If Czech is not your first foreign language, you have probably tried different methods of learning a language and know which ones are the most efficient. But what if you have only just started on your language learning journey and Czech is your language of choice?
Alexandra Baranova, the GoStudy blog writer, offers hands-on tips on how to make learning Czech efficient, fast and fun.
Good news for those who think they have no language ability. Everybody can master a foreign language with the right attitude to learning.
Audio or video?
Before starting learning the Czech language, you should identify your learning style.
Option 1: You are an auditory learner
You can easily remember words you have heard in a conversation, on the radio or in a movie. The more you hear the same word or a phrase, the better are the chances of you remembering it.
Option 2: You are a visual learner
You can easily remember information that is written down. The more often you some across the same written word or a phrase, the better are your chances of remembering it. It can be, for example, an inscription on the shop window or a book cover.
Option 3: You are a tactile (kinaesthetic) learner
You process information only when you organise it: make lists, break down into categories, seek out some rules. Simply hearing and writing down information on paper don’t provide the desired result. To be successful in learning a foreign language you should learn independently at least 70% of the time. You can try the following methods.
For auditory learners:
Say and repeat any unknown words out loud. Over and over again.
Record everything you hear on a voice recorder. You can listen to it instead of a typical Spotify playlist.
Use smartphone sound apps to listen to the correct pronunciation of an unknown word.
If you use electronic vocabulary (e.g., Seznam Slovník), always listen to the pronunciation of an unknown word or phrase.
Read all texts out loud, both those from textbooks and the ones you write down on your own. It will help remember the context, improve your pronunciation and help spot any spelling mistakes or typos.
For visual learners:
Try the most popular method, i.e., the flashcard system. A flashcard has a word in Czech with its translation on the back. This method is good for kinaesthetic learners as well, because the cards can be arranged by topic (grammatical, conversational).
Walk around your accommodation and stick a post it note with the object’s name onto each object. It works especially well with the objects you use often.
Write down all the rules and exceptions which you struggle to remember and put them in places, where you spend a lot of time, like, near the mirror in the bathroom, in the kitchen, of the board above your desk, or on the wall beside your bed.
Start writing down everything you can. For example when you are doing your grammar exercises you can write out a full sentence instead of only writing down the required answer.
Another method which is good for visual learners is the Yartsev technique. Divide a sheet of paper into two; one side for unknown words, the other side is for translation, usage example, speech patterns. You can look through the notes from time to time to memorise the words.
For those who prefer a systematic learning style:
Break down all new words into categories. For example, write down nouns in one place and verbs in the other. The Czech language has plenty of classifications, such as noun types, verb classifications. If you are a kinaesthetic learner, this works to your advantage, so just stick to this structure.
Group unknown words into topics. For example, along with words for vegetables and fruit, learn the words for shops selling them.
Make lists of cognates. An example in Czech — ‘být’, ‘pobyt’, ‘ubytování’, ‘bytost’.
If the words you need to remember are not alike at all, make up sentences or a story using these words even if it makes no sense. The Czech example is ‘Strč prst skrz krk’; it’s a tongue twister which means ‘Stick a finger through the throat’. A great way to practice pronunciation.
Our students of 2019–2020
Ultimately, there are some general recommendations for all learners, regardless of what you are learning. These rules are not to do with the way you process the information.
Learning and having fun
It’s one thing to learn grammatical rules and read texts on boring topics day after day, and an entirely different thing to read texts on the history of architecture, if you are, for example, an interior design student. It has been proven that the language learning process happens much faster if the information in a new language is important and interesting to the learner.
Power of translation
Modern textbooks for the Czech language learners barely contain any translation exercises. It is an important skill to have to be able to translate from your native language into your foreign language. People do this in their mind long before they learn to think in a second language (which can take a while). The quicker you can learn to translate, the easier it will be for you to learn to say it. You can translate articles from the magazines you like or chapters of books, relevant exercises from textbooks (Czech Language by A.G. Shirokova). You can also record everyday dialogues and translate them into Czech.
Before going to sleep
Learning a new language, especially from scratch, requires remembering huge amounts of new information. Human brain better remembers information it receives right before sleep, than the information it has been processing during the day. You should use it to your advantage.
Spaced repetition learning
This is a special method which helps learning new material better; you’ve got to repeat the words you have learned after certain intervals, gradually making them longer. For example, you are learning a new word; to begin with it makes sense to repeat it several times during the lesson, then the next day and then in a week’s time. After that you return to the word in a month. This way you’re more likely to remember it.
Old and new
Learning new material and then revising the material you’ve already learned. Practice makes perfect!
Good luck, friends!