Saturday, February 25, 2017

Bylo nás pět, 1

Taneční třídy

Dnes večer Petr a Pavlínka jdou na divadla. Pavlínka na sobě měla černé šaty. Zeptala jsem se, "Co budete tancovat?"

"Máme čaču, foxtrot, mambo..."

Zeptala jsem se, "a také swing?"

"Swing, bohužel nemáme. To jsou taneční třidy pro dospělé, a bohužel nemáme swing."

"Já a Danny jsme měli taneční třidy na vysoké škole. A když jsme měli taneční zkousky, bylo legrační, protože můj stupeň byl lepší než jeho...On měl jen "A", ale já jsem měla "A+"...hahaha

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Put it in a loop!

I like to pretend that I don't like "meta" stuff, but the truth is, apparently I do. I spend a lot of time (A LOT OF TIME) thinking about the process of things. How to make them better. How to optimize them. What is not working. What should I do differently. In all aspects of my life, honestly, but especially in my study of Czech.

And it's never really satisfying until I pen it on paper (or...smash it into a computer, as it were).

About this same time last week, I was pacing around the kitchen while making grilled cheese sandwiches for my kids with one hand, and holding my phone to my ear with my other. I was talking with my favorite professor and mentor from college, Kirk Belnap. He is a great guy, and his exact area of study right now is foreign language acquisition in adults. Persistent Practice, Targeted Feedback, Small Victories.

I wanted to pick his brain about the targeted feedback. "Okay, so I have this system set up where I have these really awesome, kind, helpful collaborators giving me targeted feedback. WHAT DO I DO WITH IT?" We talked for about half an hour about it. The long and short of it is, "put it in an iterative loop."

He gave me examples of successful Arabic and Hebrew learners who consistently applied the feedback by redoing the task, be it interviewing sexual abuse victims or giving tours of historic sites - and then of course, he reminded me that this is basically the same model for LDS missionaries in a foreign speaking place. They have a concrete goal: bring people to Christ. They spend a lot of time practicing, and repracticing, and repracticing the same conversations, the same material.

I was getting frustrated because my approach was not in enough of a loop. Okay, thinking about it, maybe it actually was some kind of a loop, but the optimizer in me really was getting frustrated about the "management" of it. I had recently redesigned my study to incorporate more rote textbook exercises, but I found myself spending copious amounts of time trying to weave some kind of thematic unity between these varying books...and I was trying to find a way to apply it to my speaking appointments.

Really, the key to my Czech learning is my speaking appointments. I know that I'm an auditory learner. I know that communication is more than just verbal. AND I am totally an extrovert. I love people. Like, I really love people. I love to talk.

And guess what. Speaking appointments with adults who are not language-educators has to be authentic.

I think that it's a good idea for it to be authentic in a professional environment, too. I suppose this is one reason why all of my English classes get booked solid back to back the day that they open (talking about teaching ESL to Chinese kids): I can't stand "teacher talk! and I refuse to do it. It's so annoying. You can speak slowly without speaking down to someone. I was in a webinar this morning for my job about TPR, and I was a little bit surprised to see that the techniques they were talking about were just completely intuitive to me. Hand motions. Acting. Facial expressions. And it was really eye-opening to me to see a real life example of another teacher's classroom. I know that for myself, it is really important to be GENUINE. I can't help but think that condescension is a universal concept, and that it comes across nonverbally.

I'm also reminded of the feeling I constantly had in my ESL classes, as a French Teaching major (who had attained a high proficiency in Arabic). I was often frustrated with my peers because it felt like they should already know some of the concepts that were totally intuitive to me. I think the aforementioned condescension (or the avoidance of it) is one of those things. Honestly, I think that the best training an ESL teacher could possibly have would be to learn another language. The empathy factor is really important. What it's like to be on the other side of the learner-teacher relationship is not something that you can learn from a book. You can only learn this through experience, I think.

None of my cadre of Czech friends has training in "Czech as a Second Language." In fact, this subject has come up before at least twice: this isn't really a concept. It is probably why all the textbooks basically suck. They were written by native speakers of Czech who seem to have no idea what is difficult for an English speaker, and constantly throw too many new words in without warning, and the imperative direction language is really complex, and it's just...well...the way these books help me is as a collective whole, not on their own.

