soon, as it may clarify a few other things, and it is not even that hard in its basic application to a single clause.
- I sometimes forget to translate an adverb, or similar, like "really" or "very", when I am reading the sentence too fast. It's annoying as it often doesn't change the meaning that much, but it's still wrong, so totally my fault.
- currently some prepositions seem to vanish. Some of them end up at the start of the next word, but others are just as if they are gone. I hope to be able to hear the latter better soon.
- When the English and Czech sentence differ too much, it's hard to find the right translation. In these cases, when it's English -> Czech, I try to translate it English -> German -> Czech as that tends to work pretty good, but not always. The other way around is more difficult, as in these cases German and Czech have been pretty similar and I don't always know how to translate it into English. More often than not I learn something new about English, when that happens. For example I didn't know the verb "to take after somebody" before.
- Voice changes between the English and Czech sentence. There is the sentence: "Kateřina si bere Františka". Back then I translated it as "František is getting married to Kateřina" and it was marked wrong. The problem here was/is that in the czech sentence Žofie is the subject and František is the direct object in an active sentence. But since he is the direct object in an active sentence, I would say he has a passive role in it, so I would make him the subject of the passive sentence and Žofie the indirect object. I am translating it with an active sentence now, but the main translation still uses passive. This kinda goes into the last bullet point of "differing too much"
I would say that get married is a passive construction. Confusion arises because "to marry" actually means two things: 1) The bride is marrying the groom (and vice-versa); 2) The priest or wedding officiant is marrying them both. This allows you to say "Kateřina is marrying František", and someone can ask "Who is going to marry them?", to which the reply might be "They're getting married by the local priest in the old village church". So as the priest is actively marrying Kateřina & František, they are being passively married by him/her. You could say "being married", but usage has established the get-passive form "getting married".
In the sentence "Kateřina is getting married to František", there is the invisible hand of the busy priest in there, tying them together, just as there would be in, say, "František is being chained to Kateřina" 💑⛓😏
While we're on churchy themes, I note that in older (Biblical) English there was the same reflexive dative construction as Czech. Where the fuller sentence would be "Kateřina si bere za muže Františka" (Kateřina nimmt "[sich]" František zum Mann), in Biblical English one finds: "He took unto himself a wife..."
Unfortunately, Czech possesses a confusing array of nuptial expressions also using the simple reflexive "se" form. You have Kateřina se vdává, but František se žení, and even with the verb brát if you talk about them mutually then "Kateřina a František se berou".
A real passive construction in Czech using the verb "to marry" (i.e. what the priest does) comes from oddat/oddávat, and now the bride & groom can go into a proper passive role as "Kateřina a František budou oddáni" = "will be married."
So in conclusion I think we can return to On-Topic and safely say that marriage is one of the more difficult things about Czech 😀
to circle way back where this detour started, i do not see how the apparently passive form of František is getting married to Kateřina. (perhaps due to the invisible hand of the priest or court tying the knot) could make him so much more passive in that process than his bride so as to justify it as a translation of Kateřina si bere Františka.
in the alternative, we would enter the slope towards translating Kateřina wants to get married to František. as František si chce vzít Kateřinu.
despite the superficially passive appearance of "get married", i would see "get married to someone" as mostly a less common alternative to "marry someone". for our part, we can purge the "get married" from the main english translations and from the hints where simple "marry" suffices in hopes that only showing the active verb makes the switch temptations go away.
Oh goodness, I wasn't really commenting on that, rather on your ensuing chat with Detlef.
As I said, the confusion about the English grammatical voice here is due to the 2 distinct meanings of "to marry" - in "Kateřina is getting married to František", it is not that K is active and F passive, but that both are passive in relation to the unmentioned priest.
However, although this is how it may be dissected in the Cambridge Grammar of English, no ordinary person ever thinks about it this way, and get-passives are simply used as idioms, in this case as an active one. Christoph has looked all too deeply into the eyes of the construction, which is a wonderful thing in many ways, but this has led to some hypnotization 😉
I'd say you should accept "Kateřina is getting married to František" as a valid idiomatic translation of Kateřina si bere Františka, but no mucking around with passive-active backflips. It may even be that the "to" endows the phrase with an active directionality that prohibits any kind of switching around. Although the construction is formally passive, it has an arrow through it nonetheless. "The bike is being locked to the fence" does not (apart from purely mathematically) imply that "The fence is being locked to the bike."
