My Experience with the Czech Language

By Victoria Bartos

When I scheduled for classes the summer before my freshman year, I wasn’t signed up to take a language. To be honest, I didn’t even think about fulfilling the foreign language requirement that I would eventually need for my degree.

A Czech man and woman (in a traditional kroje), depicted on a postcard I have from the 1920s.

I had just graduated after taking Latin for four years at my high school and the experience I had while studying that language was enough to “turn me off” to language learning entirely. Over the summer, I had a change of heart after looking through the courses Ohio State had to offer. While looking, I noticed that the university offered an introduction to the Czech language. My familial roots are predominantly Slavic and three out of four of my grandparents are entirely ethnically Slovak (my great-grandparents immigrated here from Spišská Nová Ves in Eastern Slovakia around the 1920s). Once I noticed that Czech was offered, I wanted to take it in order to grow closer to them. I figured the Czech and Slovak languages would be mutually intelligible and that I’d be able to have conversations with my grandmothers in Czechoslovak.


Learning Czech was different from learning and studying Latin in so many ways. The first few weeks of class I became so anxious when I would see a word with a hachek in it I think I would become anxious just by the sight of one. Czech was an entirely more relevant language than Latin and the new challenge of speaking weighed on my tongue. Now, I love being able to read and speak Czech even on the most basic level. My professor is an amazing and dynamic teacher that makes each day a treat to learn, and the class is exciting yet challenging. It is a language that doesn’t necessarily seem relevant but is part of one of the countries with the fastest growing markets in the European Union. Czech is also a gateway language to Russian, Slovak, and Polish, making the world seem the tiniest bit more navigable.


The Czech Republic is a beautiful and diverse country that I unfortunately did not know much about before studying the language. I found learning about it more fascinating than I could have hoped for – I hadn’t realized how my interests in art and literature reflected so brightly in Czech culture and how many of the Czech foods I was learning about I had already tried in my Slovak household.


Being awarded the Uprka-Laga-Schweitzer Award in Czech studies was definitely a turning point in my language learning experience. It served as a validation for my hard work and being rewarded like that has propelled me forward in new, unexpected ways. With the award, I plan on using it to fund part of my study abroad trip next summer to the Czech Republic where I hope my language learning will continue. After all, there is no better way to learn a language than to fully submerse yourself in it. I mainly look forward to traveling to Prague, Moravia, and Bratislava where I will not only get to apply the Czech I have learned, but learn about the wonderful history of the country and cities I’ll be in. After studying Czech and discovering a passion for it, I hope to live and work in the Czech Republic sometime after graduation. This award is acting as a stepping stone for my future career path and I could not be more grateful for not only what it represents, but how it moves me forward.


To anyone reading this that has doubts about taking a foreign language or taking Czech, I strongly encourage you to begin learning. The great thing about going to a university such as ours is the resources and the variety of choice we have. There are so many languages we have the opportunity to learn and broaden our horizons with. It is unfortunate if we do not take advantage of them.


A picture of me in a forest wishing it was the Šumava National Park in the Czech Republic.

A photo of my great-grandfather and great-grandmother on my mother’s side and two of my great-grandmothers next to my father at my parent’s wedding in 1985.

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