No matter if you’ve been here for a month or a year, at some point the itch to learn some Czech will kick in. Maybe it’s just the need to negotiate your (often inflated) taxi fare or a chance to say more than “Pivo prosím!” when you’re out somewhere.
Either way, there’s no way around it – you’re in for a hard road. The Foreign Service Institute categorizes Czech as a level IV language, which means a very hard language that takes 44 weeks or 1,100 hours to learn at a basic conversational level. This is longer than it would take an English speaker to learn Swahili, Indonesian, Swedish or Afrikaans.
While there are many language schools in Prague for those who want to learn Czech, the prices aren’t always budget-friendly. If you’ve been putting off learning Czech because of costs, there’s hope. Here are 10 free or cheap resources to get you started.
Low-cost courses for immigrants
InBáze is a group that supports the integration of foreigners in the Czech Republic. Its latest Czech classes for A2 and B1 level begin at end of February/March. During spring, additional classes will be added, with details to come. They also offer Czech-language classes (intermediate level) for children of non-Slavic origin.
The Centrum pro integraci cizinců, o.p.s. (Center for the Integration of Foreigners) runs individual lessons that require no registration. Lessons run twice a week for 90 minutes and are standalone – meaning each lesson has its own topic, so if you miss a week, you won’t feel lost when you come back. No need to pre-register, no textbooks, and you only pay 50 CZK per lesson on the spot. CIC also runs organized courses. Their next Beginners’ Course (Level A0) starts February 10 and runs till June 22, Monday evenings (6 pm to 8:15 pm) and it’s completely free.
The Integrační centrum Praha (ICP) offers Czech language courses for adults that cover Beginner (A1) and Basic (A2) levels. The courses (available to non-EU citizens) include 100 lessons with an emphasis on grammar, comprehension, and conversation. Both courses run throughout the year – once one finishes, a new one starts soon after. While the classes are technically free, students are required to pay a deposit of 2,000 CZK before the start of the course. Students who attend at least 70% of the classes will get their deposit back. Online enrollment is open until the courses fill up, which often takes just minutes. Sign-up is currently open until January 28, 2020 – act quickly if you’re hoping to join.
Regular language exchanges in Prague
Language exchanges work best if you know a bit of Czech and need to focus on speaking – but some of these groups do see absolute beginners. If nothing else, being around other people learning Czech will expose you to the tonalities of the language and you’ll end up hearing certain words and phrases enough to remember them.
BlaBla Language Exchange meets once a week on Wednesday evenings for a friendly coffee or drink. At the moment, the meetings are at Coffice Prague, a social coworking space in Prague 2, but locations might change, so always double-check in advance. The events are free (though there’s a donation box and you’ll pay for whatever you drink) and they’re not limited to Czech. This means you can technically come over and practice any language.
Come and Speak Czech Mondays is, as the name implies, a weekly Monday meeting for those who have already wet their toes into the world of Czech language learning. The meetings use the Michel Thomas Method, which focuses on teaching a language by eliminating the need for memorization in favor of absorbing information naturally. The theory behind the system might sound complex, but people around the world have used it for years to learn a new language quicker, so it’s worth a try. Meetings are 2.5 hours long and held at the žižkovšiška art gallery.
The expat-favorite teahouse A Maze in Tchaiovna offers informal drop-in Czech lessons a couple of times a month. Dates and times vary and so do the topics covered, so always check their event calendar at the beginning of each month.
For just 30 CZK, the Regular Sunday Language Exchange organized by Speak Easy Praha is a linguistic table hop, designed for those who want to practice not just Czech but a variety of other languages as well. It takes place at Odpočívadlo, a cafe in Prague 5 (Follow their Facebook page for a full schedule).
Online Resources for Learning Czech
While there’s no better way to learn a language than practicing it with others in real life, a little online help doesn’t hurt. Online resources are also great to practice on your own when you have a few minutes here or there.
Duolingo is perhaps the most famous free language-learning app on the planet –and they also have a website for those who prefer larger-screen learning. The popular language-learning platform offers 94 different language courses, including the very recent addition of Czech in 2018. Technically speaking, it would be impossible to learn the very complex Czech language by just repeating words and sentences found in the app, but Duolingo can help you remember basic sentences and concepts –even if you can’t really learn much grammar with it.
Mluvte Cesky is a completely free online course from Masaryk University originally created as an intro A1 and A2 level class for medical students. The units cover things like Czech customs and traditions, orientation in a hospital, food and drinks, weather, shopping, and more. The focus of the course is on survival Czech, so don’t expect complicated grammar or advanced communication, but this is a great place to start if you’re a complete beginner.
Reality Czech offers a nice selection of materials for beginners, including videos, exercises, audio and some basic grammar. You’ll learn pronunciation rules, how to predict noun gender, vocative case forms, and demonstrative pronouns. In case you’re wondering about the program itself, it was developed by Dr. Christian Hilchey from the Department of Slavic and Eurasian Studies in collaboration with the Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (COERLL) at the University of Texas at Austin. It’s meant to be an effective program to help absolute beginners become comfortable in basic Czech communication.
Special Courses for Children
If you have a child about to enter the Czech educational system, you can get free language help through META, an association focused on opportunities for young migrants. META offers free weekly lessons for school students in 22 schools in Prague. The catch is that, of course, your child must be enrolled as a student in one of those schools – but if he/she is, this is an excellent opportunity for extra support to help your child integrate.
For a more intensive Czech language learning experience, visit our directory listings for Czech teachers and language schools.
The City Council of Prague 14 has recently introduced a new “intercultural worker” to its staff to help provide free counselling and interpretation services, and life hacks and tips for living in Prague in general. Get free legal and social support, help with visiting a hospital, Ministry of Interior, or school and other practical advice. In order to use theses services you should be either living, working or occasionally dropping by Prague 14. For more information follow the Facebook page Prague 14 Neighbors.