My Czech friends probably didn't study "the cooperative learning model" in school. It's this concept of language education that was drilled into us in our teaching methods classes and especially in our TESOL classes. It's actually funny to imagine it being "drilled" because the entire concept is quite, uh, "soft." I felt like tearing my hair out the first time I was in a class taught this way. We all sat at tables and spent a lot of time (the class was 3 hours long...) talking to each other about what felt like nothing. Chit chat. Really, we were collaborating to learn the curriculum, which was all this teaching meta stuff. I quickly learned that it was not necessary to prepare very much in advance for these classes. I also became extremely grateful for the fact that I was already a teacher. I had been hired to teach Arabic before graduating because they really needed an Arabic teacher, and I was skilled enough, in spite of not having my degree yet. I was able to apply the concepts in real life in my own classroom, which was very, very valuable.

And it also turns out that, in spite of thinking classes in a cooperative learning model were a piece of cake, I remember so much more from them. They actually worked to help me to learn the ideas, far, far better than other more traditional classroom models.

My point is that it really, really matters how you feel about your learning, and how you feel is directly influenced by the relationships you have with your peers/teachers. This is probably less true in some subjects, but it's almost universally true in language learning. Because what is language, if not communication with another person? Communication is necessarily all about relationships.

I have spent the past two months building some great relationships with some kind and willing Czechs. Each of them is different, and our relationship is different. The relationship matters a lot for my learning. It's why I allow myself to spend a little bit more time with the "side talk" in comments with my friend Tomáš, or why sometimes Milan and I don't focus our conversations on anything specifically, but rather we just "shoot the breeze." It's why I always ask, "And what do YOU think about _____?"

The relationship is especially important in an environment where I am not the teacher, and neither are the "teachers." It's actually much more comfortable and fun, that they aren't professional Czech as a Second Language teachers. Although, I will admit, it is really helpful that Tomáš has a very deep knowledge of both Czech and English grammar, and that Petr was originally a math teacher. But the fact is that I was really struggling to find a way to include our speaking time into my iterative loop of language learning - somewhere where I could apply the feedback I received.

After a lot of thought (A LOT OF THOUGHT), I decided to change my plan again. I've been working on this new plan for about a week, and I think it has been a huge success. Of course, language learning is cyclical and it is not likely that I will always feel successful. But last week, I felt so discouraged and depressed, and right now, I feel really optimistic and satisfied - I feel like I am making some headway.

Here is how I decided to put my learning in a loop:

Basically, I have between 1-4 (average 3...4 is really too much) speaking appointments per day.

I have a text that I listen to over and over (and over and over and over and over and over). Right now it is "bylo nás pět" because I have it in Czech AND English, and the English translation is remarkably good at walking that thin line between meaning and form. Usually this is when I'm doing chores or something: when I used to listen to Brandon Sanderson audiobooks, now I listen to Czech audiobooks. Rather, short sections of Czech audiobooks, over and over. Haha.
I read it out loud to myself over and over.
At some point during our speaking appointment, I read it to my friend. They correct me.
I explain what was going on.
We talk about it.
We talk about other things.
We usually do some kind of arbitrary drill that I prepared, but both in Czech AND then flipped in English.
I repeat this process with the next person I skype with. Our skype sessions are never the same, even if some of the conversation is similar. It's's not.
I keep listening to the text.
I record myself reading the text.

This is as cyclical as I can get for reading/speaking/communicative language. It is also the top down approach to learning, the part that I really excel at because I am an auditory, intuitive person.

I am totally not a šprtka (though, I am TOTALLY a nerd, and even more so a dork, to which my sisters will definitely attest without blinking an eye!). But I struggle with bottom up learning. Realistically, this definitely has to be a component of language learning, though. Remember that you do bottom up learning in your native language - what is most of school, after all! - and consider the sheer vastness of the mountain of words (not to mention concepts, phrases, idioms, etc.) that you have yet to learn...

