Five days to fluency in Czech, progress report #2.

As I announced earlier, I am going to spend 5 days in Prague in October. During this period I am going to try to speak as much Czech as possible in order to achieve a breakthrough to fluency. I have been doing a lot  of listening and reading, using LingQ, for the last year, starting at 1 hour a day, and probably closer to 2 hours a day over the last month or so. In the last few weeks,  I have stepped up my online speaking to about 4-5 hours a week.

I am hopeful that five intensive days, immersed in the language in Prague, will enable me to convert my largely passive knowledge of Czech into active fluency, or at least enable me to make a major step forward in that direction.

I attach a sound file of my most recent conversation with Jarda. I feel I have improved from my earlier conversations, but still have a very long way to go.

Remember that the five days to fluency strategy consists of the following.

1) Select a target language, a target date and a target place for the Five Days to Fluency. For me it was Czech, one year, and Prague.

2) Spend a year, or however long a period you feel is necessar, on daily listening, reading, and accumuling vocabulary. Towards the end of the period,  start speaking as part of your preparation.

3) Visit your destination and immerse yourself and watch your passive knowledge become active. Five days is a minimum, in fact all the time that I have. A week or a month would be better.  (The alternative to going to the country where the language is spoken, would be to dramatically step up your involvement with the language at home for a period of 5 days or so, spending most of these days reading, listening, speaking and writing in the target language).


20 thoughts on “Five days to fluency in Czech, progress report #2.

  1. It is somewhat unfortunate to practice a language with someone who apparently has a speech disorder (or at least would be classified so by a Czech speech-language pathologist). He is unable to pronounce R and ?? correctly (you actually pronounce R better than him) and struggles to express himself.

  2. After 8 months of learning Irish at home I’m doing something very similar next week and travelling to Ireland for two weeks to turn my passive knowledge into active fluency.Best of luck with Czech, Steve.

  3. Jakub,Jarda has been tremendously helpful to me in my Czech learning. I don’t think that and peculiarities of his speech have much influence on me, since the overwhelming majority of what I listen to is from radio programs on Cesky Rozhlas, and there the quality of the sound, and in general the diction of the narrators is excellent, although there is quite a range. I think we have to accept that different people speak differently and we choose whom to imitate.Donovan, Good luck to you.

  4. It’s an amaizing method to get a language in five days.Becasue I also spreading a method to know any foreign languages in a week as well one can survive in a place of a language learning. In same time, I make testimony of mine for it. It’s in Japan where people learn English 4 to 6 years since junior high schoolbut still some of them in 70% or more don’t speak or use in practice.So it’s like a mission to develop such communicate situation for me.Then could you take time to talk with me on Skipe or something so that I also improve skill of learning languages.

  5. Really? Great to the quick response of you.Off course, any languages which I learn are fine to chat as much as you accept.On the other hand, I need a record of conversation of mine in English to show people who visit to my writing pages.So once, please converse with me in English. And I have sent a contact request to you on Skipe.

  6. On language style: the language used by radio announcers is not the language used by ordinary people, and it can be a struggle for people not used to it to switch to ‘high style.’ A Czech grad student in Prague once told me that the students speak their normal language in class, and the professors high style. And grad students, I asked? He laughed – we try to be good. (And as someone who struggled to speak slowly and clearly enough to provide a model of spoken English in lessons with Czechs – it’s harder than it looks. You have to be constantly monitoring how you are saying something as well as what you are saying, which takes as much effort as it takes for the student to understand. This from someone who has been on both sides of the table.)As for the notorious ?? – they have special classes for kids in elementary school who are struggling with it, but it may be a family thing. Vaclav Havel didn’t have it, and people said it was a result of his being beaten by the police during interrogations. (He apparently got on their nerves by always using the polite form of address, vy rather than ty, a no-no in a theoretically egalitarian society.) But the one time I heard his brother speak, I don’t think he used it, either.