I thought a little bit more about the last bullet point and here is a logical deduction by comparison:
Kateřina is throwing the ball to František.
The ball is getting thrown by Kateřina to František.
Kateřina is marrying František [to herself].
František is getting married by Kateřina to Kateřina (herself).
i get the impression that your issue with to be getting married to is with english. it is as if you somehow considered it passive, like a ball getting/being thrown. but here it is a verb of becoming, presumably by one's own free will, and its subject is the doer, not a victim that something is being done to.
look at meaning 11 here.
the linking get of state/condition requires thinking to determine the agent. (even if the translation does not always require it.)
The ball got stolen/deflated. (who did it? someone the former, nobody in particular the latter.)
I got undressed. (implies no helper.)
I was undressed. (either i was like that already, or someone undressed me.)
get is one of the nightmare verbs of english. only repeated exposure can help.
You are right with respect to the numerous meanings of "get". Nevertheless it is sometimes not easy to decide, whether the construction is passive voice or not.
a) In sentences like "I am getting wet" it is clearly active voice. You can as well say "I become wet".
b) In sentences like "The ball got stolen" it is clearly passive voice. You can as well say "The ball was stolen".
c) "I am getting married" seems to be a borderline case. Personally I'd prefer to see it as passive voice because the construction with the past participle is analogous to b), but you could see "married" as an adjective and then it would be analogous to a). @Christoph: those two interpretations indeed correspond in a way to the German distinction between Zustandspassiv and Vorgangspassiv.
-- There are, of course, the endings, the declensions etc., it has been written in the comments already
-- The prepositions, and especially their meaning, are quite different from any language I know, so it can throw me off a bit
-- I would also really appreciate a bit more explanation of differences between words with the same meaning, for example, vždy and staale or tady/tadyhle/zde/tu
-- There's also false friends and me adding Russian endings, not Czech, but that's entirely on me
Overall this tree is great, I can't thank the Czech-from-English team enough!
I would also really appreciate a bit more explanation of differences between words with the same meaning, for example, vždy and staale or tady/tadyhle/zde/tu
In Czech you very often have the situation that there are many words having (nearly or even completely) the same meaning. As far as I know this is e.g. the case with tady/tadyhle/zde/tu.
Between vždy and stále there is a difference: the former means "always" (at all times), the latter "constantly" (no pause within a given or implied period of time).
I am a native speaker of Polish i just passed second checkpoint (1/3 of course). I still didn't get "i" and "a" difference from the sentences in conjunctions, but i just started practising that skill.
What I would change?
There are not many sentences with "excuse me" or "I'm sorry". I think that the word "promiňte" is important to newbies like me. :)
Demonstratives (this/that/those/these/such etc.) were very hard for me, I spend over a month just to make that skill gold - but it is just a very hard thing to grasp.
The hardest part is seeing the accents as the text is too small and the screen can't be resized. I am having to ignore them unfortunately and treat pronunciation as something to be learned word by word rather than being able to read how it should sound. But that is probably not under your control.
So far the course is going very well despite that, no particular difficulties so far. I am impressed with the way you introduced the cases depending on gender and the general structure so far (I am not quite up to the second check point). I feel I am gaining further insight into slavic languages in general by doing it which will help my Russian too, although my understanding of it is being helped by having done Russian of course. I am happy to do lots of repetition as that is the only way cases will click for me. It is probably nearly impossible to understate how unnatural and difficult genders and cases are for English speakers. Understanding them is relatively easy. Becoming able to use them instinctively takes huge amounts of practise and repetition. I am only just getting a proper feel for them after three years of familiarisation and still need lots more practice.
You could zoom in when using the browser. I find only ú x ů and t x ť hard to distinguish when I don't zoom in or use the app.
What helps me with the cases is understanding what the purpose of each case is. Unless there is a preposition I can deduce the required case most of the time. Prepositions on the other hand have rules, which case they require but that doesn't always follow my understanding of cases and once a preposition has more than two possible cases to go with, I still have problems.