So, my bottom up learning goes something like this:

I have a pile of textbooks about 8 deep. I decide the week before what I want to study/do for homework.
I put the words into Quizlet. It could have been any flashcard app. This was just the one I happened to find, and I like it. It has a nice free version, and to record sound costs like $20/year - totally worth it to me.
I beg my Czech collaborators to add their voices saying the vocab words. It is great to get a variety of male and female voices saying these words.
Oh yeah, by the way, it's a thousand times easier to memorize phrases than words...and this is REALLY IMPORTANT in a language with case! So usually it's not actually vocab words, but vocab phrases.
I listen to the vocab words, usually while I'm running. It actually is perfect for running/working out. It totally puts my mind in some other place where I'm not thinking about how obnoxious and tedious the run is, or how taut/sore my muscles are. And I know this will sound strange, but I actually look forward to running nowadays, BECAUSE it gives me some dedicated time to practice my vocab! I don't really say it out loud because that's a little awkward while running - which would, of course, be much better. But it's still a pretty good system, I think.
I do the homework.
My friends (really, mainly my friend Tomáš) corrects my work.
I try to write out my corrections x10. Or something like that.
Tomáš gives me a test.
I take it, and generally fail...
I should probably do test corrections x10 also.

This is really similar to my přepisy project learning, actually.
We get an interesting old Czech land record.
I start transcribing it verbatim: wysiwyg.
I try to transcribe it into Czech.
Lukáš corrects my Czech, and corrects my wrong transcription.
I plug the Czech into google translate and try to make sense of it. Usually it is like looking through a really foggy glass. This is archaic 18th century Czech we are talking about, after all.
I write my best guesses.
Lukáš corrects my best guesses.
Rarely, there is a word that Lukáš will not know, and after lots of searching online and in reference books at home, I might actually find the answer.
And then I jump for joy. Well, not literally. But I do feel a surge of pride. If we are keeping "score", then it would look something like L: 1,000,000,000 vs K: 10 - so of course I cling very closely to my handful!

In terms of top down learning related to my přepisy goals, Roman linked me to this book called "The Peasants" which I really should read. It was originally in Polish, but that is really close to the land of my ancestors. It is about the reality, customs, behavior, and spiritual culture of the people in my ancestor's part of the world in the 19th century. Imagine how useful this broad cultural knowledge would be when I come face to face with religious boilerplate in Czech land record texts? The point is, very useful.

Most similar books about Czech culture are not in English. It is so frustrating to me. It is the entire reason why I started learning Czech. I started reading Czech literature in translation and quickly realized that there were all kinds of rich cultural things I was missing. There's an author FROM MY ANCESTOR'S HOME TOWN of Trojanovice (and distantly related to me!) whose works I really want to read - but cannot! YET.

Třeba, "Besedy na staré valše" by Bohumír Strnadel, among others.

It turns out that Czech literature is very rich and interesting, and very motivating in and of itself for language learning.

There will always be ways to continue to optimize my learning. I find these optimization problems to be very frustrating sometimes, because they aren't ever "done." But the joy is in the journey, and really, it is a deep and lasting joy to me, in some very surprising ways. Here are the most rewarding things I have learned through this experience, and they aren't necessarily about Czech!

I am healthier.
  • I am happier if I go to sleep earlier, and wake up earlier. I have to wake up earlier to teach. I have to go to sleep earlier if I'm waking up earlier.
  • BUT...I can really only fall asleep earlier if I have worked out. So, now I'm getting up earlier, working out more often, and going to bed earlier.
  • I'm working so that I can earn enough money to return to the Czech Republic sometime this next year.
  • Also, I started working because I wanted to be more on the teacher side of the language learning experience, because learning Czech was really depressing. Because it's SO difficult.
  • My Czech friend Milan is really into working out. That's his hobby - really, it's more of his lifestyle. It was positive peer pressure to always hear him say things like, "Oh yeah, I just got back from krav maga, it was exhausting!" So, I decided to stop being so lazy and start running again.
  • ...and I discovered that I love listening to my flashcards while running. So now I actually look forward to it, which is something I thought would never happen!
  • ...and because I run, I can fall asleep...and because I sleep...I can teach...and because I teach, I can earn enough money to return to the Czech Republic...and because I do that, I can get closer to my dream of really understanding my history and myself.

