Tattoo Artists, the Elderly, and Other Reasons to Learn Czech
This week I had an informative meeting with a Czech woman about beginning individual Czech classes. In the meeting I did a couple assessments as well as tried to spell out what I'm looking for in the lessons, because I don't want just conversation or writing, I want to drill grammar and vocabulary. I already have plentiful situations in which I'm using the language, but I know I'm reinforcing mistakes by speaking beyond my grammatical ability. I love languages and really enjoy the time studying once I begin, but there's the ever-present battle against that sinful disdain towards whatever we must do. So, as a reminder to myself of why I want to learn the language and as an insight to you, I share some of my reflections with you here.
Reasons to Learn Czech:
- to be able to help in an emergency situation
- to be able to personally hear the stories of the elderly
- to be able to know what my students are talking about when they should be working/speaking in English
- to be able to advocate for myself
- to be able to communicate with opticians, doctors, and hairdressers
- to be able to speak with people in their heart language
- to be able to translate speech or text for others
- to be able to enjoy cultural things (music, books, plays) in their original language
- to understand the linguistic framework that my students are coming from
- to better understand the culture
I was a bit surprised last week when I had yet another Czech ask me why I was learning the language. The answer "because I live here" didn't suffice, for whatever reason. But nothing could answer better than the feeling that I have in the midst of or after a social interaction that I know wouldn't have been possible without my knowledge of Czech.* I have had some very practical reminders of that this weekend.
Case 1 - at a rock concert with a tattoo artist, her husband, and some other friends
After overhearing one question I'd asked, the tattoo artist's husband complimented me (in Czech) on my use of Czech. What then followed was a lovely dialogue, a drink together, and a better introduction to this interesting and lively Czech couple. Their English is limited and they're a bit shy about it, so this conversation definitely wouldn't have happened without me first having used my Czech.
Case 2 - at a prayer meeting with elderly people and my roommate
My roommate and I entered the conference room full of wise and weathered faces. They smiled, and greetings and handshakes were shared with all. My roommate was gracious enough to translate the introduction to the meeting, but once the prayer began, it was the Holy Spirit and my Czech knowledge to get me through. The wise members around me prayed clearly and on similar themes, making it fairly easy to understand. Towards the end of the time, I decided to pray--and in Czech. When I pray, I usually use English, but I throw in Czech or Spanish on occasion, because God understands. I felt so vulnerable praying in Czech, but I wanted to encourage the other Czechs around me by praying in a language they'd understand. After we'd finished praying, those in attendance all warmly greeted me again, and I could feel a greater connection to this demographic that seemed mostly inaccessible to me (aside from Marie) in the church due to the existence of (or the fear of an existence) of a language barrier.
So, with reasoning and anecdotes fresh in my mind, I leave you now in order to turn to my Czech.
*Note the various tenses, conditionals, and modals in that sentence. Isn't English amazing in all its intricacies?