5 Surprising Facts about the Czech Language

Czech is a language spoken by around 12 million people worldwide. Not only is it the national language of Czech Republic, but it is also a minority language recognized in Austria, Serbia, Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine and Bulgaria.

As a Slavic language, radically different from ones with Germanic or Romance origins, Czech is said to be a hard language to master for many foreigners. Not only does it have a completely unfamiliar vocabulary, but it also features a complex grammar that can leave first-time learners puzzled with its many exception cases. 

If, after mastering the basics, you are interested to know more about this language, we collected in this article a couple of facts for you!

  • Czech cares about vowel length

In the Czech language, vowel length matters.  The letters á, é, í, ó, ú, ů, and ý (indicated with an acute accent or a ring) should be pronounced approximately 1.75 times longer than normal ones. If it sounds too hard, however, don’t worry!

Czech is a language where it is possible to find words containing no vowels at all! This is the case, for example, of the words hound (“chrt”), finger (“prst”) and neck (“krk”). 

  • Czech is the only language with the letter ř

The most unique letter in the Czech alphabet has to be the letter ř. Pronounced as “rzh” but with a “r” rolling sound, it is a letter that is not present in any other officially recognized language.

It is, however, used in the Upper Sorbian languages of Germany and in certain Norwegian dialects close to Narvik.

  • The Czech alphabet has 42 letters

The Czech alphabet comprises 42 letters, with two of them (q and w) used only in foreign words. If you are learning Czech, learning the correct pronunciation of the alphabet is extremely important, as it is a language in which words are read exactly as they are written.

Some of the most difficult letters to pronounce include:

  • É é – pronounced like the “a” in care
  • Ý ý – pronounced like the “ee” in seen
  • Ě ě – pronounced like the “ye” in yes
  • C c – pronounced like the “ts” in cats
  • Č č – pronounced like the “ch” in church

Would you like to learn more on how to pronounce the entire alphabet? Then you may want to check this link. Happy learning!

  • Czech Capitalization rules are complex

Czech has quite complex Capitalization rules that can be hard to respect also for native speakers!

Other than capitalizing the first letter of a sentence and names, in Czech you also capitalize:

  • In you/You to show respect (for example “Děkuji Vám” if used to thank one person you respect, while “Děkuji vám” refers to more than one person)
  • Headings
  • Names of cities, towns and villages, as well as the names of other geographical locations. However, common words such as ulice (street), náměstí (square) or moře (sea) are not capitalized
  • Nationalities and nation names
  • Brands when used as trademarks or to refer to companies
  • Official names of institutions
  • Possessive adjectives from proper names

Be careful however when writing an email! Czech will start with a small letter on the first sentence on a letter or email after using a comma (i.e. Dear XYZ, let me know…).

  • Czech is one of two languages to have its own unique word for kangaroo

This list wouldn’t be complete without a fun fact!

While most foreign languages have adopted variations of the Aboriginal Guugu Yimithirr people’s original name “Gangurru”, Czech and Croatian have created their own word for it.

Where English calls it a “Kangaroo”, Italian a “Canguro” and French a “Kangourou”, Czech refers to it as “Klokan”. The word was created in the 19th century by language reformers during the Czech National Revival.

Eleonora

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