Showing posts with label Czech language. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Czech language. Show all posts

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Religion will be 'nearly extinct' in the Czech Republic by 2050

The Czech Republic is already the most atheist nation on Earth. Mathematicians and scientists are predicting that the Czech Republic will become even more atheist, and that by 2050, religion will have virtually died out in the Czech lands and in eight other European countries. The exact same modeling program used to predict the death of languages is being used to predict the death of belief. You can click on my title to read the article from the Prague Post.

It's hard to know if Czechs believe in anything because their sense of humor is so black.  I would often tease my Czech friends that they would be completely skeptical when their spouse said "I love you," because Czech people believe no one in authority on anything! What do Czech people believe in?!?

A nation of atheists was planted when the Catholic Pope rejected Czech requests for Mass to be delivered in native Czech instead of Latin more than 100 years ago. The Pope should have learned from the history of Saints Cyril and Methodius (two Byzantine priests from Constantinople) who translated the Bible into Slavic languages so the Czech people could learn it in their own tongue. Cyril and Methodius even created an alphabet for Slavic languages to make translation of the Bible easier.

During the Czech National Revival, if being told they couldn't worship in their own language wasn't enough to drive religion out of Czechs, later in the 20th century, the Communists then further drummed religion out of them.

When I moved to Turkey, I could feel the difference in religious belief immediately.  Maybe the most visual way of seeing it was a conservatism among people on the street.  I saw no public display of affection anywhere and of course, Muslim dress in its varied forms. I also felt my possessions were completely safe on the Istanbul streets. I felt completely safe leaving my consumer electronics not locked up at work because I was 100% sure they would not get stolen. But it was more than that.

Comparing societies, I'll quote my former President.  Bill Clinton says the United States has gotten away from being a "people-centered society & become a money-centered society." Sadly, I agree with him completely. In America, I would say you can literally feel America's predominant religion and values are "commerce," in the Czech lands the dominant religion is none, and in Turkey I would say the dominant religion is, actually, religion.

Upon my arrival, it stunned me is that I found Turkey's spirituality refreshing. After all, they practice a different religion than me!  It was refreshing because the values came from the people themselves. The values in the public square have not been overrun by corporate salesmanship that degraded all things sacred in pursuit of selling something.

My Turkish friends cite the Jesus cage match on the TV show "South Park" as evidence that we in the West hold nothing sacred.  It is completely fair criticism. I see evidence everyday that "The People" are still dictating the values here, not the corporations and the people who create for them.

When the Muslim World doesn't like something the West does, rather than rail against someone exercising their free speech (a value the West holds so deeply it could and would never give it up), they would create more thought and changed behavior with the question "is there nothing you hold sacred?" It's a question that isn't asked enough in my Western culture. 

Now what will the Czech lands do with all those spectacular baroque churches? And what will a nation without belief be like? What will Czech people hold sacred?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Celebrating Four Months in the Czech Republic

On March 5th, I celebrated four months in the Czech Republic. It's more fabulous than I expected! So are the people. Over my next four months I really want to concentrate on learning the language. I saw a book "Speak Czech in 30 days!" Do you think it can be done? :-)

This is a picture from the window of my flat taken on a wondrous snowy Saturday when the flakes were huge and the spirit of the day was relaxed and cozy. I love living here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

My First Week of Teaching English

I have just completed my first week of teaching English and it's been really fun. My class load is twenty hours a week, which is just right for me. It makes me full-time in my company. Usually teachers teach between 23-30 hours, but since I'm new to lesson planning, I would like to stay at this level for awhile until I speed up. In our TEFL course, we averaged about six hours of planning for every hour taught. Obviously, that's not sustainable in the real world!

My friends who have visited Prague or the Czech Republic during communism or shortly afterwards always use the word 'bleak' to describe the place. The beauty of arriving here twenty years after the end of totalitarianism is there have been twenty intervening years for the place to be fixed up. I must say, my classes are in beautiful, stunning locations.

One class is in an ancient building with castle type doors overlooking formal gardens. Several others are in a brand new corporate headquarters with wonderful light. Yet another is in the Czech Republic's tallest building on the highest floors.

Everyone is nice. They are surprised when I display any knowledge of Czech culture (like knowing who Svejk or Smetana are). The beauty is, with such a homogeneous culture, that everyone sitting around the table knows the name of their classic book character or who their classic composer is. Not everyone around an American business table would have the same cultural knowledge and background.

A couple of my students need to talk and be understood by native speakers in Britain or America but most need to speak to other people in countries like Spain or India who are speaking English as a second language. The first time I confronted this, I was so stunned and impressed that one of my students needed to speak English as a second language (her first language being Czech) to someone else in another country who was speaking it as a second language (their first language being Finnish) that I couldn't help but admire the level of commitment it would take to not only know the second language but the linguistic quirks of the other first language spoken (an example is Czechs always forget to use definite and indefinite articles in English because they don't have them in their language).