  7. If it means anything to you, I actually wasn’t able to determine who was who until the Czech speaker said something about answering the telephone in English with a heavy Czech accent.Good work, and it’s a real shame you can’t stay longer, Prague is way up there on my list of places I desperately want to visit one day. Will you be updating us daily on your language progress while you’re there? It would be interesting to watch the progress over the 5-day period.Cheers,Andrew

  8. Hello Mr,To chat with you was really thinkable for me to come up another idea of a method of language learning.Followings are the point on my undastanding from that:-Large amount of reading and listening are necassary on early stage of a foreign language.-By every time of reading, listening, even writing, to build vocaburaly is also required with a dictionary.-With tha way above it takes 3 months in maximum.-Exept to speak in tha lannguage, just speaking doesn’t lead him to enable to know the language.Beside it, speaking encourage to get the language even to read and listen.Could you point out to me if you find any mistake from the chat on your method.Then, may I share you and the method to others who intends to get languages especially English on my page?So they would also discover their own way of language with help of the abnormal idea.

  9. Hi Steve,I hope you’ll have a good time in Prague!I’ve started learning Russian on my own when I started uni 3 years ago. I’ve followed different methods, including your advice. I go to very frequently and I learn new words using google translate’s plugin for google chrome or on my ipad: I read the text in Russian and I check the translation in French which appears next to it. I’m getting better at reading and I improve my passive vocabulary. I’ve also followed advice from bloggers such as Tim Ferriss, Benny Lewis and Khatzumoto from I went to St Petersburg and Moscow for 2 weeks then to Kiev for a month where I took individual lessons and lived in a family for 2 weeks. I’ve also watched tons of TV in Russian (with, watched many films in Russian with Russian subs (Russian but also French and US films) and listened to a lot of Russian music (mostly pop, hiphop and rnb), sometimes checking the lyrics. I’ve made progress, but with the benefit of hindsight I wouldn’t recommend following the advice of those bloggers, which advocate very extreme/weird/unnatural ways to learn a language. Indeed, I became a couch potato following all japanese all the time advice and Benny Lewis blog is really borderline and misleading (and ineffective). I like your approach, very simple and natural: get exposed to interesting content, learn new words, learn the grammar then practice with natives once you’ve learned thousands of words and sentences, that’s all!All that pickup artist, TV method and lifestyle experiments are dangerous and are not worth the results they can bring.Thanks for your blog, keep up with the good work and keep enjoying learning languages 🙂

  10. Hey, nice summary and in a way I agree with the comment from qgr – I think it’s very healthy that what you’re recommending takes a little bit of the pressure off people to go speaking to people right away. My Russian is very limited at the moment, I am only picking up bits from asking people, leafing through a Pons book and listening to podcasts now and then but this is slow progress because I want it to be! It’s my first language learnt entirely without a teacher, so I’m enjoying the ride and looking at what I pick up how and what sticks.I work as a tutor and it’s reassuring to think that you can’t expect miracles, at least not in the early stages when people are often shy about their language skills and new to thinking about structure. And they only see me once a week – realistically, how much do I put into an hour a week? This is something I always ask myself, how do I serve them and their progress best without pushing them too hard?

  11. Kerstin, I think the key is find ways to get them to put in more time on their own. Their individual listening and reading is more important than the hour they spend in class, and the hour in class can then really stimulate them in their learning.

  12. Good points, I think I have to be confident at making the poor students work harder and give them interesting texts to study as homework. In my classes I focus on things that can be difficult to pick up on your own, like grammar rules. Have any tutors of yours really inspired you?

  13. A French professor at McGill university in 1961 influenced my whole life by turning me on to French civilization and literature. Thereafter I decided to learn French rather than passing tests in French. !2 languages later I am still going. Most of my tutors at LingQ inspire me, since I want to show them how I am improving. Talking to them really helps, and then I get a long list of my mistakes from them to work on, after every Skype session. The teacher to me is a source of stimulus and encouragement. The language is learned by the learner, not taught by the teacher. You just need to turn on the learner.

  14. Great, thank you for sharing Steve! I have noticed a trend with my students who are adult learners – there is real motivation and interest because they are learning out of choice, so they are ready. I also like using language learning magazines with interesting content, for example ??coute and bien dire in French or Spotlight for English Learners. They don't seem to be popular enough for newsagents in the UK!

  15. I would be happy to give you free access to LingQ for a few weeks. I suggest we wait a week or so as we are about to introduce a new version.

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