I am less lonely.
  • I know this will sound extremely stupid, but since the ZOA matriky came online ~2011/2012, I have been researching in them. I have loved it. But I quite often felt very lonely, without even realizing that I felt lonely. Sitting at my computer, scrolling through pages and pages of scribbly text that I could barely decipher is a lonely job already. But this loneliness was exacerbated by the fact that I really had no mentor or guide at first.
  • My fifth cousin Roman contacted me via email and it was literally the first time I even thought, "oh! So...there are Czechs today too...and I can, like, talk to them..." It totally changed my life.
  • I started to blog, but it was still really lonely, even though I started to make some great contacts. Blogging helped me realize, "Oh, you know what, there really are people alive out there who are interested in these same things as me!"
  • Of course, my life totally changed again after going to the Czech Republic for the first time. And then again, after coming home, and developing a really close friendship with my fellow blogger, Lukáš, working on these přepisy. It was so liberating to have permission to share this interest with someone else. I realized that in spite of having many friends, I have also been pretty lonely because I hadn't previously been able to share this interest with someone else.
  • Through working on přepisy, and my friendships with Lukáš and Roman, I realized that I had a huge lack of cultural knowledge. And I finally came to the conclusion that the only way to gain it would be to study it. But guess what. The history of the Czech world is written in Czech. So...I decided to learn Czech. And for the second time I realized, "Oh, you know what, there really are people alive out there who are interested in the same things as me!" For a long time, I had been trying to get other collaborators interested in joining us in our genealogy transcriptions, but nobody really seemed as obsessive/interested/enthusiastic/dedicated. But there are at least 10 million people who speak Czech. And many of them are extremely motivated to practice their English. I'm lucky that I'm a native English speaker, I guess!
  • Because of what I know about language learning, and because of my personality, it has become really important to me to develop my relationship with these Czech collaborators. Basically, each of them has become a new friend, whom I really value and care about. Most of my friends in the real world right now are "friends for a reason" or "friends for a season" - we serve together in church, we have kids the same age, but they totally DO NOT "get" my love of Czech. But the Czechs do. It feels so nice to have deep friendships. 
  • We can also really empathize with each other because of the language barrier. It actually really helps boost each others' confidence, I think, to be "the expert" at least half the time. I really love doing subject-verb flashcards with Milan, Roman, and Petr. I really love reading to Tereza, and listening to her read - and especially talking about what we have read! I love Tomáš's hilarious sense of humor and wit, and I just really, really loved seeing the joy on Petra and Pavlinka's faces when they skyped with an American for the first time, and were in pure awe of that. It is really, really fun.  
  • Ale je to vlastně překvapení?? 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Směšné lásky

Když jsem byla mladší, byla jsem děsná romantička, zejméná na střední škole. Když mi bylo 12 let, měla jsem každou třídu s mém tajnem lásečkem. 

Každý den jsem zírala na něj. Každý den jsem ho zbožňovala. Snila jsem, že by si všiml mě. Ale jsem byla velmi trapná a nervozní, a byl populární a měl hodně kamarádů. Byl nejhezčí kluk na škole, a byla jsem trapná a ňouma.

Jednoho dne, napsala jsem mu anonymní milostný dopis. Nechala jsem to v jeho skřínce.

Našel to, a k mému zděšní to četl nahlas, stojící na židli v jídelně. Scvrkla jsem se ve své židli. Cítíla jsem se poníženě. Aspoň to bylo anonymní.

Upřímně, ještě jsem cítíla naději. "Možná, možná...možná to je možné, že mu řeknu, že to jsem napsala. A možná, možná....možná to je možné, že budu mít mě rád..."

Ale potom, nejslejší a nejkrásnější a nejpopulárnější holka, jistá Andrea Růžová, prohlásila, že byla autorka. V tichém vzteku jsem sledovala, jak spolu začali chodit, ta krutá holka s mým tajným lásečkem.

Nakonec o několik let později, jsem přiznala, že jsem byla skutečná autorka v poznámce v naší ročence. 

Nevím, co si o tom myslí. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Czech minus-Czech

Some of my current frustrations.

My whole life changed last July when I went to the Czech Republic. I suddenly realized just how little I know. It basically opened my eyes to a whole completely different set of possibilities. It drastically influenced my goals. I wouldn't say they changed completely; it's more like they took some kind of hyper-evolution pills.

Anyway, here I am with my evolved goals. I'm sure they will continue to change. But I feel like I'm in a different position than I was seven, eight years ago, when I gave up so many of my intellectual dreams in order to pursue the “ultimate” dream of motherhood. This path has been very fulfilling and demanding, yet draining at the same time. It's a giant, complex mix of very contradictory feelings and beliefs. It's probably why I crave learning about my ancestors so much: it's like I'm in the middle of a big, fat identity crisis. So knowing who they were is comforting, because it can influence how I know myself.

But whatever the reason, or back story, the fact is, here I am with this lonely goal of learning Czech. I have some great collaborators. I find real joy in learning.

