Jak na jazyky

Reading for beginner students

Did you start with Czech recently, but lessons with a teacher are not enough for you? Or are you self-taught and looking for tips on new activities? One of the great activities in learning a new language is reading. You will learn new words and see for yourself what natural language looks like. Not just sentences in grammar exercises. In this article, I will give you some tips on how to start reading and where to look for the right texts.

In the beginning, I want to say that reading in a foreign language is a skill that needs to be learned, and it will take some time. It’s like learning to read your own language. One has to start slowly. At the outset, it will take you a really long time to read a short paragraph. And that’s why you don’t have to push yourself into it. Don’t have high expectations. Read as much as you enjoy, even if it were two or three sentences. Just give yourself time. It will gradually improve until you finally read as well in your language as in Czech. The second important factor for beginning “readers of Czech” is the choice of text. And we will focus on the sources of the texts now.

Texts in textbooks

The very basic sources of texts for foreign language students are language textbooks. Texts in textbooks are adapted to the given level. There is such a vocabulary and grammar that students master. Alternatively, the texts are built to aim at a slightly higher level. The text is, therefore, a challenge for students, but they can handle it, which is especially important in the beginning.

So my first tip is language textbooks. Try reading the text in the next chapter. Or the first text you come across when you open a textbook on a random page. Is the text too demanding for you? You can go back a few pages and come back to the text later. Reading texts in a textbook has two indisputable advantages. First, you will be prepared for language lessons like no other, because you will already know the vocabulary and grammar that will be covered. Second, you can estimate the difficulty of the text, according to its location in the textbook. The closer the text is to the beginning of the book, the easier it will be, and vice versa.

Mirror books

If you are no longer tired of texts in textbooks, you can start with books, which in Czech we call “zrcadlové knihy/mirror books”. They are “mirror” because the text of the book is actually twice on each double-page. Once in the target language, the second time in your native language (or another language you are fluent in). So if you do not understand the Czech text, you can look at the literal translation in the second language. You will usually also find a small glossary on each page.

Another advantage is that these books are adapted for different language levels. And you don’t have to draw only from those that were created for learning the Czech language as a foreign language. You can choose the Czech version, which was created for learning your mother tongue. In the Czech Republic, these books are popular among students, so there is a large number of them.

Adapted prose

Speaking of books, I can’t omit adapted prose. These texts are created for language teaching and are divided according to language level. They can be books of classical literature, as well as popular literature. These books often also contain exercises that relate to individual texts and recordings of texts. So you can not only read them but also listen to them as an audiobook.

The most popular adapted books for beginners include:
O pejskovi a kočičce [A1] by Silvia Převrátilová and Petra Bulejčíková
Brněnské legendy [A2] by Martina Trchová
Pohádky [A2] by Lída Holá

Blog “Slow Czech”

My last tip, where to look for lyrics when you start reading in Czech, is the Slow Czech blog. Eliška, who writes this blog, is a Czech teacher. On her blog, she prepares texts about life in the Czech Republic not only for her students but for everyone interested in Czech. Each text also has a recording. So you can listen to how the words in the text are pronounced correctly.

I hope you find some useful tips here, and now you are ready to start with reading. Just don’t be afraid and start 😉

Míša