Language tips to impress the locals at EAIE Prague

Language tips to impress the locals at EAIE Prague

The countdown is on: just three weeks to go until more than 4800 international higher education professionals from around the world make their way to the stunning city of Prague for what promises to be the largest gathering of its kind, ever, in Europe! By now you probably have your hotel and flights sorted. You may even have planned your day-by-day schedule, and some top sights to visit. But can you say hello in Czech?

While no one in Prague will expect you to arrive fully conversed in the native language, it still pays to learn a few handy words or phrases to exchange with the locals. The linguists among you will know that Czech (čeština) is a West Slavic language, together with Polish, Slovak, Kashubian, Silesian and Sorbian. More than 10 million people speak Czech, and the language actually claims minority status in Slovakia. Coming from the same branch of Indo-European languages, Czech and Slovak are very closely related – so much so that if you try out any of your new Czech phrases on a Slovakian, they will probably get the gist of what you’re trying to say.

Resurrection of Czech

Despite being spoken by millions today, the Old Czech language, which can be traced back to the 13th century, was at one point in danger of dying out completely. In the 17th century, the German language grew in dominance throughout the region, pushing Old Czech to the very fringes of existence – a direct consequence of the Thirty Years War. However, in the mid-eighteenth century, Czech academics (who else?!) pushed for a revival of their long lost language, which brought it back into existence and the fully operational lexicon we know today.

How not to offend the locals

According to Martin Glogar, author of the ‘Czech Language and Literature’ article in the recent EAIE Forum magazine, there are two expressions for “hello”, each have the same meaning but only one of them is recommended for you to use when visiting Prague: Dobrý den. The second version, Ahoj, is best kept for family members and friends (and the welcome page of the EAIE Conference Programme!). By all means, use Ahoj when impressing your long-standing EAIE buddies, but try to use the more polite version, Dobrý den, for the locals (until you get to know them over some famous Czech beer!).

Challenge yourself!

According to, the Czech language is incredibly difficult to master for non-natives (unless you’re Slovakian!) – all the more reason why you should continue reading to pick up some tips! Some words, the website points out, are very similar to their English cousins, so you shouldn’t have a problem with: policie, restaurace, hotel, and taxi. Many words, however can’t be easily deciphered (at least from their proximity to English), so take a note of the following ahead of your trip:

Of course, your Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, or smartphone app will be able to guide you further, but if you’re interested in learning more about Czech language and literature, check the Registration Desk in the Prague Congress Centre before Wednesday 17 September to find out if there are any last-minute spots for Workshop 28 Czech history, language and culture in the land of Kafka’s Castle and Havel’s Theatre of the Absurd. You’ll learn some great insights from born and bred Czechs, which you can then use to impress your fellow EAIE participants and the locals! See you all in a few weeks!