Czech does not count among easy languages. According to Martin Punčochář, a teacher of Czech for foreigners at the Faculty of Medicine of Masaryk University, there are much more difficult languages, though: for example some of the Transcaucasian or Asian ones.
Martin himself has been teaching Czech as a foreign language for nine years. For a long period of time he was a freelancer; last September he took a job in the university Language Centre and since then has been in charge of nine groups of international students, i.e. approximately 130 people at the Faculty of Medicine.
“Future doctors must complete eight semesters of Czech, as they have practical trainings in hospitals and need to communicate with patients,” Martin explains. After four years, the medical students usually reach B1 – i.e. intermediate – level, which is sufficient for an everyday communication. The most skillful ones then participate in an annual Prague competition in presenting a topic of their own choice; in the past three consecutive years our students have achieved excellent results.
Students of other fields taught at MU in English do not have the obligation to study Czech; however, there are options for them, too. “It is a waste not to learn the language of the country you live in. You are missing a lot of things and don't have a solid grasp of what's happening around you. The Czech language surrounds; it's everywhere you look. Where else should you learn a language than in the country where it is being spoken?”
According to Martin, there are three pillars helping you acquire a language more easily: a partner or friends, a teacher, and a stay in the respective country. And when you have all three of them, it makes it even easier. “I recommend all students to use Czech on the everyday basis – all the more quickly will they master it,” Martin says.
The Czech lessons at the Faculty of Medicine are particularly oriented to medical topics. The team of lecturers uses coursebooks – Talking Medicine or New Czech Step by Step – as well as their own materials. As regards students of other fields, Martin Punčochář would recommend a three-volume coursebook Basic Czech or another one called Nebojte se češtiny (Don't be afraid of Czech).
Specialised applications for learners of languages – e.g. memrise.com or quizlet.com – can be useful, too: they help users learn the language through flashcards or various games. As early as this September, a new website mluvtecesky.net (developed at Masaryk University Language Centre) will be available, allowing everyone to acquire the basics of Czech quickly and easily.
For time saving reasons, Martin Punčochář uses English as an intermediary language – students get only three lessons a week in the first year of their studies, and two in the following ones. “Although teaching Czech only in Czech is much more creative and sometimes even more fun, there is simply no time for that at the medical faculty,” he adds.
Students of other fields will learn Czech in the Language Centre's Colourful Czech courses or at the Department of Czech for Foreigners at the MU's Faculty of Arts. Year-long or semester courses are paid but definitely worth the while. There is a number of private language schools in Brno, too, many of which offer lessons of Czech – e.g. Study Czech (using exclusively Czech in their classes) or Czech for Foreigners.