But also real pain.

It's so very, very painful to not be able to use language to say the things I want to say and in the way I want to say them. I have no wit or subtlety. These are really important to me!!!!!!!

It's very painful to not have a real life support system with tangible friends in my time zone. I really like people. The people around me care about Czech as much (or really, as little) as they care about a baboon’s backside. Discussing language learning either bores them to tears or sets me on some great pedestal, which is not useful, since the goal is connection.

It's painful to be stuck at a level between boring drills and constantly putting my foot in my mouth as I try to delicately express interesting ideas. What I'm really saying, what you should read between the lines, is I said some embarrassing things in my speaking appointments today that I wish I could take back. Embarrassing not in the, “haha, she said some false cognate that is really sexually embarrassing.” But rather, embarrassing like, “Why would you ever talk about being afraid of your ob/gyn?!”

Friends, maybe it's because I've been stuck in Baby Land for 4, 5, 6, now 7 years. It's really hard to parse what is okay to talk about from what is not. I'm actually a really big prude in real life. You will never see me wear certain things - even writing WHAT specific things is too much for me. My good girl Mormon sisters in law all “rated” me as the most prudish of all of them, more prudish than even my mother in law - and I took a funny kind of pride in this.

Still, haven't I earned the right to discuss the reality of my world? Which literally has been birth after birth after birth after birth?!

No, it's not that simple. My Czech is at such a horribly superficial level still, that I have no business wandering around in subjects that are sensitive. I'll just end up a giant elephant in a room full of glass trinkets, breaking everything.

Maybe there's some kind of secret anxiety locked away somewhere in me, that has to prove to the world that it is true when it tells me nobody really likes you or understands you. I thought I left all those feelings behind in middle school...

Or maybe I'm really fond of pushing the limits of what is acceptable? Maybe it's secretly really pleasurable to watch (or think about) people squirming. Maybe it's the same part of me that really likes to flirt. But flirt is totally the wrong word/idea. I've noticed that every Czech person I know does this back-and-forth witty exchange, and it's totally got nothing to do with any kind of romantic intent. I even see it in the translated Czech texts I've read. It's like, “there is an entire culture of rapid-fire, ping-pong, one-upping exchanges that I have always, always, always loved?! How can strangers so fully understand this specific part of me?!”

I have to learn Czech so that I can be myself in Czech. Yet this part of me is apparently already “Czech” minus-Czech.

Bojíš se doktora?

Bojím se doktorka, závisí to na typu.

Když mě bolí zuby, jdu k zubaři. Bojím se zubaře, protože když sedím na jeho židli, cítím se bezmocně a bezbranně. Možná existuje nepříjemnější místo, ale kdeo to je, ani nevím.

Opravdu, vím. To je křeslo gynekologa. To je horší, všemi moznými způsoby. Bojím se ženský lékáři, když je to muž. Když během porodu, je mi to jedno. Ale když mám prohlídky, a Danny tam není, to je velmi velmi velmi velmi velmi trapné, být sama s mužem lékařem. Tehdy se ho bojím.

Nebojím se naší praktický lékaři. Je milá, a vidím ji často, protože je také naše pediatrička, a máme čtyři dětí.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Mladá Katka

Mám se krásně. Mám hodně kamarádi, a i když nejsou blízcí, jsou milí, a to je dobře.

Doufám, že budu mít bližší přáteli v budoucnosti. Teď můj nejlepší kamarád je můj učitel chemie, protože máme zajímavé a hluboké konverzace. Byl v “Peace Corps” v Sierry León, a má hodně příběh.

Bydlím v Massachusetts s mém rodinném. Ještě nemám přátel, ale můžu čekat. Mám moc práce v škole. Mám ráda umění, francouzsky, a anglicky. Číst teď  knihu jménem “Jane Eyre”, a ta knihu má velký tajemství. To je velmi romantické.

Běžím každý den. Jsem na běžící tým.

Myslím, že vysoká škola je celě a opravdu nejlepší než střední škola.

Já bych chtěla cestovat do Evropy. Mám ráda francouzštinu. Jednoho dne budu mluvit jako francouzška.

