Reflection on the languages used when studying in Prague

My reflection on language is not only the reflection on the Czech language, but also a reflection about all the other languages I can use with the people I am living with. It is a topic I like to write about, because it is one of the most challenging things here for me. Furthermore, I really like it to learn languages. So it is quite perfect to live with people who speak different languages, although it might be confusing as well to switch all the time from one language to another one.

First of all, I am really trying to learn Czech, but it is quite complicated. I am doing one course, but the progress is not very fast. I have two tandems which teach me Czech and I teach them German. This is nearly the only possibility to speak Czech, because in Prague people, above all young people, speak English very well, so that it is much easier to speak English, also because my Czech skills are quite poor. Sometimes when I listen to people speaking in Czech, it sounds as if they were speaking in Swiss German. They say for example “jo” in the same way I would in Switzerland.

With the people which I am living with I speak mainly Spanish. But at the beginning it was quite confusing, because my Spanish was South American Spanish, which is a little bit different from the Spanish Spanish. But I already got accustomed, and now we can communicate quite well. What I noticed about Spanish is that it is usually not spoken quietly, and the same thing happens to me: When I am speaking Spanish, my voice is louder.

Then I have some friends from Germany, with which I can speak German. This obviously does not confuse me, since Swiss German is my mother tongue. But most of the time I speak English, because this is the language that all the students understand, although hardly anyone is a native English speaker. I really like it to speak different languages and to switch the languages often although it is quite challenging. This is a challenge which is for me quite nice.

What happens to me is that sometimes I am not aware of whether I am speaking English or Spanish (or occasionally Czech), and I start to speak and then realize that I am using the wrong language for the people around me to understand me, and then I switch the language.

Janna Ottiger

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