How does a Mermaid learn english, you ask? By watching television of course.
If you're not old enough to remember Tom Hank's early acting career, just know that if a mermaid can go from zero to fluent in two hours by watching sitcoms, television can be really helpful for your language learning too.
Watch what you love
Do you like cooking? Watch a Czech cooking show. Into hockey? Watch Ice Hockey. Czech Television is free online. If you're out of the country you can use a VPN and change your settings to Czech Republic. Czech Netflix comes along with your US subscription (if you're watching it with a Czech IP address) and we have HBO here too, but those accounts don't transfer from the US.
How to use it
- Watch a movie or series that you know by heart, but in the settings, change it to Czech dubbing or subtitles.
- Czech Televize has original shows that are only in Czech, with Czech subtitles. Don't let that turn you off! Watch them again and again and try to discern the meaning of the words by what's happening in the scenes.
My personal recs
One of my favorite Czech TV shows is Herbař, which translates to herbal or herbalist. Yes, it’s a show about herbs. No seriously, it’s magic.
The two hosts and chefs (also acclaimed actresses and one's even the lead singer in a rock band) cook traditional Czech recipes, concoct herbal face masks and frolic from the fields to the kitchen in the most amazing outfits. Even if you don't understand a word of Czech, this show will delight and surprise you. Particularly when their country-bumpkin assistant in the USC hat wanders in the kitchen with a basket of mushrooms to steal a plate of whatever Czech goodness is cooking. Get nice and hungry, then pick up some roasted pork knee at your local Czech restaurace.
Až Po Uši, (Literally, "up to my ears," which I believe translates into something like "in over my head") is like a funnier version of Czech Love Actually, in series form. Available on Czech HBO.
Everyone's tangled up in a love triangle that follows 20-30 somethings around the coolest spots in Prague. In almost every scene, you'll start to recognize your favorite breakfast spot, your local cafe, the farmer's market dude you see every Saturday who refuses to plant you some kale. ("No Czech woman would feed her man kale.") Once you recognize your local pub in one of the scenes, you'll start to feel like a true Pražák/Pražačka (Praguer). I watched the entire series in English so I understood what was happening , then re-watched it in Czech.
My husband and I started watching Vyprávěj, which translates to "tell a story", when our collective vocabulary was limited to "beer, please" and "where is the toilet?". That is to say, the conversations sounded like gulash to us.
Where did a noun end and a verb begin? We had no idea. Not only that, but there are Czech subtitles, but NO ENGLISH ONES, so we had to try to figure out what was going on based on the acting, which is kind of hilarious—and fun to do with a friend.
The series traces a family's growth from the early 60's until 2005 in Wonder Years style. It's a fantastic look back at Czech recent history, with real footage from the Prague Spring, Communist oppression, the fall of communism, and more. Now that I've been seriously studying Czech for 2 years, it's so gratifying to go back and watch an episode without subtitles. Just last night I cried along with Babi (Grandma) to the Velvet Revolution episode.
- Go to Ceská Televize, Czech Netflix or Czech HBO.cz or even your local Prague movie theater and watch something you've already seen.
- Make a commitment to watch XX films or shows in Czech per week.