Monday, March 29, 2021

Czech 2021 Census

Sčítání 2021 is the national census which just began.  It runs from 27 March until 11 May.  If you don't want to deal with paper forms then you can do the whole thing online but the online submission must be completed by 9 April.  

The ČSÚ (Czech Statistical Office) anticipates that over 2/3rds of the population will complete the census online.  There are around 11.000 surveyors that will go out across the country to help those who don't have computer access.

Everyone, including foreigners, has to complete the census.  Failure to do so can result in a 10.000 Kč ($462) fine.  There will be fewer questions than last time and you can complete the census in Czech, English, German, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Vietnamese or Romani.

I completed the census in English.  Once question was about your mother language.  I found it funny that English wasn't an option.  You could choose Czech, Slovak, Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, German, Vietnamese, Romani, Sign Language, or Other.  I had to choose "other" and then write the Czech word for 'English'.

English wasn't an option as a mother language

I can't believe that it's been 10 years since the last census.  It will be interesting to see how different this year's results are from the 2011 results.

To mark the occasion in Brno, the Jošt statue's shield displays the Moravian emblem.  It will be displayed until 27 April.  After that I don't know if it will go back to displaying the Pahonia in support of Belarus or not.

Displaying the Moravian eagle is in support of identity and patriotism in Moravia.  It's got nothing to do with any sort of separatist movement.  There's no call for Moravia to break away from Czechland.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Extended State of Emergency

The government has extended the state of emergency  through Sunday, 11 April.  My citizenship exam and language exam are scheduled for Saturday, 10 April.  

So I guess sometime next week I'll get notified again that my exams will be postponed.  Again. 

Update:  Wow!  I received an e-mail on 30 March that my exams on 10 April will still take place even though the state of emergency, including the ban on travel between regions, doesn't expire until 11 April.

In order to enter the building to take my exams I will have to present a negative Covid test no older than 48 hours.  

My temperature will be taken.  I will be turned away if it is above 37,5℃.

A respirator mask will have to be worn the entire time. 

I don't know if I'm more excited to finally take my exams or if it's that I actually get to travel.  My last time on a train was back in July.  In order to book a hotel I had to provide confirmation of official exams.  Fingers crossed that everything works out well.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Libraries

I didn't know that libraries were such a big deal here in Czechland.  There are approximately 5.410 public libraries here.  That's almost as many libraries as there are towns which is one library for every 1.900 people.

Relative to population that's about four times as many libraries than the EU average and 10 times more than in the USA.  Czechland actually has the densest public library network in the world.    

Soon after Czechoslovakia became an independent country the First Library Act was passed in 1919.  The law required that every municipality had to have a public library.  This was done to promote education and universal literacy.  Promotion of the Czech language was important as German was a dominant language of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.   

Even following the Velvet Divorce the law was still in place in Czech Republic until 2001 when the requirement was dropped in order to save money.  Since then about 11% of the country's public libraries have merged or closed.  

Brno's Jiří Mahen Library celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.  

It is the biggest public library in Moravia and the second largest in the entire country.  

Monday, March 22, 2021

Multiple Goodbyes

One thing that I've noticed about Czech and Slovak speakers is that, when it comes to ending a telephone call or video chat, they never just say "good-bye" once.  There are always multiple goodbyes.  Especially for an informal call, there's usually at least three different salutations given.

Of course, there's ahoj.  Some people say čau.  Many people say it twice - čau čau.  With my Slovaks, there's usually čauko.

With kids you'll often hear pa pa.

Nashle is a short, more casual version of na schledanou (good bye).

Zatím or tak zatím, is basically "until next time".

Měj se is pretty much "take care".

On a Friday, many people will wish you a nice weekend with hezký víkend.

Younger people may say čus which is the Czech version of tschüß which is the German version of ciao.

So at the end of a call you may hear something like "tak zatím...měj se...ahoj" or "hezký víkend...zatím...čau čau".  

