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Do Czechs and Slovaks understand each other?

Did the Velvet Revolution end linguistic understanding?

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Martin Ehl

Bilingual communication was an integral part of both the common Czechoslovak state and the Velvet Revolution, but since the country split into two, linguistic gaps have been slowly growing.

Older generations remember the departure of President Gustav Husak and his abdication speech or the return of Alexander Dubček to the head of the Federal Assembly, both pivotal moments in history for both Czechs and Slovaks. At the time, many politicians spoke Slovak with Czech features, as Prime Minister Andrej Babiš speaks today.

Later, after the fall of the communist regime, Czechoslovakia was divided into two independent states, thus separating both languages – although not entirely.

While Czech children from post-revolutionary generations consider Slovak a sort of foreign language and need to put some effort into learning it, Czech is quite natural for their Slovak peers who watch Czech TV stations and read Czech books or websites more often.

Television and some publishers still see Czechia and Slovakia as one market. Private Czech TV stations Prima and Nova even launched special channels for Slovak viewers.

On the Czech side, some Slovak TV channels are available in digital packages. Czech and Slovak television thus consciously targets viewers in the neighboring country.

For example, the Czech TV channel Prima Plus is one of the ten most-watched in Slovakia. TV Prima cooperates with Slovak TV Joj. They exchange their original programs and at the same time created a successful joint project called Czecho Slovakia’s Got Talent.

Czech books are also popular on the Slovak market, accounting for about 8 percent of the sales of Ikar, the largest Slovak book wholesaler.  Ikar Commercial Director Peter Kačmár believes that it is true that Slovaks understand Czech better than Czechs understand Slovak.

While young Czechs cease to understand Slovak, Slovaks, on the other hand, continue to develop their knowledge of Czech.

For Slovaks, the Czech Republic for Slovaks is a country that is relatively easy to work and study in and the Slovak language also has an exceptional position in the Czech Republic. Without a translator or interpreter, the Czech legal system allows the language to be used in many legal or official documents. As a result, both languages continue to influence each other despite the split.

Although Czechs and Slovaks no longer share a common state, they share a digital space and thanks to the Internet, continue to communicate with each other despite the occasional misunderstanding due to different languages.

Slovaks also often use Czech expressions in everyday conversation and vice versa. Experts, therefore, believe that a time when Czechs and Slovaks would need an interpreter to communicate will not be happening any time soon.