FL 295: Special Topics in Foreign Languages and/or Literatures – Basic Czech Language and Culture

Course Description and Goals:

In this course, we will study the basics of Czech language and culture. In the beginning the course will be more focused on the language part. The students will learn a certain amount of basic words, questions and phrases that may be useful for everyday life. At the same time we will try to use them as a source of information about the language. By looking closely how the phrases and sentences are built the students with the teacher ́s assistance will discover some of the basic rules of the complex system upon which the language is organised. And by comparing some basic Czech words and phrases to Slovak, Russian and Polish ones, the students will get a better idea how close the Slavic languages are. Lastly, comparing them to English ones will show the students how much they differ in structure and usage and will help them get a better understanding of the functioning of their native language. Since language is a very old instrument of communication between people, it reflects certain points of character and culture of its users. The students will be looking for those reflections and discuss them (for example – how the language reflects the relationships between the members of the language community: formally and informally, younger people to older people, officially x unofficially, and how it reflects the “national” character: positivism and negativism, masculine vs. feminine, etc.).

The students will also be looking for traces that various historical periods left behind in the language (for example, the roles of nature, religion and communism in Czech vocabulary) and the students will learn facts about Czech holidays, traditions, habits, and get to know some famous Czechs and their achievements. To get a more complex picture of the Czech culture the students will do some practical research. In the beginning they will observe the behavior and body language of the local people. In the second half of the course they will have chance to meet both with Czechs and foreigners who have lived longer in the country and by questioning them they will try to discover the biggest differences and similarities between Czech and American culture (people ́s life style, behavior, and habits). They will also try to find out what is the perception of Americans among Czechs and how they see them.

The overall purpose of the course is multi-faceted;

  • To help students in the orientation to the country, its culture and its people’s mentality.
  • To give students a finer understanding of the Czech culture and help them to recognize the unique differences between their own cultural experiences and how those are interpreted and sometimes misinterpreted by one another.
  • To give them the chance to discover how the language functions and what are some of the most important rules according to which statements are created and formulated which should contribute to a better understanding of the functioning of the students’ native language and ease the process of language learning in the future.