One "good bye" is fine when it's face-to-face but there's usually three different versions when it's on the phone.  I've never really understood what's up with the multiple goodbyes but that's the way it is.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Off the Wagon

So I'm off the wagon.  Well, sort of.  Not only did I make it through suchej únor I still hadn't had a drink since Christmas when I had a glass of wine with dinner.  

My friend David and I usually go out for beers every four to eight weeks.  The last time was back in October before the state of emergency closed everything again.

A couple of weeks ago we decided on a virtual pub night.  My first beer since November.  I swear it was the best tasting beer ever.  It was lots of fun catching up and we need to do it again soon.

Then on Friday night we had another lads' night.  It had been a while since our last one.  Still not the same as meeting up with everyone at the pub but it was nice to at least get caught up online.  I'm so ready for things to get back to normal.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

2020 World Happiness Report

Today is the International Day of Happiness.  The United Nations started this back in 2013 to promote the idea that feeling happy is a global human right.  Clearly 2020 was a challenging year due to COVID-19 so this year's theme is "Keep Calm.  Stay Wise.  Be Kind."

The 2020 World Happiness Report was released today.  Czechland came in at #18 and the USA came in at #19.  This is the first time that Czechland outranked the USA.  

Like last year, Finland came in #1 again and 14 of the 20 world's happiest countries are in Europe.  At #9, New Zealand is the only non-European country to crack the top 10.

Scandinavia is the happiest region in Europe with #1 Finland, #2 Denmark, #4 Iceland, #6 Norway, and #7 Sweden.

BeNeLux did well with #5 Netherlands, #8 Luxembourg, and #20 Belgium.

The only Middle Eastern country to make the top 20 was #12 Israel.  Even with Brexit the UK came in at #17.

At #18 Czechland was the clear happiness leader of the Visegrad countries with #34 Slovakia, #44 Poland, and #53 Hungary.

Many of the most unhappiest counties are in East and Southern Africa including #137 Zambia, #140 Burundi, #142 Tanzania, #144 Malawi, #145 Lesotho, #146 Botswana, #147 Rwanda, and #148 Zimbabwe.

The world's most unhappiest country is #149 Afghanistan.  

The rankings are based on the combined scores for the last three years.  

Not much changes overall if you only go by the 2020 scores instead of the three year average.  Although then the USA would have been #14 and Czechland #16.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Czech Sign Language

Český znakový jazyk (ČZJ) is Czech Sign Language.  Czechland has its own sign language.  The Institute for the Deaf and Dumb in Prague opened in 1786.  It was the 5th such institution in Europe.

Every sign language has its own finger alphabet.  The Czech version is two-handed.  They have a sign for the accent marks.

There are around 10 000 people in the country that can use it.  Czech and Slovak are pretty much mutually understandable when spoken.  This does not carry over to sign language.  I'm told that Czech Sign Language isn't that close to Slovak Sign Language.  

Some Czech Sign Language Verbs

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Hantec

Hantec is the local Brno dialect.  The language was most spoken amongst the lower classes in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Very few, mostly older people, can actually speak proper Hantec.  Many Hantec words and phrases have worked their way speech of the locals. 

It's a mix of Czech, the local Moravian dialect, German, and Yiddish.  It's been described as an "unintelligible funny German-like and alien gibberish." I  find it charming.

In the rest of the country a tram is tramvaj.  Here it is a šalina whcih comes from the German "elektrische Linie".  When I'm in Prague and say šalina instead of tramvaj they instantly know that I'm from Brno.  

The Brno city centre is called Štatl which comes from the Yiddish word shtetl. The  Brno Dam is called Prýgl, Česká street is called Čáró and the train station is Roló.

Here are a few more...

Augle is eyes and čočky are eyeglasses.  Ď is thanks.  Hokna is work.   and love both mean money and kéma is friend.  Potatoes can be called krumple or erteple.  Gómat means to think. Čórka is a theft, šaškec is a madhouse and koc is a girl.

