Czech is a Western Slavonic language spoken by about 12
million people in the Czech Republic ( Česká republika).
There are also many people of
Czech origin in other countries, particularly the USA. Czech is closely
related to Slovak, Polish and Sorbian.
The region where Czech is spoken is traditionally called Bohemia ( Čechy)
and was named after the Boii tribe who, according to Roman sources, have
inhabited the area since at least the 1st century AD. The dialects spoken
in Moravia ( Morava) are also considered forms of Czech.
Czech literature started to appear in the 13th century. The first printed
book in Czech, the story of the Trojan war ( příběh o Trójské válce), was published at Plzeň
(Pilsen) in 1468. After many years of Austrian rule, during which German
was the main language of literature and government, there was a revival
of Czech literature at the end of the 18th century.
The most prominent writer during the early period of Czech literature
was Jan Hus (1369-1415), a religious reformer who also reformed Czech
spelling ( české hláskování). He created the system of having one grapheme (letter) for
every phoneme (sound) in the language by adding accents ( čárka) to some of the
letters. As a result, written Czech looks very different to written
Polish. For example, in Czech the sound ch, as in church, is written
č, but the same sound is written cz
Czech alphabet ( česká abeceda) & pronunciation
A recording of the Czech alphabet
by Zbyněk Bambušek
- dlouhé á
is also know as á s
čárkou. The same is the case for the other long
vowels: é, í, ó, ú and ý.
- ě = [ je]
after p, b and v, [ e] after d, t
and n (which become palatalized: ď, ť, ň). After
m, ě = [ mɲe], but it
is pronounced [ mje] in some regions.
- When they come after d, t and n, i and
í cause palatalization: ď, ť, ň
- ú in normally used at the beginning of
root words and in onomatopoic words, while ů
is used elsewhere, except in interrogatives and loan words.
- Word-final voiced consonants are pronounced unvoiced, even in
loan words, e.g. chléb [ xle:p],
jazz [ ʤes],
rub [ rup].
- Voiceless consonant groups are voiced before voiced consonants
(except n, m, n, r, and l) and vice
versa within a word: e.g. zpít "(get) drunk" [ spi:t],
sbít "hammer together" [ zbi:t].
v becomes devoiced as /f/ before a voiceless consonant, eg. předevčírem ['pr̝̊ɛdɛ,ftʃi:rem]
"day before yesterday", but does not cause preceding voiceless consonants to become voiced, eg. kvalita ['kvalita] "quality".
- l, r, n, m all can be syllabic. The following words all contain
two syllables: jedl,
- f and g are used in words and names of foreign origin
- Primary stress falls on the first syllable, and there is secondary stress falls
on long vowels. When one, two or three syllable words are preceded by a preposition,
stress falls on the preposition, e.g. na střeše
[ˈnastr̝ɛʃɛ] (on the roof), while
stress falls on the first syllable in a word containing four or more syllables
preceded by a preposition. e.g. na nástupišti
[naˈnaːstupɪʃtɪ] (at the train stop).
In some Eastern dialects stress falls on the 2nd or 3rd syllable.
Recordings in the text by Jan Jurčík
Sample text in Czech
Všichni lidé se rodí svobodní a sobě rovní co do
důstojnosti a práv. Jsou nadáni rozumem a svědomím a
mají spolu jednat v duchu bratrství.
A recording of this text by Vaclav Dekanovsky
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They
are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another
in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Information about Czech |
Useful phrases |
Tongue twisters |
Tower of Babel |
My Czech learning experiences |
If you have any questions about Czech you can ask Jan Jurčík at
Information about the Czech language
Online Czech lessons and other resources for learners
Online Czech dictionaries
Czech Electronic talking dictionaries
Tlumočení a české překlady cizích jazyků
Online Czech language radio
Online Czech news and magazines
Old Church Slavonic,
Other languages written with the Latin alphabet
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