Jsem trochu divná, protože jsem mormoná. Myslím, že život v Utahu mohla být lepší pro mě. Ale nemůžu nic dělat. A stále, mám se krasně, i když jsem trochu osamělá.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Lojška 1 a 2

Lojška 1

Mám se krásně. Poprvé když jsem viděl Gabryšu, věděl jsem že to je pravá láska. Mluvili jsme spolu každý den, hráli jsme spolu, a udělali jsme všechno spolu. Nosil jsem jí na rukou.

Na jejího otce jsem dojem neudělal. Byl jsem špinavý voják, a jeho dcera byla jedna z nejdůležitějších dívek na vesnici. Vašičkovi byli vlivní a bohatí, a já jsem byl chudý voják, bez ničeho.

Byla překvapená, když zjistila, že otěhotněla. To nebyl náš plán. A tak začaly naše problémy...

Přistěhovali jsme se do Texasu, abychom mohli utéct od těch problémů.

Náš život tady není jednoduchý nebo snadný, ale máme se krásně. Bydlíme vedle sestry Gabryšy, a všechno je v pořádku, i když zustavají některé z našich starých problému v novém světě.


Lojška 2

Nemám se krásně. Jedna jediná chyba zničila všechno. Ta chyba byla hloupá a zbytečná. Mohl jsem mít nějakou dívku na vesnici, tak proč ona? Byla příjemná a samozřejmě hezká, ale také byla mladá a naivní. Není to moje vina, že jsem energický a sympatický muž. Není to moje vina, že piva bylo hodně, že mejdan byl živý, a že jsem byl trochu slabý. To bylo nehoda.

 Nikdy jsem si nemyslel, že jí je jen 14 roků! Cítil jsem se jako zvíře. To bylo jen jednou, a potom otěhotněla.

Kvůli té chybě, jsme se přistěhovali do Texasu. A to je na tom to nejhorší! Nemám rád tuhle zem, nemám rád arogantní sestrý Gabryšy, a hlavně nemám rád tu práci. Žít jako pionýra je osamělý, nudný, a nepříjemný.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


Mám se krásně, i když jsme chudí, také bydlíme na bezpečném místě. Mám velkého a silného manžela, který mi se líbí, a s nímž jsem se přistěhovala do Ameriky. Máme šťastnou rodinu.

Máme se krásně, i když máme moc problémů s naším novým životem. Třeba, máme tady cizí a škaredý jazyk, který musíme se učit. Naše znalost zemědělství tady není moc užitečná, protože zem tady v Texasu je zcela jiná než země v Čechách. A naše situace není idealní. Lidé stále zvedají obočí, protože to bylo kontroverzní a trapné, jak se založila naše rodina.

Můžu být nejsympatičtější a nejšikovnější dívka na světě, a přesto lidé mě nemají rádi. A ještě si lidé myslí, že jsem tragická hříšnice, protože jsem otěhotněla před naší svatbou.

Máme se krásně, i když lidé se krásně zrovna nechovají.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Proč máš krásný život?

Mám krásný život, protože mám milého a laskavého manžela, máme šťastnou rodinu, a bydlíme na bezpečném místě.

Mám krásný život, protože nemám moc problémů. Jsem optimistická a veselá a není důležité, jestli ná dům je čistý. Nejsem osamělá, mám hodně přátel. Učím se hezký jazyk, a mám mílé spolupracovníky.

Můj život je opravdu krásný, i když počasí teď není.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

8: Meta

Well, so I have officially been studying Czech for two months now. I feel like it is going very well. I feel like this week was really successful. I asked for a test from some of my language learning buddies (I don’t really love the word buddies - so maybe instead I should call them my “cadre” - everything French is cool, after all). My friend Tomáš gave me a really good (and easy) test which I would have aced if I had remembered like 2 or 3 vocabulary words, and thankfully he gave lots of extra credit points to assuage my pride. This basically cemented the necessity for me to go over the vocab over, and over, and over, and over. I really like the flashcard app that I’ve been using here, but I wasn’t really optimizing its potential until this last week when Tomáš so kindly recorded himself saying the vocab words there. That was more helpful than anything else. And as dumb as it seems, listening to him say the words over and over and over and over was very helpful for me.

But of course it was. I know myself. I am an auditory learner. I learn be hearing, and then by speaking.

Which is probably why I feel so good about my progress this week. Although I did not have a lot of time to write (and even less time to work on my beloved genealogy), I spent a lot of time speaking with my Czech friends. Not only is this really fun, but it’s also really emotionally satisfying to me. Maybe it’s because it feels good to know that somebody else in the world is interested (or at least has a really firm understanding of) this beautiful, awesome language.