Here's a link to an online Hantec dictionary.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Czech Dialects

There's a difference between formal, written Czech and colloquial spoken Czech.  Standard Czech is what you'll hear across the country on the nightly news.  However, everyday Czech is a bit different.  

Just as there are three distinct regions in Czechland there are three primary Czech dialects to be found.  There's a dialect spoken in Silesia, near the Polish border, that a mishmash of Czech and Polish.  The dialect is actually closer to Polish than it is to Czech.  That doesn't mean that people there can't, or don't, speak standard Czech but the accent can be tough to understand if you're not used to it.  It's been referred to as "unintelligible funny Polish-like gibberish."

The most widely used spoken Czech is the variety found in Bohemia.  There are some grammatical differences from standard Czech.  There are also some pronunciation differences where Bohemians have more open vowel sounds than Moravians, especially in Prague.

In "Bohemian" -ý becomes -ej and -é becomes -ý.  The word dobrý (good) becomes dobrej  and dobré becomes dobrý.  Given the seven Czech cases there are more words to keep up with.

The declension of můj (my) gets changed from: mého to mýho, mému to mýmu, to , mém to mým, mých to mejch, mým to mejm, and mými to mejma.

The declension of dobrý changes word forms from: dobrý to dobrej, dobré to dobrý, dobrého to dobrýho, dobrému to dobrýmu, dobrém to dobrým, dobrých to dobrejch, dobrým to dobrejm, dobří to dobrý, and dobrými to dobrejma.

In Bohemia they don't really follow the rules for the 7th (Instrumental) case when it comes to plural words.  They just use -ama or -ma for everything.  So hranokly (French fries) becomes hranolkama, brambory (potatoes) becomes bramborama, and auty (cars) becomes autama.

In Bohemia, then tend to put a "v" sound before words that start with "o".  Okno (window) becomes vokno, oko (eye) becomes voko, omáčka (sauce) becomes vomáčka, ostrý (sharp) becomes vostrej, ospalý (sleepy) becomes vospalej...

Moravians don't do any of this.  Another thing that distinguishes people from Prague is that when they speak it is kind of singsongy.


I'm told that Moravians speak better proper Czech than Bohemians do.  However, Moravia has more local dialects.  And Moravians for sure don't sing when they speak.  

The biggest pronunciation differences in the Moravian dialect are:

-í/ý becomes é.  The word for "mill" in Czech is mlýn but becomes mlén.
-y becomes e.  The plural world for "fish" is ryby but it becomes rebe.
-the diphthong ou becomes ú.  The world for "flour" is mouka but it becomes múka.
In Czech, "I am" is já jsem but in Morava you'll hear já su.  "I want" is chci but you'll often hear people say chcu.  

There's some different vocabulary used in Moravia.  


In Brno, we have our own dialect called Hantec.  It's a mixture of standard Czech, the Moravian dialect, German and Yiddish.  Hantec is spoken mostly by older people but many Hantec words are used by everyone in everyday conversation.  Šalina is the most well known word.  It means "tram" but the rest of the country uses the world tramvaj.  When I'm in Prague and say "šalina" people instantly know that I'm from Brno.

Monday, March 1, 2021

No Plane in a Year

It's now been a year since I've been on a plane.  A full year.  Last year I went to the Åland Islands and managed to get in a quick visit with Eiko in Helsinki before my flight home.  That airBaltic flight from Helsinki to Vienna was the last time I was on an airplane.

A full year for me without a flight.  That would have seemed impossible last year.  COVID-19 changed the world and who knows how long it will take before things get back to normal?  Or at least as close as possible to what normal used to look like.

My last flight

Last year the goal was 20 countries in 2020.  That didn't happen.  I did manage to get up to Berlin in July for a week in between lockdowns.  I am ready for a trip someplace.  Any place.  However, with the new lockdown it's anyone's guess when that will happen.  All I can do now is continue to stay as safe as possible and wait it out.  

Speaking of waiting, I've still got my citizenship test scheduled for 10.4.  At least for now but I have a feeling that it will get cancelled again.