I told that to other teachers and both said, "oh no, it's much harder for someone speaking English as a second language to talk to a native speaker than to someone else speaking English as a second language. When they both have it as a second language, they use ESL English in conversation which is slower and less complex than a native speaker's language." Still, when you see people 40-60 years old valiantly working on their 15th year of learning English, often learned in bits and pieces along the way, you can't help but be impressed by their commitment. They are lucky that their companies are paying for them to learn English (it is the official language of all sorts of companies) but that also makes it harder to learn because they can't completely leave work behind in the classroom and relax. They are liable to be pulled out or called away in the middle of a lesson.

I'm really excited to learn from my students all about their culture and their interests. Czechs are the most well-travelled people I have ever met. One student told me that their parents constantly goad them to travel because the parents couldn't do so under communism. I routinely meet people who have been to exotic places like Cuba, Nepal, Tibet, Bolivia (pretty darn far away for a Czech!), and even the Kamchatka Penninsula (you mean, that's a place you're actually allowed to go visit??? I thought it was a Russian military zone!).

Their version of Mexico (an inexpensive place to visit for a week of sun) is Egypt. Visiting Egypt for a week of sun sounds incredibly exotic to me. Going there would be a major undertaking for an American leaving from America but apparently there are all sorts of cheap and routine flights from Prague. It's all in where you're starting out from.

One downside when beginning teaching is directions are often incomplete. The first thing I did was assign all of my students homework creating a written description of how to get to their office because anyone substituting for me is not going to go through what I did trying to find these places! This week has also been freezing cold so I'm running around Prague in heels, lost, with frozen fingertips and a runny nose while carrying a laptop. Next week calls for some adjustment!

I will also forever be nicer to foreign people because of my experience here. I will pop into an office asking for directions and the lady or man there will sit me down while they print me out a map of exactly where I'm going. Day after day, ordinary Czechs show me lovely kindnesses without a second thought. Czechs make this experience fun.

Monday, November 17, 2008

One Week of TEFL Classes

Teaching is one of those things that when someone describes or models the techniques involved, it sounds and looks simple enough. When one actually gets up there to do it - it's harder than it looks to remember not only content but teaching techniques, especially when I'm with a class of students who have a different mother tongue.

As TEFL instructors, we are urged to get all of our instructions down to the smallest blocks of language possible. Stand up. Discuss. Sit down. Otherwise it sounds like so much blather to the students. It's hard for them to find the instructions in the verbiage.

We taught twice in our first week and observed an experienced teacher's class as well. The Czech people taking the courses are wonderful because they encourage us as much as we encourage them.

I can tell working as a TEFL teacher is a great way to know a culture fast because everything is a potential topic. In a discussion about Czech food, the Czech students told me I need to try this really, really smelly cheese from the town of Olmouc and two kinds of dumplings known as "dumplings with hair" and "naked children." The "dumplings with hair" are laced with sauerkraut. And the other dumpling - I have no idea!

We ended our week with our first Czech lesson. The hour flew by. It was so much fun! Our teacher, who is also one of our regular instructors, put so much energy into it and I understood what she was teaching throughout the hour. TEFL lessons that we teach are supposed to involve no mother tongue whatsoever. Watching her teach us helped me understand how it feels from the beginner's seat.

Thinking back to great learning experiences I have had, I decided my goal as a TEFL teacher will be to give students the feeling I have received from ski instructors. I remember it this way: starting at zero and standing up. Each day I get a bit better. My spirit soars with that wonderful feeling of "I can do this!" and each passing day brings "I can do more!"

Done well, teaching is fostering within people increased confidence and joy as they master a skill.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

10 Words of Survival Czech

Type "Czech" into YouTube and all sorts of useful things come up. Click on the title to become polite to 10 million new people.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My first Czech word

Over the last couple days, I've been perusing The Essentials of Czech Grammer by James Naughton. I went straight to Chapter 3 on Nouns because everyone expresses intimidation for the various cases, genders, and pluralities of Czech nouns.

To be intimidated, I have to know what a case is. And what declension is. I know neither! But as I started to read, I did see one Czech word I knew: hrad.

In English, I probably have occasion to utter the word castle once every five years. It just doesn't come up in daily life. I find it fascinating that of all the words that could be my first word in Czech - 'castle' is it. In this instance, C.R. lives up to it's highbrow image, no?

Non-native English speakers, what was your first English word you recognized? I'm curious to see what my culture is projecting. Or what other cultures are projecting since the same question can be as interesting no matter what second or third language it is that you learned.
Travel Sites Catalog All Traveling Sites Expat Women—Helping Women Living Overseas International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory expat Czech Republic website counter blog abroadWho links to me? Greenty blog