I also realized that Kladno is NOT in the middle of the Czech Republic this week. This whole time I thought it was somewhere about dead center. In my defense, literally all of my Czechs are from Ostrava or Frenštát/Trojanovice, so I have had very little cause to study the surrounding areas. It’s interesting to branch out. For example, today we transcribed a Slovakian matriky record (which was written in Hungarian!), but I digress…

I have to say, that my job teaching these little kids Chinese is such a contrast from the way I am trying to learn Czech. In pretty much every way. For example, my work has a really thorough (sometimes too thorough) curriculum. It is fun because I have to think of fun and interesting ways to make it interesting by using TPR. I used this all the time in my Arabic classroom.

And I have to say, I very strongly prefer to teach kids ages 9-14 than the younger kids who don’t know how to circle with a mouse, or who get really distracted, or who - I kid you not - don’t even know how to read yet. For example, what am I supposed to do with a 3 year old who doesn’t know how to decode letters, and I’m supposed to teach him Big A and Small a? ugh.

Whereas, on the other hand, it feels absolutely ridiculous to use TPR in my Czech skype sessions. We just...can’t do that. It’s too stupid. Also, of the six people I’ve been working with consistently now (Tomáš, Tereza, Andi, Milan, Petr, and Martina) only one of them is a teacher by profession. Well, he was a teacher, but it turns out you can make a way better living as a software developer in the Czech Republic. This is something which American teachers can totally relate to. The first article I ever read about the company I work for now made the following headline: “If the U.S. Won’t Pay Its Teachers, China Will.” It would be funny, but both of my parents are teachers, as was I, and it really just isn’t. I know that my sister in law totally disagrees with the idea that teachers are underpaid, but 30k/year for a full time job where you put in long, thankless hours is not a lot of money at all. I don’t know how we would live with a family for 4 kids on that amount, frankly.

Anyway, I couldn’t really start by using a textbook because all the textbooks just jump in way, way too fast. It’s like all of a sudden, you are confronted with a wall of text in which the letter k is highly represented. But it turns out that I’m about at Lekce 2 of one of the books - I’ll probably try to work my way through them. It’s good practice.

But what is the most meaningful and the most fun is to just spend time talking. It is better when we have something to talk about, or a plan. It’s really hard to be the planner AND the student. It’s a really awkward position because I don’t have “control” of the situation. But I’ve decided to just let that go and appreciate whatever I get - which has been quite a lot. The better my plan is, the better the speaking appointments go. This week, they were great.

I think that 3/day should really be the maximum number, though. I feel guilty if they go shorter than an hour with most of these people because we (well, most of us) spend about half the time doing English, the other half Czech. I don’t want to cut them short of their English time. Twice this week I had 4 speaking appointments in one day, which basically took every second of my discretionary “free” time. It was worth it - but it meant I wrote less Czech. But on the other hand, I think I have improved.

Maybe the improvements will be a little bit less dramatic going forward. But I made a huge discovery this week, that makes me feel like a really big idiot.

i/y =/= í/ý

And this Czech phoneme is not the same as our short i. It’s kind of somewhere in the middle between a short i and the “ee” sound. Which is not “long i” - in English, “long i” is the diphthong “ahh-ee”. This is going to take a lot of practice to decode correctly, because my whole life, whenever I see the letter y, I think “ee.”

I also discovered that Czech says their H’s like a slightly less strong Arabic 7a. So that is really interesting. We don’t have this sound in English at all.

Next week is going to be a “Lite” Czech week because I will be gone. I think what that means is I am not going to make myself a full “unit” - it’s kind of like I’m piecing together my own curriculum, but heavily relying on textbooks, as well as my own intuition about what I need to know next.

Because let’s face it, you can’t have an hour long meaningful conversation with another adult about, “where are your eyes?” With a five year old Chinese kid, absolutely. But it’s only 25 minutes. And it’s really only about 1 minute on that one concept.

But I can talk about more abstract things like having time, being busy, going on a date, having a good mood, and my favorite writing thing from this week: “Proč máš krášný život?” It was really fun to write that from the perspective of my ancestors.

I’m still trying to figure out when/how to upload my writing to my blog. There’s just a lot of stuff to do!

I am feeling really confident that I will learn this language. At the moment.

Small Victories! Success! Woohoo.