Foreigners who don’t learn the Czech language often give a plethora of excuses for not doing so: it’s difficult, time-consuming, expensive. But in many cases, it’s actually the complicated logistics of planning and scheduling that can force students to surrender the dream of proficiency.
A new Czech language school for foreigners opening this month in Vinohrady says that it’s devoted to making the experience as stress-free as possible. Its classes cater to a variety of lifestyle and scheduling needs while helping non-native speakers improve in specific areas (i.e. mastering that pesky ‘ř’ sound).
Managing director and founder of Czech Language Training Miroslav Kašpárek has been teaching since 2001. He says the most common reason his students give for not continuing their studies are scheduling conflicts, business travel, or stays in Prague coming to a close.
“You can only truly learn a language by making it a priority. But in the fast-paced and time-crunched world we live in, it’s hardly a surprise that even people with a true desire to learn still struggle to fit Czech class in with their other commitments,” says Kašpárek.
He has also sees many students struggle to find a class that fits their learning style, one that clicks both with their schedule and their language goals.
“Let’s face it, some students just want to be able to buy groceries and order beer in Czech,” Kašpárek says. “But there are also parents out there who want to be able to communicate with teachers or professionals who need Czech for work.”
He believes that these very different demographics need different kinds of classes and time slots and says the one-size-fits-all class is increasingly a thing of the past.
“Czech Language Training currently offers six types of classes from two-week intensives to Saturday courses and morning classes. For those that travel a lot and can’t commit to Czech class beyond a month or two there are also flexible payments plans,” he says of the school’s low-commitment approach which includes discounts for missed lessons and weekend emergency cancellations.
In his nearly 20 years of teaching, Kašpárek has seen a surge in foreigners who want to learn the Czech language. His original school which started out in Žižkov with five teachers and 50 students now boasts 40 instructors, 350 students, and 80 groups. The new Czech Language Training facility in the heart of Prague’s most popular expat quarter, Vinohrady, aims to enroll 400 students a month while keeping class sizes at eight students max.
The school is also bringing a unique new service to Prague: beginning this month it’ll launch pronunciation therapy sessions focused specifically on helping students perfect their accents.
“Time and again we see our non-Slavic speaking students struggle with pronunciation. This class is unique in Prague because we have an elocution expert who will work with you in 30-minute time slots so all that good grammar and vocabulary knowledge is finished off with proper pronunciation,” says Kašpárek.
Pronunciation issues, he says, are the primary reason the Czech language often doesn’t “stick” with foreigners. “Czech people accept only one way of Czech in communication – really good and with almost flawless pronunciation – they cannot process differences and it frustrates many foreigners who want to practice but are denied conversation often for this very reason.”
Listening and understanding are also major obstacles for foreigners learning Czech. Kašpárek says these are important elements of Czech Language Training classes which are designed to be as “practical as possible.”
“We want you to be able to leave one our classes and go use something you’ve learned immediately,” he adds.
The school’s success rate is high with many students requesting to continue even after leaving the Czech Republic. For that reason alone, the new school will soon launch a Skype course that allows former students as well as those who can’t make it to the physical classroom to keep up with the Czech language no matter where their location.
In case there’s anyone out there who still needs an incentive to make this the year they take their Czech language skills to the next level, Czech Language Training offers the ever-popular “Czech Step by Step” textbooks at a deep discount.
Kašpárek hopes the expanded range of services and the new location will encourage first-time students to start their Czech-language journey and former students to jump-start their studies.
“It’s like the famous Czech distance runner Emil Zapotek once said: Když nemůžeš, tak přidej. Something like ‘when you can’t, go harder.'”
To sign up for Czech classes or take a placement exam visit Czech Language Training at czlt.cz.