As a native Portuguese/Spanish speaker, with advanced knowledge of English and a reasonable knowledge of German:
I find the grammar very complex, and Doulingo did not solve this problem for me. --> Especially the grammar related to verbs, adjectives and genders.
I have been 2 years trying to find a pattern in word order, with the help of Duolingo and native speakers, but still, I make some embarrassing mistakes if I don't think deeply and thoroughly about it. I suppose this isn't something you should be interested in though, because I'm the one who needs to practice and get the hang of it.
Note: I am not a native English speaker, but if I if this question is being asked to solve translation problems, you could consider me as one in this sense.
for you, does the word order challenge have more to do with constraints (can't put this word in/outside the 2nd position cluster, can't start the sentence with it...) or with the messaging implied in what order is chosen within the freedom those constraints still allow?
we accept all kinds of orders if there is a reasonable chance they are correct. but that does not really help either.
For me (a native AE speaker) it is the cases. I have trouble remembering the endings and deciding which case it is. Some are easier like accusative and locative. Others are more difficult. Then also remembering the endings and which prepositions and demontratives go with which cases. And demonstratives so many for the words this and that.
My native language is German, more exactly Swiss German. Genders, cases, flexion of nouns, adjectives and so on is not unusual to me. But I find it still difficult to remember all the different endings. Generally flexion of the nouns is a hard part. Pronouns are a difficult chapter too. That there is sometimes more than one possibility for one pronoun (example "jeho, ho, jej") does'nt make it easier.
With the word order I had more problems in the beginning. It remembered me the old latin with its absolutely free word order. Translating was like a puzzle. , Now I got a better feeling for the right order.
A big challenge for me is translating to English. My English is not good enough and it can take me three or four attempts to find the desired translation. Sometimes the only solution is copy/paste! One problem is the English word order. I make more mistakes with the English word order than with the Czech word order. Another difficulty are the different forms of the past tenses. I begin to understand the concept of perfective/imperfective verbs, but I am not sure how to translate it correctly to English. Just now I got to the chapter "aspects". Half of my English translations are wrong. Where is the difference between: I lost, i have lost, I was losing, I have been losing and so on? Maybe it has to do with my native Swiss German, as Swiss German is in that aspect very primitive: We have only one single form for past tense, a form comparable to present perfect.
Struggling so often with my English when I want to learn Czech is really boring and demotivating.
What I like: The humour (sometimes black humour) in some sentiences. That makes learning more fun. I appreciate very much the help and the explanations given in the forum. A big thank to the mods! Therefore I cannot imagine how to learn with the app only.
thanks! two areas i have not yet commented on in this thread:
That there is sometimes more than one possibility for one pronoun (example "jeho, ho, jej") does'nt make it easier.
no, it sure does not. this probably trips up even some of our east-slavic cousins because they do not have the short pronoun versions and so their clitics are much less challenging. we are simplifying the pronouns slightly in version 2 by delaying the truly duplicate or rare forms until after the A1 zone. but the "ho" vs. "jeho" distinction for animate masculines will stay in A1 because it represents the clitic/stressed pronoun issue impacting the valid word orders.
I begin to understand the concept of perfective/imperfective verbs, but I am not sure how to translate it correctly to English. Just now I got to the chapter "aspects". Half of my English translations are wrong. Where is the difference between: I lost, i have lost, I was losing, I have been losing and so on?
that is a tough place to be. english is pretty rich in verb tenses, which in their own way, sometimes with context from the rest of the sentence, convey (among other things) whether the event is viewed from the outside or from within its duration. the choice between regular/perfect and simple/continuous (and sometimes between past/present) takes care of what czech usually expresses by aspect alone. i wish i could say to just use the continuous past wherever czech has the imperfective past, but that will only work so well.
it is quite a handicap to be a native speaker of neither side of this course. even if we add the notes for the aspect stuff, they will be written for the native english speaker. the best hope i can identify for you is that a fellow-german native speaker's perspective (or or that of one of my colleagues fluent in german) shows up in the sentence discussions.
My native language is English, specifically US-English.
