Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Czech vs Slovak

Having been to Bratislava so many times, I have picked up a couple of words in Slovak. Trust me…just the bare, minimum basics. Czech and Slovak are very similar languages but different enough that there is no way I could learn both at the same time.

Both are West Slavic languages and are related to Polish. Čeština has about 12 million native speakers and Slovenčina has over 5 million. Both are among the 23 official languages in the European Union.

The abeceda (ABC’s) are the same except that Slovak also has ä, ľ, ĺ, ŕ, ô, dz, & dž, while Czech has ě, ř and ů.

Slovak pronunciation is softer than Czech. Several Czech guys have told me that they enjoy hearing women speak Slovak. A friend said that if a drunken Czech tries to speak Russian then you end up with Slovak.
Slovak grammar is a little simpler than Czech. Slovak uses different endings for conjugating verbs and the case endings are different. But Slovak only has six cases because they don’t use the vocative like Czechs do.

There are lots of words that are exactly the same between the two languages and some are only slightly different.
There are some words that are just different.

Months are way easier in Slovak!!!
Then are over 11,000 almost identical words in the two languages that have different meanings.

Yet, Czechs and Slovaks tend to understand each other. I know a few couples where one person always speaks Czech and the other always speaks Slovak and it works for them.

Back in the days of Czechoslovakia I think it was more common to hear both Czech and Slovak on radio and TV. But since the split, more and more Czech children say that they can’t understand Slovak. Today, Slovak programs shown in the ČR are often dubbed in to Czech. I don’t think the opposite happens quite as much. People have told me that it is easier for a Slovak to understand Czech than it is for a Czech to understand Slovak. Except that most Slovaks can’t even properly make the Ř sound.

Update:  Here are some more vocabulary differences between Czech and Slovak.

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