Being in Europe has completely changed my perspective of languages. I’ll be honest, prior to coming here I always thought learning a language was something I didn’t need to worry about, that I could better invest my time elsewhere. When I began planning exchange I decided to have a go at learning Czech, but more for a bit of fun and a challenge. Then I actually arrived.
It feels like everyone I meet can speak at least two languages here. Admittedly, I have often been in touristy areas where there is a need to cater for visitors. But even so, pretty much everyone has a basic grasp of English. Here at Charles University, I am often the only native English speaker in a class. It’s amazing that all these students are here learning the same content as me, but in a second language. I cannot even fathom how hard that must be. My tour guide in Luxembourg told me that most primary school children learn French, German, Luxembourgish and English. Talk about me feeling inadequate!
I have had numerous conversations with people I have met here about my feelings of remorse about only speaking English. Most people are surprised about language learning in Australian schools, or lack of. Sure, I learnt Indonesian for seven years in primary school (satu, dua, tiga…), and there is definitely a bigger emphasis on having fun than legitimately learning the language. I guess it harps back to Australia being so isolated. In Europe you can drive two hours and jump out in a town where they speak a completely different language. If I drive that far in Australia I am merely travelling between Melbourne and my hometown.
I have certainly been inspired to persevere with learning Czech while I am in Prague, and I would be open to learning more languages in the future! Learning a new language is hard though, I won’t deny it. Studying developmental psychology, and hence language acquisition, at university has reminded me that I am well past my language learning prime. Furthermore, my lack of knowledge about the structure of language itself (verbs, adverbs, suffixes, conjugating whaaaaat?) has proved to be another setback. Despite these obstacles, and Czech having quite a reputation as being a difficult language (I will write a post soon dedicated entirely to that subject!), I am enjoying it!
These photos are some awful snaps I took during a stroll along the river tonight. Apparently night photography is an art in itself!