The hardest aspect of Czech for me was actually a particular point in the tree - right around the point where new verbs and new noun conjugation forms were showing up, around the Food and Animals skills. I wouldn't be struggling so much with verbs and nouns if they were more separate, but now I'm getting basically overloaded with information and it's hard to tell what's what. (And I have learned inflected languages before, so I'm familiar with how the concepts work even if I don't know the forms.)
If it helps any, I would recommend alternating between nouns and verbs at first - introduce basic verbs/pronouns and verb forms (preferably not so many verbs at once, or else make the lessons longer if you can), then start introducing nominative noun/adjective forms, then work on combining the two with the accusative forms beginning to be introduced. Maybe keep the pattern consistent and break accusative up into different skills based on gender?
My second complaint is that there are no stories for Czech, but I'm not sure how much can really be done about this, so I'm not as worried about it. The stories are really good for practicing the language in context, and they would certainly be helpful for a language like Czech, even at such a basic level.
But, building on the stories idea ... would it be possible to add a skill with questions and answers combined? Like, as one unit in a lesson. Ex: "Co ty jíš? Já jím ta jablka." What are you eating? I'm eating the apples. "Kdo jí ta jablka? Ta jablka jím já." Who is eating those apples? I am eating those apples. As a single input. That might help to create a sense of context for more advanced levels, to help with learning proper word order for different situations. But I'm not far enough along in the tree to know whether you've done this already or not ... or even if it might help at all.
These are just my ideas. I don't know what you guys have done already for the new course, but I definitely have faith that whatever you do, it'll be great. Keep it up! :)
Volgav vitsenanieff nivya kevach varatsach.
thank you for feedback!
we are aware of the "accusative overload". you may want to review our What's cooking? thread (the quote links to it):
But then instead of dumping in all those verbs in the Animals and Food skills, we are actually sticking in another gender row, to present the accusatives of a bunch of gender-segregated nouns, with only three verbs split between the three gender skills, and taught form by form.
that post also contains a screenshot showing how the early part of the tree would change in version 2.
there are limits to focusing only on nouns or verbs early on because neither allows reasonable sentences. but i think version 2 comes close to your wish with the "Objects" M/F/N row, which only contains three or four new verbs, and the rest is mostly accusative noun forms.
we cannot be that gentle for the other 4 and 1/2 cases (Voc. is and will remain lightly covered), or we would never get done due to course bloat. (Gen. may be the last M/F/N split.) but the segregation of A1 content and the general learning curve management should help even later.
duo HQ is who decides which languages get stories. i am pessimistic about czech ever getting them. combinations of questions with answers are technically allowed but suffer from issues similar to compound sentences: length, translation explosion, and probable low frequency of presentation to users. moreover, both parts would be read by the same TTS voice.
feel free to comment further, especially if any of the linked discussion triggers an insight.
If Duo doesn't add stories, I might be able to provide an alternative; I've built a web app, called Jazyk, for foreign language learners where you read a story sentence by sentence. I've scarcely got any Czech content right now (I started with French), but I hope to get more soon.
I'm really enjoying the Czech course, and actually take a sort of perverse joy in the idiosyncrasies of the language. I think that you're doing a really great job of explaining the whole thing!
My only comment (which I imagine you're working on already) is that while the Tips & Notes sections are super useful early on, you seem to have stopped including them for later sections (I think Locative is the last one, which is very short).
I've found the tables explaining noun and adjective endings and verb conjugations really useful in earlier sections, and would really appreciate having them for the later sections, especially ones that that introduce Modals, Indef, Comparative adjectives, etc. It's handy to have all the variations listed together, rather than having to infer how the grammar works with each individual phrase in a lesson.
Hi, I'm a native Hebrew speaker. I live in Prague for the last 4 years, doing Duolingo for the lst 2 years in parallel to studying with a private tutor once a week and hearing Czech all around me. So, I'm writing about my difficulties with Czech in general, not only in Duolingo: My biggest struggle is with the declination: First - to identify which case it should be (genitiv, dativ, instrumental, and lokal, especially) . Then, even harder is to remember the correct ending of the word - according to the case, gender, sg/pl and exceptions... My second struggle is with the perfect/imperfect verbs, because we just don't have it in Hebrew. Not even the consept of an on-going action vs. a short action. So my challenge is, again - first to identify when to use the perfect vs. imperfect verbs, and then, secondly, to remember which is which (řict/řikat, kupovat/nakupovat etc).
