Friday, May 29, 2009

This business of not speaking Czech

Naturally, Mrs. Jana would say that I am entirely to blame for my problems in this respect. But secretly, I grow ever more convinced that she is in fact teaching me a language that is entirely the product of her devious and corkscrew-twisty mind. I'm not even sure that she's really Czech anymore.

She's very convincing, I'll grant you that, what with her "Ahoj!"s, and her "Dobry den!"s, and her friendly chit-chat with the receptionist (who has been persuaded to supply not one but TWO little pots of creamer for Mrs. Jana's coffee).

But there's a suspiciously wide gap between the "standard" Czech she is teaching me, and the Czech I hear around me daily.

Mrs. Jana, being nothing if not wily to the point of paranoia, may suspect that I'm onto her cunning ruse. In a recent transparent effort at a double bluff, she's been giving me "Colloquial Czech" lessons, where she explains the differences between her so-called "Standard Czech" and the local Praguish dialect.

Except, it's all too perfect, somehow... Yes... Too different. Too odd...

For example:

„What is the correct Czech word for window?“
(Note how she even speaks with proper Czech speech marks in her attempt to convince me of the authenticity of this language of hers. She truly is Machiavellian in her genius.)
„Good. This is correct Czech. But if you are speaking to SOME people from Prague who do not speak proper Czech, they will say it differently.“
Thinks: "Erkna? Akno? Ooknoo? How bad can it be?"
„Yes. In Prague – and this is an absolutely TERRIBLE way of speaking – SOME people will say…“
Thinks: "Nooo... the suspense. It is unbearable."
„...these people will say... «Vokno»!“
"Isn't that like saying, 'in the window' but with the wrong ending?"
„Yes. You are correct. This is what it sounds like. But actually, in this TERRIBLE Prague way of speaking, it is just the word for 'window'.“
"So what do you say if you are really talking about in the window?"
„Do not be ridiculous. You know it is not possible in the Czech language to be 'in the window' like this. You should instead say «through the window», or «by the window», or «slightly below the window.» With the correct declension, of course.“
"Of course."
„Good. So if, while you are in the street in Prague, you hear someone speaking in this TERRIBLE Prague way of speaking, you will always hear them put a «v» before any word that starts with an «o».“
„Yes. But with some exceptions. I will tell you them next week.“
"Vooknoo. Vootevrenoo. Voven. Except for next week. Got it, thank you."
„This is correct. But you should never speak like this in public. It is a TERRIBLE Prague way of speaking.“
"V... okay."
„Good. When my daughters leave voicemail for me in this TERRIBLE Prague way of speaking, I phone them and make them leave messages in the correct way.“
„Fine. This part of the lesson is finished. We will now discuss the grammatically correct way to point at things.“

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