as a UK and RU native speaker, you are possibly supporting my point about the difficulty that the CZ clitic pronouns (ho, tě) vs. stressed pronouns (jeho, tebe) pose for east slavic speakers. after all, with languages otherwise so related, this extra CZ feature should be an expected sore spot.
here is our intro write-up on the clitics: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/31466920/Ordering-the-Czech-clitics-Introduction-2019-04-18
For me the Cases and Genders, as they don't exist in English, is an annoying thing to remember. I don't find it too hard to remember the endings (for example Novy, Nova and Nove) but I sometimes to struggle to remember which words are masc., fem. or neutr.
I do like how the word order isn't very strict though and for some reason I actually seem to remember the individual words easily enough, which is strange because most of them are not related to English at all (for example like in French of German) but getting the gender right is hard for me.
I just wanted to touch base and update my earlier comments.
Until the past week, I'd been using the web version of Duo for Czech, but I recently started using the iOS version, mostly concentrating on practice review lessons. It has made a huge difference for me. First of all, I like being able to practice my own pronunciation by dictating my answers in Czech. Second, I obviously needed to go back and review the basics and get a stronger foundation. I moved through them too fast when I used the web version, which was my own fault.
Word order is even starting to make more sense to me. One thing that helps is that the review sentences on the iOS version tend to be a lot shorter and less complex than the regular lessons, and that's what I need right now.
The demonstratives are still tough, but so far I haven't had many of them in my review lessons.
thanks! i wonder a bit about
Word order is even starting to make more sense to me. One thing that helps is that the review sentences on the iOS version tend to be a lot shorter and less complex than the regular lessons, and that's what I need right now.
because if the word order makes more sense for shorter sentences, might that not be entirely as expected? assuming the lengthier exercises contain salient w.o. features, this could be an avoidance effect.
You're right, I am going to need to return to the web version in order to acquire the skills that I know that I need. But right now, I really need to get much more comfortable with the fundamentals, and the iOS practice lessons are filling in a lot of the gaps that were causing me trouble with the longer, more complex sentences in the web version. (This isn't just true for Czech; I'm finding the same thing with Catalan).
What I'm finding specifically is that the iOS practice lessons allow me to work at a reasonable rate while offering the review I need, so that I'm getting repetition without spending a lot of time laboring over each sentence.
Also: I have not yet done any of the actual "real" lessons using the iOS app, just practice lessons, so the real lessons may be longer and more complex.
Native English speaker here. Case endings, word order and prepositions... shocker, I know, crazy. I don't really know what to say that hasn't already been said here. Word order is hard because of the lack of context , the case endings are hard just because there is an abundance of them, and the prepositions (and case endings) are just something you have to learn by exposure. This isn't really what you asked from us, but somethings I would like to see are genders listed for nouns when you hover your cursor over them. Stating perfective and imperfective too. A section devoted specifically to idioms would be really cool too. I recently learned "Za hovna ruzi neudelas"... SO FUNNY. Overall, I think this tree is a super helpful introduction to a language that is very difficult to learn/teach. I'm moving to Prague in May and I feel good about saying very basic sentences to get my point across. So for that, I thank you all who have contributed to this course!
hi, i see your preposition challenge: it is DĚLAT NĚCO (accusative) Z NĚČEHO (genitive). ZA only takes the accusative or instrumental and none of its many meanings designate something being reconstituted into something else.
a bit of context. we are just volunteer caretakers who change the content of the course but must work with the existing tools. we cannot add tooltip behaviors, only direct translation hints (the list that pops up on hovering over a word). but nothing other than translations is to be entered in the hints because the entries are additionally used for things like "tap the pairs" exercises.
Native Dutch: - Endings -Saying that word order is flexible, but then it isnt with so many words being in 2nd place of a sentence - As with any other language you want to learn; vocabulary - just learning words..missing in so many topics new words - cz-eng is good for native eng speakers, everybody else..buy a dictionary.nothing beats your native tongue. - used to four cases, adding another three is a challenge. - speaking czech is the most challenging as you are mostly lost for words when you get a reply...either too fast or oncomprehensible...only remedy - practice - word order doesnt make sense to someone used to a west-european language